The poem, 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.
Yes, the poet, Elizabeth Jennings has used the winter season as a symbol of children’s hopes as they look for “auguries.” The poet 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.
Poem in Winter Analysis
Today the children begin to hope for snow
And look in the sky for auguries of it.
It is not for such omens that we wait,
Our world may not be settled by the slow
Falling of flakes to lie across our thought.
This five lines first stanza of the poem starts with what the poet wants to convey through the whole poem. The poet here shows that the children, in today’s winter season, 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 is stronger than the adults who wait “behind a pane of glass.”
And even if the snow comes down indeed
We shall still stand behind a pane of glass
Untouched by it, and watch the children press
Their image on the drifts the snow has laid
On a winter they think they have made.
In the second stanza, the poet continues to talk about the season of winter, and snow. However, she says when the snow comes down, the adults hide ourselves behind a “pane of glass”, rather going out like the children who jus want to enjoy the falling flakes, or snowfall. We (adults) would prefer watching the children pressing their image on the drifts, instead going out in the wintery season as the children do during 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 towards 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
Believe the near world is created by
A wise, a shaping hand, a certain eye,
Than hide in the mind’s corner as we do
As though there were no world, no fall of snow.
In this concluding part of the poem, the poet calls this illusion a wise one, and says that it is better to believe 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 it. We get to be like the children who, instead of being afraid of the snow, come out to view and enjoy it. They don’t hide themselves 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, falling of snow from the sky is a wise illusion, 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 the 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 snow-fall. 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 being encouraged by one of her schoolteachers as well as by an uncle, who himself was a poet. She wrote her earlier poetries 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 an avoidance of decoration, an absence of vagueness and an eschewing of any mystification.
She had always taken care of the use of rhyme and meter when it comes to the form of poetry. Her use of words and sentence structure in the poem are very easy to understand. All her poems were simple and without literary decoration and pretentiousness in literature.
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