Around the Radiant Fireplace

The whip of branches  and snow against the house woke me.  I paid dearly, with bare feet numb against the floor and shoulders encircled by an icy smelling draft, to stand at the window and watch the world disappear in the blur of white and wind. I knew I would be snowbound the next day. Snowbound– the word reminded me there was a  poem of the same name. As I returned to bed and quickly buried my shivering self in the layers of fabric and feather-filled covers, I made a mental note to read John Greenleaf Whittier’s famous poem the next day. But I couldn’t get through the dense 700+ liner. However, a little side note stated that “Snowbound,” had been inspired by  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, “The Snow Storm.” And that led me to a glorious read about Emerson. What a guy! The leader of the Transcendental movement in America he believed that American writers should free themselves of European influence and create their own unique style. And the poem “The Snowstorm,” perfectly illustrates Emerson’s philosophical explorations of the relationship between man’s soul and the world around him. It’s a beauty.


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden’s end,
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace,  enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I read the poem over and over. The lines: “…the housemates sit/Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed/In a tumultuous privacy of storm,” made me envious until I realized that the group of poets who meet in my house are “the housemates,” and the “radiant fireplace,” around which we gather is the sharing of poems and ideas and our successes and failures…that warms our little circle and sustains us from month to month. And the “tumultuous privacy of storm,” is our need to isolate ourselves, if only for a few hours, from the turmoil of our daily lives. Thank you Jo, Frank and Andrew!

##################################################### Listen to Poets Read Poetry on “The Writing Life,” LIVE. 1 PM, Saturday, January 22nd,

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