The Snow Man Poem by Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens

Pennsylvania / United States

The Snow Man

Rating: 4.7

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Lamont Palmer 27 August 2005

This is probably my favorite Stevens poem.

12 10 Reply
Gary Witt 22 December 2006

Mr. Palmer has extremely good taste. This is one of my favorites as well. I compare this poem to The Anecdote of the Jar, because it seems to have the same Zen presence, but without the joke at the end. I have just a few points I’d like to raise in discussion. First, the last stanza as posted here should be separated into two, between “bare place” and “For the listener.” I notice that the poem is a single sentence. I find this significant because it contributes dramatically to the poem’s overall structure, style, and pace. It brings, I think, a certain elegance to the presentation. I also notice that there are two persona present here. First there is the poet-narrator who cautions that “one must have a mind of winter…and been cold a long time…not to think of any misery in the sound of the wind…” There is also “the listener, who…nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” It seems that Stevens is pointing to (at least) three stages of spiritual development: at the top is “the listener, ” in the middle is one with “a mind of winter, ” and (lower in the hierarchy) the poet-narrator, who seems to aspire to have a mind of winter. Perhaps the poem reflects Stevens’ efforts to understand and relate the Zen concept of emptiness, or at least three of the four Noble Truths: a) life is suffering; b) suffering results from attachment to transient things and ideas; and c) a cessation of suffering is attainable.

13 6 Reply
Marina Gipps 24 February 2007

Messers Palmer and Witt...This is by far my favorite poem by Wallace Stevens. Contemplative, Quiet...intuition of the state of affairs through meditation. There's a reason why a businessman would escape to think in the coldness of nature. Sometimes I feel that I have been cold a long time to behold it all as well- only to find that there is nothing. And so nothing lives long afterwards no matter's the zen of the human condition. Other times I read the poem and feel that he is dead. Don't ask!

11 7 Reply
Lungelo S Mbuyazi 22 May 2018

Simply love this imaginative poem....

0 1 Reply
Fabrizio Frosini 11 December 2015

Someone who “must have a mind of winter” sees frost, sees ice, sees snow and cannot conceive of the misery of the landscape. He can’t even see how the one potentially beautiful thing – the light of the January sun – is made mere glitter by the distance of the sun. Now you might say there is a very dark beauty here. But since this is my first time through the poem, I want to keep that more complicated thought in the background. Of course there is a very dark beauty, but I want to see where the poem is going first. From seeing (he saw ice & frost & snow & light & trees) we move to hearing. If this someone exists, he cannot hear the misery in the wind, nor the leaves rustling, nor the land itself. The mention of “the land” itself, the land being “full of the same wind” which blows “in the same bare place” brings our speaker to a third shift. We move from seeing to hearing to the mental state of a listener. Is this listener the “someone” talked about, a person that may not be able to figure out the misery of the land because of his own coldness? (Ashok)

21 3 Reply
Barry Middleton 19 November 2013

The snow man understands winter and is in unity with it and does not think it miserable because his mind is empty nothing like the empty wind and the empty place that is the world so that as he listens he beholds the absolute essence of nothingness.

11 9 Reply
May Tan 29 January 2010

I like this poem. One state of the zen is everyting is nothing, nothing is everything, and nothing is nothing. In Chinese it says '色 不 异 空 , 空 不 异 色 ; 色 即 是 空 , 空 即 是 色 。 ' They are the same.

13 8 Reply
Ryan Heap 05 October 2008

who had the audacity to give this poem any less than a 10 rating? funny funny

15 9 Reply

Wallace Stevens

Pennsylvania / United States
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