In this installment, Peter Riley reads “A Winter Hymn to the Snow” by Ebenezer Jones. Jones is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Love-Strife Machine (1968), The Linear Journal (1973), Lines on the Liver (1981), Tracks and Mineshafts (1983), Sea Watches (1991), Alstonefield and Distant Points (1995), Noon Province (1996), Snow has Settled . . . Bury Me Here (1997), The Dance at Mociu (2003), and Excavations (2004). The recent special issue of The Gig/Poetry (4:5, 2000) was dedicated to the discussion of his verse and his contribution to British poetry.
Ebenezer Jones, "A Winter Hymn to the Snow"
Come o'er the hills, and pass unto the wold,
And all things, as thou passest, in rest upfold,
Nor all night long thy ministrations cease;
Thou succourer of young corn, and of each seed
In plough'd land sown, or lost on rooted mead,
And bringer everywhere of exceeding peace!
Beneath the long interminable frost
Earth's landscapes all their excellent force have lost,
And stripp'd and abject each alike appears;
Not now to adore can they exalt the soul,---
Panic, or anger, or unrest control,---
Or aid the loosening of Affliction's tears.
No more doth Desolateness lovely sit
Lone on the moor; no more around her flit
From far high-travelling heaven the sailing shades;
The shrunk grass shivers feebly; reed and sedge,
By frozen marsh, by rivulet's iron edge,
Bow, blent into the ice, mix'd stems and blades.
The mountains soar not, holding high in heaven
Their mighty kingdoms, but all downward driven
Seem shrunken haggard ridges running low;
And all about stand drear upon the leas,
Like giant thorns, the frozen skeleton trees,
Dead to the winds that ruining through them go.
The woodland rattles in the sudden gusts;
Frozen through frozen brakes the river thrusts
His arm forth stiffly, like one slain and cold;
The glory from the horizon-line has fled;
One sullen formless gloom the skies are spread,
And black the waters of the lakes are roll'd.
Come! Daughter fair of Sire the sternest, come,
And bring the world relief! to rivers numb
Give garments, cover broadly the broad land;
All trees with thy resistless gentleness
Assume, and in thine own white vesture dress,
And hush all nooks with thy persistings bland.
Come! making rugged gorge and rocky height
Even more than fur of ermine soft and white,
And cover up and silence roads and lanes;
And, while the ravish'd wind sleeps hush'd and still,
Wreaths, little infancy with glee to fill,
Upheap at doorways and at casement-panes.
Fancy's most potent pandar! gentlest too:
Man, rising on the morn, the scene will view
Thus, all transform'd, with no less sweet surprise
Than stirreth him to whose half-doubting sight
Sudden appears beloved friend, masqued bright
In not less fair than unexpected guise.
And some will think the earth, in white robes drest,
Seems sinking fast in a great trance of rest,
Beyond all further reach of wintry ill;
And some will say it seems as though a ghost
Appear'd; and thus, on fancy's seas far toss'd,
With doubtful shadowy joys their spirits fill.
Thy task complete, if to the amazing scene
With Night should come, full-orb'd, Night's radiant Queen,
How the whole race from out their homes will gaze!
Hard hearts will restless grow, and mean men sigh,
And wish they could be holier, and on high
Some, whispering words of heaven, meek thanks will raise.
I, sweet celestial kisser! from croft home-crown'd,
From ancient mead by stateliest trees girt round,
From wilds where thou the earth lovest all alone,
Shall watch thee shower thy kisses, and all the hours
Rapt worship solemnize, and bless the Powers
That let thy loveliness to my soul be known!