December

- 1813-1892

No more the scarlet maples flash and burn
       Their beacon-fires from hilltop and from plain;
The meadow-grasses and the woodland fern
       In the bleak woods lie withered once again.

The trees stand bare, and bare each stony scar
       Upon the cliffs; half frozen glide the rills;
The steel-blue river like a scimitar
       Lies cold and curved between the dusky hills.

Over the upland farm I take my walk,
       And miss the flaunting flocks of golden-rod;
Each autumn flower a dry and leafless stalk,
       Each mossy field a track of frozen sod.

I hear no more the robin's summer song
       Through the gray network of the wintry woods;
Only the cawing crows that all day long
       Clamor about the windy solitudes.

Like agate stones upon earth's frozen breast,
       The little pools of ice lie round and still;
While sullen clouds shut downward east and west
       In marble ridges stretched from hill to hill.

Come once again, O southern wind,—once more
       Come with thy wet wings flapping at my pane;
Ere snow-drifts pile their mounds about my door,
       One parting dream of summer bring again.

Ah, no! I hear the windows rattle fast;
       I see the first flakes of the gathering snow,
That dance and whirl before the northern blast.
       No countermand the march of days can know.

December drops no weak, relenting tear,
       By our fond summer sympathies ensnared;
Nor from the perfect circle of the year
       Can even winter's crystal gems be spared.

Related Poems

Winter Twilight

On a clear winter's evening
The crescent moon 

And the round squirrels' nest
In the bare oak 

Are equal planets.

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

Winter Leafage

Each year I mark one lone outstanding tree,
Clad in its robings of the summer past,
Dry, wan, and shivering in the wintry blast.
It will not pay the season’s rightful fee,—
It will not set its frost-burnt leafage free;
But like some palsied miser all aghast,
Who hoards his sordid treasure to the last,
It sighs, it moans, it sings in eldritch glee.
A foolish tree, to dote on summers gone;
A faithless tree, that never feels how spring
Creeps up the world to make a leafy dawn,
And recompense for all despoilment bring!
Oh, let me not, heyday and youth withdrawn,
With failing hands to their vain semblance cling!