A Snow Storm

Charles Gamage Eastman (1816–1860)

Scene in a Vermont Winter


’T IS a fearful night in the winter time,
As cold as it ever can be;
The roar of the blast is heard like the chimes
Of the waves on an angry sea.
The moon is full; but her silver light
The storm dashes out with its wings to-night;
And over the sky from south to north
Not a star is seen, as the wind comes forth
In the strength of a mighty glee.

All day had the snow come down,—all day
As it never came down before;
And over the hills, at sunset, lay
Some two or three feet, or more;
The fence was lost, and the wall of stone;
The windows blocked and the well-curbs gone;
The haystack had grown to a mountain lift,
And the wood-pile looked like a monster drift,
As it lay by the farmer’s door.

The night sets in on a world of snow,
While the air grows sharp and chill,
And the warning roar of a fearful blow
Is heard on the distant hill;
And the norther, see! on the mountain peak
In his breath how the old trees writhe and shriek!
He shouts on the plain, ho-ho! ho-ho!
He drives from his nostrils the blinding snow,
And growls with a savage will.

Such a night as this to be found abroad,
In the drifts and the freezing air,
Sits a shivering dog, in the field, by the road,
With the snow in his shaggy hair.
He shuts his eyes to the wind and growls;
He lifts his head and moans and howls;
Then crouching low, from the cutting sleet,
His nose is pressed on his quivering feet,—
Pray, what does the dog do there?

A farmer came from the village plain,—
But he lost the travelled way;
And for hours he trod with might and main
A path for his horse and sleigh;
But colder still the cold winds blew,
And deeper still the deep drifts grew,
And his mare, a beautiful Morgan brown,
At last in her struggles floundered down,
Where a log in a hollow lay.

In vain, with a neigh and a frenzied snort,
She plunged in the drifting snow,
While her master urged, till his breath grew short,
With a word and a gentle blow;
But the snow was deep, and the tugs were tight;
His hands were numb and had lost their might;
So he wallowed back to his half-filled sleigh,
And strove to shelter himself till day,
With his coat and the buffalo.

He has given the last faint jerk of the rein,
To rouse up his dying steed;
And the poor dog howls to the blast in vain,
For help in his master’s need.
For awhile he strives with a wistful cry
To catch a glance from his drowsy eye,
And wags his tail if the rude winds flap
The skirt of the buffalo over his lap,
And whines when he takes no heed.

The wind goes down and the storm is o’er,—
’T is the hour of midnight, past;
The old trees writhe and bend no more
In the whirl of the rushing blast.
The silent moon with her peaceful light
Looks down on the hills with snow all white,
And the giant shadow of Camel’s Hump,
The blasted pine and the ghostly stump,
Afar on the plain are cast.

But cold and dead by the hidden log
Are they who came from the town,—
The man in his sleigh, and his faithful dog,
And his beautiful Morgan brown,—
In the wide snow-desert, far and grand,
With his cap on his head and the reins in his hand,—
The dog with his nose on his master’s feet,
And the mare half seen from the crusted sleet,
Where she lay when she floundered down.