Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
 
Ode to Winter
By Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)
 
Germany, December, 1800

WHEN first the fiery-mantled Sun
  His heavenly race began to run;
Round the earth and ocean blue
His children four the Seasons flew.
  First, in the green apparel dancing,        5
The young Spring smiled with angel-grace;
  Rosy Summer next advancing,
Rush’d unto her sire’s embrace—
Her bright-hair’d sire who bade her keep
  For ever nearest to his smiles,        10
On Calpe’s olive-shaded steep
  Or India’s citron-cover’d isles:
More remote, and buxom-brown,
  The Queen of vintage bow’d before his throne;
A rich pomegranate gemm’d her crown,        15
  A ripe sheaf bound her zone.
 
But howling Winter fled afar
To hills that prop the polar star;
And loves on deer-borne car to ride
With barren darkness by his side,        20
Round the shore where loud Lofoden
  Whirls to death the roaring whale,
Round the hall where Runic Odin
  Howls his war-song to the gale;
Save where adown the ravaged globe        25
  He travels on his native storm,
Deflowering Nature’s grassy robe
  And trampling on her faded form:—
Till light’s returning Lord assume
  The shaft that drives him to his polar field,        30
Of power to pierce his raven plume
  And crystal-cover’d shield.
 
Oh, sire of storms! whose savage ear
The Lapland drum delights to hear,
When Frenzy with her blood-shot eye        35
Implores thy dreadful deity—
Archangel! power of desolation!
  Fast descending as thou art,
Say, hath mortal invocation
  Spells to touch thy stony heart?        40
Then, sullen Winter! hear my prayer,
And gently rule the ruin’d year;
Nor chill the wanderer’s bosom bare
Nor freeze the wretch’s falling tear:
To shuddering Want’s unmantled bed        45
  Thy horror-breathing agues cease to lend,
And gently on the orphan head
  Of innocence descend.
 
But chiefly spare, O King of clouds!
The sailor on his airy shrouds,        50
When wrecks and beacons strew the steep,
And spectres walk along the deep.
Milder yet thy snowy breezes
  Pour on yonder tented shores,
Where the Rhine’s broad billow freezes,        55
  Or the dark-brown Danube roars.
Oh, winds of Winter! list ye there
  To many a deep and dying groan?
Or start, ye demons of the midnight air,
  At shrieks and thunders louder than your own?        60
Alas! ev’n your unhallow’d breath
  May spare the victim fallen low;
But Man will ask no truce to death,—
  No bounds to human woe.
 
 
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