Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WINTER, by EDITH SITWELL



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WINTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dagobert lay in front of the fire
Last Line: And ripens not in the heart or head!
Subject(s): Winter


DAGOBERT lay in front of the fire . . .
Each thin flame seemed a feathery spire

Of the grasses that like goslings quack
On the castle walls: "Bring Gargotte back";

But Gargotte the goose-girl, bright as hail,
Has faded into a fairy-tale.

The kings and queens on the nursery wall
Seem chain-armoured fish in the moat, and all

The frost-flowers upon the window-panes,
Grown fertilate from the fire's gold grains,

Ripen to gold-freckled strawberries,
Raspberries, glassy-pale gooseberries --

(We never could touch them, early or late,
They would chill our hands like the touch of Fate.)

But Anne was five years old and must know
Reality; in the goose-soft snow

She was made to walk with her three tall aunts
Drooping beneath the snow's cold plants.

They dread the hour when with book and bell
Their mother, the old fell Countess of L-----

Is disrobed of her wig and embalmed for the night's
Sweet mummified dark; her invective affrights

The maids till you hear them scamper like mice
In the wainscoting -- trembling, neat and nice.

Each clustered bouquet of the snows is
Like stephanotis and white roses;

The muted airs sing Palestrina
In trees like monstrances, grown leaner

Than she is; the unripe snow falls
Like little tunes on the virginals

Whose sound is bright, unripe and sour
As small fruits fall'n before their hour.

The Countess sits and plays fantan
Beneath the portrait of great Queen Anne

(Who sleeps beneath the strawberry bed);
And all her maids have scampered, fled.

The shuffled cards like the tail of a bird
Unfolding its shining plumes are heard. . . .

The maid in her powder-closet soon
Beneath the fire of the calm full moon

Whose sparkles, rubies, sapphires, spill
For her upon the window-sill

Will nod her head, grown sleepy, I wis,
As Alaciel, or Semiramis,

Pasiphae, or the lady Isis,
Embalmed in the precious airs like spices.

But her ladyship stamps with her stick . . . "Grown cold
Are my small feet, from my chilly gold --

Unwarmed by buds of the lamb's wool . . . go
And gather for me the soft polar snow

To line with that silver chilly-sweet
The little slippers upon my feet --

With snow clear-petalled as lemon blossom --
Crystal-clear -- perfumed as Venus' bosom."

* * * * *

Can this be Eternity? -- snow peach-cold,
Sleeping and rising and growing old,

While she lies embalmed in the fire's gold sheen,
Like a cross wasp in a ripe nectarine,

And the golden seed of the fire droops dead
And ripens not in the heart or head!





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