‘Poem in Winter’ by Elizabeth Jennings is composed of three stanzas, each consisting of five verses. As we read through the poem, it becomes clear that the poet is going to discuss the winter season, but in a very different way. Jennings had always taken care of the use of rhyme and meter when it came to the form of poetry. Her use of words and sentence structure in the poem is very easy to understand. All her poems were simple and without literary decoration and pretentiousness in literature.
Jennings describes this season with very simple language, and we readily know what exactly she is trying to say. Even the title of the poem is very appropriate as it says what the poet wants to convey through this poem.
However, it is noteworthy that Jennings has also used the winter season and snow to express her sorrows. In most of her poems, you will find her symbolizing winter as cold as sorrow, which doesn’t leave her. The season of winter and frozen snow has always appeared to her like the sorrows and sadness she experienced in her life.
You can read the full poem here.
Today the children begin to hope for snow
Falling of flakes to lie across our thought.
These five lines of the first stanza of ‘Poem in Winter’ start with what the poet wants to convey through the whole poem. In today’s winter season, the poet shows that the children are very much hopeful of the snow falling and curiously looking in the sky for auguries. In the third line, comparing the hopes of the children, the poet says that we (the adults) don’t wait for such omens because: “Our world may not be settled by the slow/Falling of flakes to lie across our thought.”
This is a very calm stanza, and it becomes very easy for us to imagine the kids peacefully watching the sky. However, so is not the case with the adults who are not as hopeful as these kids seem. The poet makes use of alliteration to bring about a lyrical tone when she says, “falling of flakes.” Thus, it becomes clear here that the poet has compared the falling of snow to their hopes, but their hopes are stronger than the adults who wait “behind a pane of glass.”
And even if the snow comes down indeed,
upon a winter they think they have made.
In the second stanza, the poet continues to talk about winter and snow. However, she says when the snow comes down, the adults hide themselves behind a “pane of glass”, rather than going out like the children who just want to enjoy the falling flakes or snowfall. We (adults) would prefer watching the children pressing their image on the drifts instead of going out in the wintery season as the children do during the winter season. The poet here has used pane as a metaphor which represents the way adults try to protect themselves from the world outside.
Here too, she makes use of alliteration but of the letter “s,” such as in the second line when she says: “still shall stand.” The use of this alliteration by the poet indicates a kind of softness prevailing in the poem. It is as soft as snow falling from the sky. In the same line, the poet uses “a pane of glass,” which symbolizes a barrier between the snow and us; it looks as if we don’t ever try to touch its perfection and beauty. In fact, the poet best describes the scenery of winter, using the best possible imagery and metaphors.
This is a wise illusion. Better to
As though there were no world, no fall of snow.
In this concluding part of ‘Poem in Winter,’ the poet calls this illusion a wise one and says that it is better to believe in the near (real) world than hiding in the mind’s corner. She says instead of running from the impediments of our lives, we must learn to face them. We get to be like the children who come out to view and enjoy it instead of being afraid of the snow. They don’t hide behind the pane as we do rather find their own images in the drifts. The world is a reality, and we have to face this reality. So, the falling of snow from the sky is a wise illusion, and we have to accept it.
Thus, through these final five verses, the poet gives messages to those who don’t want to face odd circumstances and situations in their lives. The poet says that we all have to face reality, and instead of avoiding the odds of life, we should come out like the children, and face the problems of snow, and take it in a very playful mood as the children do during the season of winter.
This way, the poet, in ‘Poem in Winter’, not only shows us the beauty and perfection of the Snow but also sends messages to those adults who are afraid of snow falling and seek a protective shelter when there is snowfall. Though this poem is very precious, yet the use of imagery and metaphors in it makes it one of the best creations of Elizabeth Jennings.
About Elizabeth Jennings
Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, and died in 2001, in Bampton, United Kingdom, Elizabeth Jennings completed her graduation from Oxford University. She first worked as an Assistant Librarian at Oxford City Library and then as a reader for the London Publisher Chatto & Windus, and finally, she became a full-time writer for the rest of her life.
Jennings began her poetry writing career at the very early stage after having been encouraged by one of her schoolteachers as well as by an uncle, who himself was a poet. She wrote her earlier poems on being inspired by Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ G. K. Chesterton’s “Battle of Lepanto,” and then the odes of Keats.
Afterward, Jennings was greatly influenced by the poetries of Edwin Muir and Robert Frost. In most of Jennings’s poems, there have been strong logic, emotional sensitivity, and avoidance of decoration, an absence of vagueness, and an eschewing of any mystification.
Readers who enjoyed Elizabeth Jennings’ ‘Poem in Winter’ may also find these poems interesting. You can also explore these snowy poems about winter.
- ‘Winter Rainbow’ by John Clare – This piece speaks on themes of light/dark, hope, and nature.
- ‘Winter’ by Anne Hunter – In this poem, Hunter cleverly personifies winter as a “tyrant” who has complete control over those most in need.
- ‘Winter’ by Walter de la Mare – This poem describes the stark beauty of the winter months and how the constellations look down upon the cold earth.