Ces atomes de feu qui sur la neige brillent, 

The Alps are always impressive in winter, with high snowy peaks surrounding steep valleys, wound through with narrow tracks (and of course ski-slopes today). Here is an early seventeenth century poetic celebration of that majestic beauty from French aristocratic poet Saint-Amant.

Winter in the Alps, captured in a sonnet…

Marc-Antoine Girard de SAINT-AMANT   (1594-1661)

L’hyver des Alpes

Ces atomes de feu qui sur la neige brillent,

Ces estincelles d’or, d’azur et de cristal

Dont l’hyver, au soleil, d’un lustre oriental

Pare ses cheveux blancs que les vents esparpillent ;

Ce beau cotton du ciel dequoy les monts s’habillent,

Ce pavé transparant fait du second metal,

Et cet air net et sain, propre à l’esprit vital,

Sont si doux à mes yeux que d’aise ils en petillent.

Cette saison me plaist, j’en ayme la froideur ;

Sa robbe d’innocence et de pure candeur

Couvre en quelque façon les crimes de la terre.

Aussi l’Olympien la void d’un front humain ;

Sa collere l’espargne, et jamais le tonnerre

Pour desoler ses jours ne partit de sa main.

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/marc_antoine_girard_de_saint_amant/l_hyver_des_alpes.html>

The sonnet begins with the striking image of fire throwing out sparks over the white of the snow, then we realize the poet is talking about the bright rays of the sun, made even more spectacular by the whiteness of the snow on the mountainsides, whose angles and reflectiveness breaks up the sunlight, making it shimmer and shine. You can image the poet standing there, on a clear cold bright day, experiencing how good it is to be alive.

He looks up and sees the mountain tops covered in clouds, like cotton, translucent and silvery (silver is the second metal, after gold) and takes a deep breath of clean, fresh air, before feeling his eyes sparkle at the beauty of the scene.

The poet expresses his love for this season of cold, white innocence, blotting out the crimes and evils of the world – even the gods are in sympathy, sharing this human reaction – the poet is confident that the king of the gods will never hurl thunderbolts here to disturb this place of peace and beauty.

Let’s go…

The Poetry Dude