Winter, like any other season, has its own way of enchanting people across ages. As the spooky feeling of Halloween wears off, it is time to find a warm spot or to play around in the snow, for the winter awaits you around the corner. Throughout the history of Literature, poets have captured the frosty mornings, snowfall, and frozen evenings that expounds how they are inspired by this sparkly season.
In this section, the best winter poems, some of the well-received poems of this gleaming season by some of the accomplished poets are collected. For a poetry lover who would like to sit with some of the fine poetry to ponder over this season, here is a treat form Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening‘ to Christina Rossetti’s ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ to Philip Larkin’s ‘First Sight’.
Explore Best Winter Poems
- 1 Sonnet 97 by William Shakespeare
- 2 Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
- 3 The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
- 4 The Snow Fairy by Claude Mckay
- 5 The cold earth slept below by Percy Bysshe Shelley
- 6 The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens
- 7 In the bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti
- 8 Horses by Pablo Neruda
- 9 It sifts from Leaden Sieves by Emily Dickinson
- 10 Winter Rainbow by John Clare
- 11 Snow Day by Billy Collins
- 12 Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams
- 13 Winter Stars by Sara Teasdale
- 14 Winter by Anne Hunter
- 15 First Sight by Philip Larkin
William Shakespeare, in this sonnet 97, starting with “How like a winter hath my absence been /From thee” uses winter imagery to describe the speaker’s absence from his beloved. Though the poem talks about other seasons too, arguably it focuses on the winter season. The poet refers to winter, both in the beginning and in the end.
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was written by Robert Frost in 1922 and published in 1923. On the surface, this poem, written from the perspective of a traveler, is a simple description of the speaker’s experience in the snow-covered woods on a snowy evening. But, if one looks deeper, the philosophical idea of life being a journey could be understood. The poet emphasizes going forward despite the momentary distraction like the woods that are certain to cross paths. With ‘miles’ and ‘sleep’ as a metaphor, he has brought in the great philosophy of life within this short poem.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Hardy’s ‘The Darkling Thrush,’ composed on the last day of 1900, is one of the most popular winter poems in the English language. In the poem the poet has captured the single frost-ridden scene, a depiction of a desolate world, and meditates upon its meaning. The speaker seems to be hopeless as he looks around. However, a bird (the “thrush”) bursts onto the scene, singing a beautiful and hopeful song. 1t quite find it in his heart to be optimistic, thus make him wonder whether the bird knows something that he doesn’t.
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
In The Snow Fairy, Claude McKay is observing a snowstorm but his mind wavers to his lover moving in the night to him. Several stanzas in the poem give the idea of a snowstorm. In the first part of the poem, he talks about the sun melting away the snowflakes as if they never came. But, in the second part, his thought is turned towards a mysterious woman whose whereabouts the poet doesn’t give in the poem. Nevertheless, the confusion of where this thought comes from is made clear when he says “You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day.” Evidently, he is comparing the lady to the snow as if she is a snow fairy, who came and went with the snow.
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day,
The lonely actor of a dreamy play.
P.B. Shelley’s ‘The cold earth slept below’ first appeared in Hunt’s Literary Pocket-Book in 1823 with the title “November 1815”. This is a pretty complicated poem, for it is commonly believed that Shelley has written the poem about his late wife Harriet, who took her own life in 1816. Her death brought him adverse criticism on Shelley, so when Mary Shelley (his second wife) posthumously published his poems, but she didn’t want any association between this one and Harriet’s death. So, it is a common idea that she changed the date of the poem to a year before.
The cold earth slept below;
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around,
With a chilling sound,
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
Might visit thee at will.
‘The Snow Man’ by Wallace Stevens seems to be one of the best poems of winter ever written. The poem has the captivating quality that could bind people to the landscape of snow. It is a short, interesting poem about winter and the sights and sounds of the season. However, it is also about imagination that prevents one from seeing or hearing the true beauty of the season. The poem uses imageries and metaphors relating to both wintery landscapes and the Snow Man. Stevens illustrates in the poem that winter can bear both beauties as in “natural wonder, and human misery”.
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
While the end of winter offers hope, the middle of winter can seem as endless as winter nights. In this poem by the author of The Goblin Market, Rossetti searches for hope and finds religion. This poem has frequently been set to music. ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ was actually first published under the title ‘A Christmas Carol’, but it has since become known by its first line, especially after the popularity of several musical settings of the poem. It was published in January 1872. The poem celebrates the birth of Christ. The poet very artistically and vividly shows how and when Christ came into this world. “In the Bleak Midwinter” As a Representative of Joy: This poem is written from the perspective of a young soul, who describes the momentous birth of Christ.
