One must have a mind of winter To regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with ice, The spruces rough in the distant glitter Of the January sun; and not to think Of any misery in the sound of the wind….To have a “mind of winter”—what does it mean? I have not so much a mind as a maxillary sinus of it. Who can prepare one’s mind, or sinuses, for so much winter? It’s one of those weird authorial coincidences that the master bard of winter should be named Robert Frost. Snow probably falls more heavily in the poems of Frost than in those of any other writer. Some beautiful ones are “Stars,” “Storm Fear,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “A Patch of Old Snow” (his only Schneedreck poem, so far as I know), “Birches,” “The Wood-Pile,” “Dust of Snow”—and then there is “Snow.” It’s one of his dialogue poems, a little play like “The Death of the Hired Man.” In it Meserve, the storm-warrior, pays a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Coles before going back out in the snowstorm. He tells them:
“You make a little foursquare block of air, Quiet and light and warm, in spite of all The illimitable dark and cold and storm, And by so doing, give these three, lamp, dog, And book-leaf, that keep near you, their repose; Though for all anyone can tell, repose May be the thing you haven’t, yet you give it. So false it is that what we haven’t we can’t give….” ll. 141-149And then:
“Our snowstorms as a rule Aren’t looked on as man-killers, and although I’d rather be the beast that sleeps the sleep Under it all, his door sealed up and lost, Than the man fighting it to keep above it, Yet think of the small birds at roost and not In nests. Shall I be counted less than they are?” ll. 222-227Meserve then walks back out into the storm at night, against the pleading of Mrs. Coles. Meserve’s a sort of king who’s angry at the sky, who offers himself and us repose by saying what we feel. Mrs. Coles doesn’t understand his war. Having learned he made it home to his wife and child a few hours later, enduring the snow like a rugged piece of beeftongue Schneedreck, she’s mightily irritated. “What did he come in for?” she cries scornfully. “Thought he’d just call to tell us it was snowing.” She abuses him as though he were an actual poet.