Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Winter
By Samuel Low (b. 1765)
 
“HOW 1 changed, how fallen” now the landscape lies,
Which late with beauty’s image bless’d our eyes;
Loved summer scenes, ah! whither have ye fled?
Ye short-lived charms, no sooner loved than dead!
Dear rural prospects, once with verdure graced,        5
But now by Winter’s blighting touch laid waste;
Fair objects, that on mortal sense could pour
Delights, that glad man’s torpid sense no more;
Once all your charms, with ever new delight,
In swift succession rose upon my sight;        10
With secret rapture often have I gazed
On Nature’s gifts, and Nature’s Author praised;
When genial showers enrich’d the teeming earth,
And vernal warmth gave vegetation birth,
Then throbb’d my heart, by Winter’s blast unchill’d,        15
And speechless feelings through my bosom thrill’d;
Or when the fervor of a summer sun
Matured what Spring’s creative power had done;
Or recent Autumn’s yellow fields appear’d,
And health and hope the rustic owner cheer’d;        20
When bounteous harvests well repaid his toil,
And various plenty made the country smile;
When every wish indulgent Nature crown’d,
And shed her gifts exuberant around,
Enraptured I beheld,—the hours were spent        25
In warm acknowledgment and calm content.
While thus I call to mind enjoyments past,
And with them Winter’s dreary scenes contrast,
On evanescent good while mem’ry dwells,
The gloomy retrospect my bosom swells;        30
Desponding images my thoughts employ,
The wreck of beauty, and the death of joy:
Dismantled earth inspires the soul with dread—
Loved Summer’s scenes! ah, wherefore have ye fled?
  Long gath’ring vapors now to clouds increased,        35
Surcharged with frosty stores, involve the east:
Bleak Eurus there prepares his chilling blasts,
A weight of snow the burthen’d air o’ercasts;
Of keener cold and piercing frosts I sing,
Engend’ring in the air, which soon will cling        40
Fast hold on all beneath, which soon will throw
A robe of whiteness over all below:
Stern Winter, now confirm’d, in wrath impends;
With all his gloomy ensigns he descends;
For, lo! he gives the ripen’d mischief birth,        45
And shakes his vapory produce on the earth:
’T is come, dread Winter’s hoary badge is come,
And bids the earth prepare to meet its doom.
By Eurus driven through the sluggish air,
The shower, minute and light, flies wavering there;        50
But soon, o’er all the atmosphere dispersed,
Creation in its bosom lies immersed:
Perpetual driving snow obscures the skies,
Commixing heaven and earth while thus it flies;
The spreading ruin overwhelms the plains,        55
And dazzling whiteness over nature reigns;
Its weight oppressive swells the hills, and lo!
Beneath accumulating heaps of snow,
How yonder trees, with drooping branches, stand
In white array, a venerable band!        60
How close the fleecy shroud to earth adheres!
How uniform the boundless scene appears!
Wide and more wide the spotless waste prevails,
Till aching vision at the prospect fails;
Till the spent gale an ermine mantle flings        65
O’er all this sublunary scene of things.
Nor have the clouds spent all their downy store,
But on the earth a frozen deluge pour:
Still more collecting, unexhausted still,
Though subtile flakes each lurking fissure fill,        70
And every vale exalts itself a hill.
Meanwhile the cattle shun the whelming waste,
With quicken’d speed for shelter home they haste,
Mournful, and ruminating as they go,
And shaking from their sides the cumb’rous snow:        75
Arrived at home, the dumb expecting band,
For entrance, near their hovels shivering stand;
The lowing kine the milker’s hand intreat,
And oft the call importunate repeat;
Son’rous and long resounds the lowing strain;        80
The hills responsive bellow back again.
There too the fleecy tribe their pittance crave,
Which once the herbage wild spontaneous gave;
And clam’rous bleat for their accustom’d meal,
Which cold made scant, and now thick snows conceal.        85
There chanticleer the storm undaunted braves,
Proud o’er the feather’d throng his plumage waves;
He spurns the snow, the blast he does not reck,
But, crowing shrill, exalts his glossy neck.
The steed rears graceful there his tow’ring size,        90
With head erect he gazes on the skies,
And prances wild, and snuffs the chilling air,
And neighs, impatient for the owner’s care:
Nor long the helpless brutes his succor ask,
Soon, whistling, comes the peasant to his task;        95
Them large supplies of provender to spare,
