To a Wreath of Snow
O transient voyager of heaven!
O silent sign of winter skies!
What adverse wind thy sail has driven
To dungeons where a prisoner lies?
Methinks the hands that shut the sun
So sternly from this morning’s brow
Might still their rebel task have done
And checked a thing so frail as thou.
They would have done it had they known
The talisman that dwelt in thee,
For all the suns that ever shone
Have never been so kind to me!
For many a week, and many a day
My heart was weighed with sinking gloom
When morning rose in mourning grey
And faintly lit my prison room
But angel like, when I awoke,
Thy silvery form so soft and fair
Shining through darkness, sweetly spoke
Of cloudy skies and mountains bare;
The dearest to a mountaineer
Who, all life long has loved the snow
That crowned her native summits drear,
Better, than greenest plains below.
And voiceless, soulless, messenger
Thy presence waked a thrilling tone
That comforts me while thou art here
And will sustain when thou art gone
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
“To a Wreath of Snow,” written in December of 1837, was published posthumously in The Complete Poems of Emily Brontë (Hodder and Stoughton, 1908). The original composition bore the attribution “by A. G. Almeda,” short for Augustus Geraldine Almeda, queen of the fictional land of Gondal, an imaginary world created by Emily and Anne Brontë during their adolescence. Though no stories by either Emily or Anne set in Gondal survive, Emily’s “Gondal poems” exist today in a manuscript housed at the British Museum. As Deborah Lutz, the Thruston B. Morton Endowed Chair of English at the University of Louisville, writes in “Emily Brontë’s Paper Work,” published in the Victorian Review vol. 42, no. 2 (Fall 2016), the poem was “written ‘by’ the character Augustus Geraldine Almeda, probably when she was imprisoned in a dungeon [. . .] for several years.” Like the poems “[Weaned from life and flown away]” and “[I’m happiest now when most away],” both of which are part of a handwritten manuscript that once included “To a Wreath of Snow” until it was deliberately ripped out, the poem “explore[s] forms of imprisonment and intense thought about what lies outside of the prisons, a place where nature holds sway.”