Tonight the wind gnaws with teeth of glass

Laurie Lee’s Winter poem

Tonight the wind gnaws with teeth of glass
The jackdaw shivers in caged branches of iron
The stars have talons
There is hunger in the mouth of vole and badger
Silver agonies of breath in the nostril of the fox
Ice on the rabbit’s paw
Tonight has no moon, no food for the pilgrim
The fruit tree is bare, the rose bush a thorn
And the ground is bitter with stones
But the mole sleeps and the hedgehog lies curled in a womb of leaves
And the bean and the wheat seed hug their germs in the earth
And a stream moves under the ice
Tonight there is no moon
But a star opens like a trumpet over the dead
And tonight in a nest of ruins the blessed babe is laid
And the fir tree warms to a bloom of candles
And the child lights his lantern and stares at his tinsel toy
And our hearts and hearths smoulder with live ashes
In the blood of our grief the cold earth is suckled
In our agony the womb convulses its seed
And in the last cry of anguish
The child’s first breath is born.

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun,
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o’er the meadow bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue Gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.

William Cullen Bryant was a New England romantic poet (and newspaper editor) who was born in 1794 in one of those proverbial American log cabins.  Here he traces the year’s slow ebbing into winter, and the flowers and colour that hang on against the odds.  There may be few gentians in the village, but, as I write this, there are still roses, antirrhinums, hollyhocks, and dahlias to be seen, waiting, as we all are, the coming of darker days and greater cold.  As to how dark, and how cold, well, I have given up on forecasts, and will make the most of whatever comes.