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NEW ENGLAND MAGAZINE
THE WINTER OF THE NEW ENGLAND POETS By CLIFTON JOHNSON
With Illustrations by the Author
HE charm of the changing seasons of our northeastern corner of the United States is widely celebrated. The shifting pageant from month to month, and even the variations and uncertainties from day to day, are not without pleasure-giving stimulus; but if there is any portion of the year that is open to doubt it is the winter. By many its frosty vigor is regarded with critical disapproval, and in recollection of the strenuous rigors of this one season our New England year is sometimes described as consisting of “six months winter and the rest late in the fall.” “Yes,” said an old native of our western Massachusetts hills to me, “the winter here is a leetle too cold.” He was a cautious man and expressed himself mildly. But another hill-towner who was not of this cautious type declared that the New Englanders “spend half their time wishing it wa’n’t such blessed cold weather.” Probably all of us have heard numerous shining comments on our winter that are far from respectful, and I propose in what follows to appeal to the facts to see if such criticisms are justified. Is it an imprisoning and dreary season, devastating and frightful in its savagery, and with frozen
fields and woodlands devoid of life and beauty; or is there much to delight the unbiased person in its crystalline storms and white landscapes, and even in its rude onsets of cold and wind 2 What has Emerson to say? What sentiments do Whittier, and Longfellow, and the others express? Emerson found good in all of nature's ways, and it is perhaps to be expected that he would take a cheerful view of winter. Yet he was essentially a man of the study, and that he should be wholly in love with the frigid months was scarcely possible. he point he most emphasizes in his winter poems is this fact, that though the outdoor world may be storm-enveloped, and wind and flying flakes roughly buffet those who brave the tumult, and assail the dwellings with gusty violence, this only serves to make the indoor world seem the more snug. His “Snow Storm” illustrates this theme
effectively: Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, Seems nowhere to alight; the whited a11"
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heavens,