A Poem for Our Time
As thus the snows arise; and foul, and fierce,
All winter drives along the darkened air;
In his own loose revolving fields, the swain
Disaster’d stands; sees other hills ascend,
Of unknown joyless brow; and other scenes,
Of horrid prospect, shag the trackless plain:
Nor finds the river nor the forest, hid
Beneath the formless wild; but wanders on
From hill to dale, still more and more astray,
Impatient flouncing through the drifted heaps,
Stung with the thoughts of home; the thoughts of home
Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth
In many a vain attempt. How sinks his soul!
What black despair, what horror fills his breast!
When for the dusky spot, which fancy feign’d
His tufted cottage rising through the snow,
He meets the roughness of the middle waste
Far from the track and blest abode of man,
While round him might resistless closes fast,
And every tempest, howling o’er his head,
Renders the savage wildness more wild.
Then throng the busy shapes into his mind,
Of covered pits unfathomably deep,
A dire descent! beyond the power of frost;
Of faithless bogs; Of precipices huge
Smoothed up with snow; and what is land, unknown,
What water of the still unfrozen spring, In the loose marsh or solitary lake,
Where the fresh fountain from the bottom boils.
These check his fearful steps; and down he sinks
Beneath the shelter of the shapeless drift,
Thinking o’er all the bitterness of death,
Mix’d with the tender anguish nature shoots
Through the wrung bosom of the dying man—
His wife—his children—and his friends unseen.
In vain for him the officious wife prepares
The fire, fair, blazing, and the vestment warm.
In vain his little children, peeping out
Into the mingling storm, demand their sire
With tears of artless innocence. Alas!
Nor wife, nor children more shall he behold—
Nor friends, nor sacred home. On every nerve
The deadly winter seizes; shuts up sense,
And, o’er his inmost vitals creeping cold,
Lays him along the snows, a stiffened corpse,
Stretch’d out, and bleaching in the northern blast.
ANONYMOUS IRISH POET