When men were all asleep the snow came flying, In large white flakes falling on the city brown, Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying, Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town; Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing; Lazily and incessantly floating down and down: Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing; Hiding difference, making unevenness even, Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing. All night it fell, and when full inches seven It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness, The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven; And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare: The eye marvelled—marvelled at the dazzling whiteness; The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air; No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling, And the busy morning cries came thin and spare. Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling, They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snowballing; Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees; Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder, "O look at the trees!" they cried, "O look at the trees!" With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder, Following along the white deserted way, A country company long dispersed asunder: When now already the sun, in pale display Standing by Paul’s high dome, spread forth below His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day. For now doors open, and war is waged with the snow; And trains of sombre men, past tale of number, Tread long brown paths, as toward their toil they go: But even for them awhile no cares encumber Their minds diverted; the daily word is unspoken, The daily thoughts of labor and sorrow slumber At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm they have broken.
The south-wind strengthens to a gale,
Across the moon the clouds fly fast,
The house is smitten as with a flail,
The chimney shudders to the blast.
On such a night, when Air has loosed
Its guardian grasp on blood and brain,
Old terrors then of god or ghost
Creep from their caves to life again;
And Reason kens he herits in
A haunted house. Tenants unknown
Assert their squalid lease of sin
With earlier title than his own.
Unbodied presences, the pack’d
Pollution and remorse of Time,
Slipp’d from oblivion reënact
The horrors of unhouseld crime.
Some men would quell the thing with prayer
Whose sightless footsteps pad the floor,
Whose fearful trespass mounts the stair
Or burts the lock’d forbidden door.
Some have seen corpses long interr’d
Escape from hallowing control,
Pale charnel forms—nay ev’n have heard
The shrilling of a troubled soul,
That wanders till the dawn hath cross’d
The dolorous dark, or Earth hath wound
Closer her storm-spredd cloke, and thrust
The baleful phantoms underground.