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.
This poem is in the public domain.
Robert Seymour Bridges was born on October 23, 1844, in Walmer, Kent, England. He enrolled in Eton College in 1854 and started writing poetry. In 1863, he enrolled at Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, where he met Gerard Manley Hopkins, who he would remain friends with until Hopkins’s death in 1889. Bridges would also become Hopkins’s literary executor, collecting and editing his friend’s poems for publication after his death.
In 1869, Bridges registered as a student at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. After he initially failed his medical exams in 1873, Bridges spent part of his summer studying medicine in Dublin. That same year, he published his first book of poems, Poems (Pickering, 1873), and he received his MB the following year. Bridges continued working at St. Bartholomew’s and other hospitals until 1881, when he retired after contracting a case of pneumonia. He spent the rest of his life in nearly unbroken domestic seclusion, devoting himself to the writing and studying of poetry.
During his prolific period of domestic seclusion, Bridges published several long poems, dramas, and poetry collections, some of which contained his experiments using a meter based on syllables rather than accents. Many of his most popular verses are collected in The Shorter Poems of Robert Bridges (George Bell & Sons, 1890).
In 1913, Bridges was named poet laureate of England, a position he held until his death. He also helped found the Society for Pure English, an organization of literary figures and linguistic scholars who sought to preserve the “purity” of the English language. Bridges remained a bestselling poet throughout the 1920s.
Bridges died in his home in Boars Hill, England, on April 21, 1930.
The Testament of Beauty (Oxford University Press/Clarendon Press, 1929)
The Tapestry (F . W. & S. M., 1925)
New Verse (Clarendon Press, 1925)
October and Other Poems, with Occasional Verses on the War (William Heinemann/Alfred A. Knopf, 1920)
Britannia Victrix (Oxford University Press, 1919)
Poetical Works (Smith, Elder & Co., 1898)
The Shorter Poems of Robert Bridges (George Bell & Sons, 1890)
Eros & Psyche: A Poem in Twelve Measures (George Bell & Sons, 1885)
Poems (Henry Daniel Press, 1884)
Poems (Edward Bumpus, 1880)
Poems (Edward Bumpus, 1879)
The Growth of Love: A Poem in Twenty-four Sonnets (Edward Bumpus, 1876)
Poems (Pickering, 1873)
Date Published: 1890-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/london-snow