And house them safe is his assiduous care.
Next comes the thrifty milk-maid, early taught
To shun destructive sloth, which oft hath brought
Its slaves to want, to vice, disease and wo,        100
And all the num’rous evils mortals know;
She comes to drain the kine; industrious she,
Domestic work to ply; with heartfelt glee,
She treads her native snow, she cheerly sings
Her simple rural strains, and with her brings        105
Her ample pails, pure as contiguous snow,
Which soon with copious streams of milk o’erflow.
Now, laden with the luscious spoil, she trips,
And, as she treads incautious, often slips:
The peasant too, returns in jocund mood;        110
His herds, well housed, enjoy their sav’ry food;
From cold and hunger free, they there abide,
Nor aught of comfort wish or know, beside.
  But oft, devoid of such a friendly shield,
To savage winter’s ruthless grasp they yield;        115
The fleecy flocks are buried oft in snow,
And undiscover’d breathe in depths below;
The anxious shepherd seeks his charge in vain,
And rambles joyless o’er the desert plain;
But if he chance to find the smother’d race,        120
Their breath, that thaws the snow, denotes the place;
The lengthy hook he gladly then suspends,
By this the suff’rer, scarce alive, ascends;
While those remain whom death the power denies
To make the snow-dissolving breath arise.        125
  By hunger urged, the nimble-footed deer
O’er snow-crown’d heights pursues his swift career;
The hapless brute by huntsmen’s toils annoy’d.
Oft meets the fate he labors to avoid;
A vale, replete with snow, betrays his steps,        130
Incautious in the fatal depth he leaps;
In vain he struggles now himself to clear,
And panting, dreading, sees his foes draw near;
They come, they wound, they slay the guiltless beast:—
Already fancy riots at the feast;        135
Big tears hang trembling in his dying eyes,
Unmoved they hear the captive’s piteous cries,
Exulting, grapple their expiring prey,
And, loud rejoicing, bear the prize away.
  Nor yet contented with the lusty prize,        140
Insatiate man to meaner conquests flies:
He skirts the forest, and he beats the copse,
The hare and squirrel now invite his hopes:
In hollow trees, and burrows under ground,
He careful pries, and looks expectant round.        145
If now the parent hare hath left her haunt,
In quest of sustenance her offspring want,
The helpless young, in man’s deep arts unskill’d,
To his perfidious stratagem must yield:
The dam, improvident of winter’s store,        150
Now dubious roams abroad in search of more;
And, spurr’d by pressing want, the snow disturbs,
To glean precarious food from wither’d herbs;
But deadly guns her anxious search cut short,
Or traps insidious lie where game resort;        155
Or, if she shun these snares, a harder fate,
Severer evils her return await:
Her haunt she enters, but the hapless hare
Beholds nor mate, nor harmless offspring there,
And dies with cold, with hunger and despair.        160
  The fowler too the meads and woods explores;
With his remorseless feats the country roars;
With cautious step, and big with hope and fear,
He pauses now, and now approaches near,
And eyes the feather’d flock through all their flight,        165
Till on some tempting meadow they alight,
Within his reach; then points, with steady hand,
The fatal engine to the heedless band;
Swift from the tube escapes the leaden death,
That lays them prostrate, gasping out their breath;        170
While others, startled at the ruthless deed,
Precipitate and wild, forsake the mead;
But many, flying, meet the death they shun,
And swifter ruin leaves the murd’rous gun;
Through yielding air it flies, with thund’ring sound,        175
And hurls its conquest on the blood-stain’d ground!
  On skates of wood the sons of Lapland go.
To hunt the elk o’er endless tracts of snow,
Nor heed the cavities which lurk below:
Upon the snow-topp’d surface far and wide,        180
Accoutred for the chase, they fearless slide;
The huntsman, fleet and fierce as winter’s wind,
Each moment leaves a length’ning space behind;
Mad with desire his object he pursues,
Too late the beast his luckless fortune rues;        185
The sanguine foe, with horizontal aim,
Darts instantaneous ruin to the game;
Dextrous he manages the missile bow,
That lays his victim’s branching antlers low;
The deathful weapon cuts th’ aerial space,        190
And crowns the triumph of the savage chase!
 
Note 1. Low was the author of a collection of poems, in two volumes, published at New York in 1800. [back]
 
 
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