Featured Poem: The Snowman in the Yard by Alfred Joyce Kilmer

I would imagine you’d be hard pushed to find any city, town or village in the UK that hasn’t been affected by what is considered to have been the heaviest snowfall in half a century. Indeed most of us are still waiting for the most stubborn snow to melt away after near enough two weeks, or have experienced more of the white stuff. If nothing else, it has aroused all manner of emotional responses. For the first day, surprise and delight (which continued for kids, both small and big) then afterwards, annoyance and bafflement – just how did the various news outlets manage to get so much mileage out of the sheer fact that it snowed, albeit quite a lot? I have been mainly frustrated as I haven’t been able to venture very far due to a combination of unsuitable footwear, a total lack of co-ordination and an inability to function on ice (which has led me to acquire the nickname ‘Bambi’). I’m sure it hasn’t been much fun for everyone who has been left stranded, snowed in and unable to get about. That’s not to mention the repercussions it’s had here at The Reader Organisation resulting in the postponement of the New Beginnings Conference and Readers’ Day.

I apologise in advance for making another reference to the snow, when everyone is probably sick to the back teeth of it by now, but I thought it’d be rather appropriate to pay homage to one of the things that most of us can enjoy about it – the humble snowman (or maybe that should be snowperson, to be politically correct). Over the last fortnight, I’ve seen ones of all shapes and sizes, snow dogs, snow cats and even snow cartoon characters. The only reason I’m sad to see the snow go is down to the fact that I didn’t get an opportunity to make my own snowman. So it’s nice to stumble across a poem that really celebrates those made of snow who put a smile on many a face. I especially like the closing lines: “And through the Winter’s crystal veil, Love’s roses blossom red, For him who lives in a house that has a snowman in the yard” – a snowman bringing true love? Maybe wishful thinking, but it’s a nice idea… I really wish I’d made one now.

A Snowman in the Yard

The Judge’s house has a splendid porch, with pillars and steps of stone,
And the Judge has a lovely flowering hedge that came from across the seas;
In the Hales’ garage you could put my house and everything I own,
And the Hales have a lawn like an emerald and a row of poplar trees.

Now I have only a little house, and only a little lot,
And only a few square yards of lawn, with dandelions starred;
But when Winter comes, I have something there
that the Judge and the Hales have not,
And it’s better worth having than all their wealth —
it’s a snowman in the yard.

The Judge’s money brings architects to make his mansion fair;
The Hales have seven gardeners to make their roses grow;
The Judge can get his trees from Spain and France and everywhere,
And raise his orchids under glass in the midst of all the snow.

But I have something no architect or gardener ever made,
A thing that is shaped by the busy touch of little mittened hands:
And the Judge would give up his lonely estate, where the level snow is laid
For the tiny house with the trampled yard,
the yard where the snowman stands.

They say that after Adam and Eve were driven away in tears
To toil and suffer their life-time through,
because of the sin they sinned,
The Lord made Winter to punish them for half their exiled years,
To chill their blood with the snow, and pierce
their flesh with the icy wind.

But we who inherit the primal curse, and labour for our bread,
Have yet, thank God, the gift of Home, though Eden’s gate is barred:
And through the Winter’s crystal veil, Love’s roses blossom red,
For him who lives in a house that has a snowman in the yard.

Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

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