The Frost Spirit and Others

Flowers in Winter

Painted Upon a Porte Livre.


John Greenleaf Whittier

HOW STRANGE to greet, this frosty morn,
    In graceful counterfeit of flowers,
These children of the meadows, born
    Of sunshine and of showers!

How well the conscious wood retains
    The pictures of its flower-sown home,
The lights and shades, the purple stains,
    And golden hues of bloom!

It was a happy thought to bring
    To the dark season’s frost and rime
This painted memory of spring,
    This dream of summer-time.

Our hearts are lighter for its sake,
    Our fancy’s age renews its youth,
And dim-remembered fictions take
    The guise of—present truth.

A wizard of the Merrimac,—
    So old ancestral legends say,
Could call green leaf and blossom back
    To frosted stem and spray.

The dry logs of the cottage wall,
    Beneath his touch, put out their leaves
The clay-bound swallow, at his call,
    Played round the icy eaves.

The settler saw his oaken flail
    Take bud, and bloom before his eyes;
From frozen pools he saw the pale,
    Sweet summer lilies rise.

To their old homes, by man profaned,
    Came the sad dryads, exiled long,
And through their leafy tongues complained
    Of household use and wrong.

The beechen platter sprouted wild,
    The pipkin wore its old-time green
The cradle o’er the sleeping child
    Became a leafy screen.

Haply our gentle friend hath met,
    While wandering in her sylvan quest,
Haunting his native woodlands yet,
    That Druid of the West;

And, while the dew on leaf and flower
    Glistened in moonlight clear and still,
Learned the dusk wizard’s spell of power,
    And caught his trick of skill.

But welcome, be it new or old,
    The gift which makes the day more bright,
And paints, upon the ground of cold
    And darkness, warmth and light.

Without is neither gold nor green;
    Within, for birds, the birch-logs sing;
Yet, summer-like, we sit between
    The autumn and the spring.

The one, with bridal blush of rose,
    And sweetest breath of woodland balm,
And one whose matron lips unclose
    In smiles of saintly calm.

Fill soft and deep, O winter snow!
    The sweet azalea’s oaken dells,
And hide the bank where roses blow,
    And swing the azure bells!

O’erlay the amber violet’s leaves,
    The purple aster’s brookside home,
Guard all the flowers her pencil gives
    A life beyond their bloom.

And she, when spring comes round again,
    By greening slope and singing flood
Shall wander, seeking, not in vain,
    Her darlings of the wood.

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