Saturday, January 19, 2008

The First Snow-Fall by James Russell Lowell

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails softened to swan’s-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?”
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar that renewed our woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
“The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall!”

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.


  1. Hi,

    My 88-year-old father started reciting this poem in the doctor's office the other day, and I just did a Google search to find the source. He must have memorized it in school. He can't even remember where his bathroom is, but he remembers this poem.


  2. My 77 year old mother also began reciting it tonight at dinner, stating that she too had to memorize it for school. She was so amazed how these computer machines can find information so quickly. She said it is like having a librarian at your fingertips.

  3. My cousin who is in her 80 (88 I think) learned this poem in grade school. She was reminded of it when we woke up to a blanket of white on the ground the day of her adult son Peter's funeral. (It was an unexpected sudden death) It had been unseasonably warm the few days before. The words she remembered were "with a silence deep and white". Those were the words that came to her when she saw the snow that morning. It was very telling to her and sort of a sign that Peter was okay.
    Beverly Morgan

  4. Over the years I have often recited this poem as it was etched in my 74 year old mind
    We must have had to memorize it, also, in English class in northern Wisconsin.
    How every year when the first snowfall came down you would remember the poem and the reminder of how fragile life is.

  5. My father passed away at 76 in 1987. He used to tell the story of his brother attempting to recite this poem in school. Uncle Mick would start out with "the snow had begun in earnest" when the teacher would cut him off and say, "Arthur (his real name), when did you begin to study in earnest?". I think of them both every time it snows.