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Brueghel's Winter -- Walter de la Mare

       
(Poem #483) Brueghel's Winter
 Jagg'd mountain peaks and skies ice-green
 Wall in the wild, cold scene below.
 Churches, farms, bare copse, the sea
 In freezing quiet of winter show;
 Where ink-black shapes on fields in flood
 Curling, skating, and sliding go.
 To left, a gabled tavern; a blaze;
 Peasants; a watching child; and lo,
 Muffled, mute--beneath naked trees
 In sharp perspective set a-row--
 Trudge huntsmen, sinister spears aslant,
 Dogs snuffling behind them in the snow;
 And arrowlike, lean, athwart the air
 Swoops into space a crow.
 But flame, nor ice, nor piercing rock,
 Nor silence, as of a frozen sea,
 Nor that slant inward infinite line
 Of signboard, bird, and hill, and tree,
 Give more than subtle hint of him
 Who squandered here life's mystery.
-- Walter de la Mare
Of all the poems on 'Hunters in the Snow', de la Mare's is easily the most
subtle and haunting... it explores the hidden recesses, the dark shadows of
Brueghel's painting with a wonderfully delicate touch. As T. S. Eliot says in
his poem 'to Walter de la Mare' [1]:
        " - the delicate, invisible web you wove -
         The inexplicable mystery of sound."

Even the normally staid Brittanica is enthusiastic about his poetry:
        "[de la Mare had] an unusual power to evoke the ghostly, evanescent moments in
life... incantatory, other-worldly magic... "

"Other-worldly magic" - I couldn't agree more.

thomas.

[1] A very beautiful tribute; I'll run it on the Minstrels some time soon.

[Links]

'The Listeners' is one of the most famous and best-beloved poems ever written;
it was also only the second poem ever to feature on this mailing list. You can
read it at poem #2

'Napoleon' is short and direct, but no less effective for that: poem #272

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