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(12 July 1817 – 6 May 1862 / Concord, Massachusetts)

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Winter Memories

Within the circuit of this plodding life
There enter moments of an azure hue,
Untarnished fair as is the violet
Or anemone, when the spring stew them
By some meandering rivulet, which make
The best philosophy untrue that aims
But to console man for his grievences.
I have remembered when the winter came,
High in my chamber in the frosty nights,
When in the still light of the cheerful moon,
On the every twig and rail and jutting spout,
The icy spears were adding to their length
Against the arrows of the coming sun,
How in the shimmering noon of winter past
Some unrecorded beam slanted across
The upland pastures where the Johnwort grew;
Or heard, amid the verdure of my mind,
The bee's long smothered hum, on the blue flag
Loitering amidst the mead; or busy rill,
Which now through all its course stands still and dumb
Its own memorial, - purling at its play
Along the slopes, and through the meadows next,
Until its youthful sound was hushed at last
In the staid current of the lowland stream;
Or seen the furrows shine but late upturned,
And where the fieldfare followed in the rear,
When all the fields around lay bound and hoar
Beneath a thick integument of snow.
So by God's cheap economy made rich
To go upon my winter's task again.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003


Read poems about / on: winter, snow, spring, moon, sun, light, god, memory, remember

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  • Karen Sinclair (3/11/2014 7:23:00 AM)

    Absolutely exquisite. Beautifully nostalgic and descriptive. I actually welled up. The last two lines grasp. Brilliant

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  • Pranab K Chakraborty (3/11/2012 12:42:00 AM)

    ...The icy spears were adding to their length
    Against the arrows of the coming sun, ...

    Beautiful imagery confronting the brilliant metaphor. Excellent touch of conscious.

  • Sylva Portoian (3/12/2010 4:21:00 AM)

    Spring always arrives with sun
    When rays reach grass
    The land gets stewed
    So in this way
    Thoreau means stew hence stewed.

  • Terence George Craddock (3/11/2010 12:12:00 PM)

    'When all the fields around lay bound and hoar
    Beneath a thick integument of snow.
    So by God's cheap economy made rich'
    I think 'God's cheap economy' refers to the 'thick integument of snow' which covers everything in an endless white in all directions. This might by some be a cheap economy if compared to the palette of autumn leaves or spring and summer. However hoar frost is exceptionally beautiful in wilderness areas when the temperature plummets rapidly. If Henry is trapping fur animals around the pond, this would explain ‘made rich’ by good skins, as good winter pelts have a thicker fur and white in many animals, even silver grey often commands superior prices. Any thoughts on this?
    This was a time before high tech winter clothing, could equal the warmth of certain furs, which were a life saver in extreme winter cold, and an absolute necessity not a luxury for mountain men or arctic explorers etc. That comment was for the anti-fur lobby.

  • Gone Away (3/11/2010 8:08:00 AM)

    English is my first language and I had to consult the dictionary several times! The blue flag refers to the iris plant which is another meaning of the word flag. That would make sense that the bees are humming nearby on the mead (ow) .

  • Joseph Poewhit (3/11/2010 3:51:00 AM)

    'So by GODS cheap economy made rich' struck me in wonderment. GOD, creator of all, created all out of love. Cheap economy, seems a jest at monetary value. Finding beauty in the small quiet, of the silence of winters blanket.

  • Ramesh T A (3/11/2010 12:54:00 AM)

    Before Spring comes and all activities begin everything is under the cover of snow! All are in a frozen state increased by moonlit night and whitened by sunlight morning! This is God's decree! Lover of Nature like Wordsworth, H D Thoreau remembers all happenings in Nature even in winter!

  • Sarah Thunder (1/28/2010 10:08:00 AM)

    hey guys ^^
    I need to interept this poem for English and the problem is that I dont really understand some lines of this poem! Maybe you can give me a tip? I dont get the stanzas 6 & 7, stanza 18 (is there a special meaning of the blue flag?) and the last ones with 'God's cheap economy'
    I know, I have too much questions but it's a little bit difficult for me 'cause I'm living in Switzerland... =_=

  • Steven Wein (3/11/2009 7:36:00 PM)

    Kevin, 'stew' is a typo. Thoreau wrote it 'strew'

  • Kevin Straw (3/11/2009 8:04:00 AM)

    'when the spring stew them' - what does he mean by 'stew'? This poem seems only to get in gear from 'I have remembered when the winter came...'

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