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
Winter is a desolate and ruthless season to many people, but Pablo Neruda depicts here an image that enthralled him during winter in Berlin. It was an image of horses. Horses were objectively described in the poem, from the way they stood, the way their eyes expressed, and the way they were connected to their surroundings. The lasting impact of what he has seen is visible in the last lines, where he says: “I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.//I will not forget the light of the horses.”
From the window I saw the horses.
I was in Berlin, in winter. The light
had no light, the sky had no heaven.
I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.
I will not forget the light of the horses.
Emily Dickinson, pictures snow through vividly beautiful imagery, even without addressing it once. Snow has no limit or could distinguish between things both large and small, thereby covers everything, it finds on its way. A beautiful description of the way snow converts familiar objects that become strange and ghostly to us. ‘It sifts from leaden sieves’ has confined the spectral beauty of snow much more effectively within these few lines of the poem.
It sifts from Leaden Sieves –
It powders all the Wood.
Then stills it’s Artisans – like Ghosts –
Denying they have been –
In ‘Winter Rainbow’ Clare depicts an image of nature focusing on the themes of light/dark, hope. The reader gets the clear run through of the speaker’s opinion of “winter”. Winter is personified like a powerful woman with two sides of a coin both sinful and good. The nature of the woman is in fact the horrible moments and wonderful ones in every winter season. The speaker says that he can’t help but love winter for the moments that he is always enchanted by this sight, connecting back to an accumulation of witch/magic related images and language used to describe winter throughout the poem.
Thou Winter, thou art keen, intensely keen;
Thy cutting frowns experience bids me know,
That hang enraptur’d o’er each ‘witching spell,
Can see thee, Winter, then, and not be warm’d
To breathe thy praise, and say, “I love thee well!”
Snow Day by Billy Collins
“Snow Day” by Billy Collins first appeared in the 2001 volume of The Best American Poetry and was published by Random House in New York. The poem describes the wonderful feeling of waking up on a snow day and realizing that school is canceled. It also deals with the excitement of playing outside; a common day experience during winter. This poem is full of creativity and imagery that makes the reader experience that specific moment right there with the author. Collins deals with the five senses throughout the poem to touch upon the readers and their emotions.
Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
ts white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.
‘Winter Trees’ by William Carlos Williams, personified the trees, and observe its act of gaining and losing leaves, comparing it to someone getting in and out of clothes. The imagery in the poem is bleak but at the same time beautiful and peaceful. It stirs readers’ emotions for several reasons, especially for the contrast between life and death; between blooming trees and the leafless branches in freezing temperatures, and light and darkness.
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
‘Winter Stars’ by Sara Teasdale takes the reader through the emotional landscape of the speaker who has just overcome her sorrow. She speaks on the themes of change, aging, and the universe. Through very poetic and lyrical language and diction, she describes the nature of time and the sorrows it can bring. She thinks back to a time when she walked the beach at night and in her moments in the darkness recalled her youthful fondness for the stars. Orion shone brightly in the sky then just as it did in her youth. The mood changes towards the end as it becomes contemplative and peaceful with the speaker describing how everything in the world changes except for the stars in the night sky.
I went out at night alone;
The young blood flowing beyond the sea
All things are changed, save in the east
The faithful beauty of the stars.
Anne Hunter’s ‘Winter’ is a short poem with two quatrains and one sestet. The poet has chosen to intricately personify winter, for the reader might start wondering if this is on the season or a person. She continues to describe how with only his “chilling breath” he can create vast storms that cover the “watery plains.” Winter seems to be in full control of forces that determine life and death. The speaker can wield them effortlessly. The poet has excellently depicted the harsh nature of a dangerously cold storm blowing over an unprepared landscape.
Behold the gloomy tyrant’s awful form
Binding the captive earth in icy chains;
Wan poverty, amidst her meagre host
Casts round her haggard eyes, and shivers at the frost.
Philip Larkin’s short lyric poem ‘First Sight’ deals with the life of young lambs and their experience in the hard winter. Their first sight is that of an unwelcoming snow-covered landscape that has all the things beautiful buried beneath which the young lambs are not aware of. The poem ends with a positive note of possibility. Though the lambs are not aware of the ‘immeasurable surprise’ that nature has in store for them, spring is not far away from winter.
Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.