Sunday, December 17, 2006

Happy Birthday to a Fireside Poet

Today, in 1807, John Greenleaf Whittier was born. One of the five American poets known as "The Fireside Poets," because their work was appropriate for families to read by the hearth, Whittier has long been a favorite of mine, especially for his lovely and long poem called "Snowbound: A Winter Idyl." Here's a little bit from that poem:

Snowbound
by John Greenleaf Whittier

". . . Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wing√ęd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa's leaning miracle. . . . "

I love Snowbound because it takes a child's view of the miraculous transformations wrought by nature--something we adults far too often fail to see.

By the way, the other fireside poets were also in the Three-Name Club: They are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. I wonder when poets and writers stopped using their full names. Do we sound less impressive now?

(image from www.seacoastnh.com)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

if theres whittier and then theres bryant, longfellow, lowell and holmes, doesnt that mean hes one among five?

Julia Buckley said...

You are oh so right. Thanks so much for your comment.