While writing my dissertation, (which is on ecocriticism and medieval poetry), I’ve ended up reading about what seasons symbolically represent in poetry. It can be quite interesting to see the ways seasons and the periods of transition between them, are presented by different poets. It made me think of Christina Rossetti’s playful poem about winter. This poem used to infuriate me, but it really stuck in my mind, and now I actually really like it!

I also thought I’d link a painting by her brother, Dante Rossetti. I don’t know as much about him, but this painting was also inspired by winter. After a bit of research, I found out it depicts Prosperpine, (the Roman version of Persephone), trapped in the winter of Pluto’s underworld. I thought it gave a different view of winter, suggesting that it traps us rather than tricks us. Plus I just really like the pre-Raphaelite aesthetic at the moment!

Winter: My Secret

Christina Rossetti, 1830 – 1894

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I;
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,
And you’re too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.

Or, after all, perhaps there’s none:
Suppose there is no secret after all,
But only just my fun.
Today’s a nipping day, a biting day;
In which one wants a shawl,
A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:
I cannot ope to everyone who taps,
And let the draughts come whistling thro’ my hall;
Come bounding and surrounding me,
Come buffeting, astounding me,
Nipping and clipping thro’ my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be pecked at by every wind that blows?
You would not peck? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave the truth untested still.

Spring’s an expansive time: yet I don’t trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro’ the sunless hours.

Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
And golden fruit is ripening to excess,
If there’s not too much sun nor too much cloud,
And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,
Perhaps my secret I may say,
Or you may guess. [1]

Proserpine

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)pnd09

Afar away the light that brings cold cheer
Unto this wall, – one instant and no more
Admitted at my distant palace-door
Afar the flowers of Enna from this drear
Dire fruit, which, tasted once, must thrall me here.
Afar those skies from this Tartarean grey
That chills me: and afar how far away,
The nights that shall become the days that were.

Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing
Strange ways in thought, and listen for a sign:
And still some heart unto some soul doth pine,
O, Whose sounds mine inner sense in fain to bring,
Continually together murmuring) —
‘Woe me for thee, unhappy Proserpine’. [2]

Let me know if there’s any other poems about winter or seasons in general that you like! I might do a few more posts on this theme from different eras of poetry!

A xxx

[1] Source used: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/winter-my-secret, [Accessed April 2016].

[2] Source used: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/dgr/drawings/5.html, [Accessed April 2016].

 

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2 thoughts on “Poems about Winter

  1. I didn’t know this poem by Christina Rossetti, but I did know the painting. I think it was an interesting pick, as the portrayal of winter is a little different in this poem – more playful I guess.

    I’d love you to write more posts like this one. I loved it 🙂 It would also be nice to hear about what you found on the meanings of seasons in poetry!

    And since you asked… I really like Keats’s To Autumn and Robert Frost’s Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening. Do you like them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked it! After this I watched a documentary about Dante Gabriel Rossetti and it was really interesting. I think you’re right – the painting feels more trapped and melancholy, while Winter my secret is more playful.

      I really like Keats’s To Autumn! He describes the kind of drowsy feeling on an autumn afternoon really well. I hadn’t read that Frost poem, thank you I really enjoyed it! He also has one called ‘After Apple Picking’ which similarly talks about the drowsiness of autumn. I feel like he goes further than Keats though, and it becomes almost nightmarish?

      I def wanna write more on this, I find it so interesting 🙂

      Like

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