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winter solstice

6 Poems for the Winter Solstice

As the shortest day of the year approaches, we might not be feeling any love towards the cold, dark of the winter solstice. But poetry reminds us of the beauty in all things, even the frosty, bitterness of December days. Instead of looking upon the solstice with dread, here are six poems to remind you of the enchantment of winter, the magic of the holidays and provide you with warmth and solidarity when the icy winds blow. 

 

A Christmas Carol by Christina Rossetti 

In the bleak mid-winter

   Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

   Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

   Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter 

   Long ago.

 

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him

   Nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away

   When He comes to reign:

In the bleak midwinter

   A stable-place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty

   Jesus Christ.

 

Enough for Him, whom cherubim

   Worship night and day,

A breastful of milk

   And a mangerful of hay;

Enough for Him, whom angels

   Fall down before,

The ox and ass and camel

   Which adore.

 

Angels and archangels

   May have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim

   Thronged the air;

But only His mother

   In her maiden bliss

Worshipped the Beloved

   With a kiss.

 

What can I give Him,

   Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

   I would bring a lamb,

If I were a Wise Man

   I would do my part,—

Yet what I can I give Him,

   Give my heart.

 

White-Eyes by Mary Oliver 

In winter

all the singing is in

         the tops of the trees

          where the wind-bird

with its white eyes

shoves and pushes

         among the branches.

          Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,

but he’s restless—

         he has an idea,

          and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings

as long as he stays awake.

         But his big, round music, after all,

          is too breathy to last.

 

So, it’s over.

In the pine-crown

         he makes his nest,

          he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,

I only imagine his glittering beak

         tucked in a white wing

          while the clouds—

which he has summoned

from the north—

         which he has taught

          to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall

into the world below

         like stars, or the feathers

               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,

that is asleep now, and silent—

         that has turned itself

          into snow.

 

The World by Jennifer Chang 

One winter I lived north, alone

and effortless, dreaming myself

into the past. Perhaps, I thought,

words could replenish privacy.

Outside, a red bicycle froze

into form, made the world falser

in its white austerity. So much

happens after harvest: the moon

performing novelty: slaughter,

snow. One hour the same

as the next, I held my hands

or held the snow. I was like sculpture,

forgetting or, perhaps, remembering

everything. Red wings in the snow,

red thoughts ablaze in the war

I was having with myself again.

Everything I hate about the world

I hate about myself, even now

writing as if this were a law

of nature. Say there were deer

fleet in the snow, walking out

the cold, and more gingkoes

bare in the beggar’s grove. Say

I was not the only one who saw

or heard the trees, their diffidence

greater than my noise. Perhaps

the future is a tiny flame

I’ll nick from a candle. First, I’m burning.

Then, numb. Why must every winter

grow colder, and more sure?

 

An Old Man’s Winter Night by Robert Frost 

All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him

Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,

That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.

What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze

Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.

What kept him from remembering what it was

That brought him to that creaking room was age.

He stood with barrels round him—at a loss.

And having scared the cellar under him

In clomping there, he scared it once again

In clomping off—and scared the outer night,

Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar

Of trees and crack of branches, common things,

But nothing so like beating on a box.

A light he was to no one but himself

Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,

A quiet light, and then not even that.

He consigned to the moon—such as she was,

So late-arising—to the broken moon

As better than the sun in any case

For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,

His icicles along the wall to keep;

And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt

Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,

And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.

One aged man—one man—can’t keep a house,

A farm, a countryside, or if he can,

It’s thus he does it of a winter night.

 

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper 

So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive,

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us—Listen!!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!

 

To Know the Dark by Wendell Berry 

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,

and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,

 

and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.