Sunday, January 17, 2016

Snow Monotones / Ben Hecht

Snow Monotones

A great white leopard prowling silently
Over the house-tops, up and down the sky,
Trailing its ermine and its ivory —
The lithe and sinuous snow creeps softly by.

The air is crowded and the day alight;      
The houses etched in stuccoed boundaries
Loom radiant, while in capricious flight
The snow paints ghostly summer on the trees.

With opals and with lustered silks inlaid
The snow spreads out its long unbroken seas,
And frames each house in candied masquerade
Of quaint and crystaline geometries.

Perhaps the snow is an enchanted rain,
Or, swarming white and gently to and fro,
The souls of little birds come back again  
And searching for the sky they used to know.

The snow falls thicker, and a spectral night
Bursts without sunset in a wind-whirled glow,
Blotting the day and leaving more alight
The glistening white nocturne of the snow.

The stiff and tangled avenues become
Like some vague field of dreams that hides behind
A strange and delicate delirium
Of labyrinthine pallors, swift and blind.

The snow seems rising — a fantastic spray      
Some sharp and sinister wind has given wing;
And all the world is blowing fast away,
The houses and the trees first vanishing.

The world is but a shimmering pastel,
A whimsically chiseled cameo    
Whose life seems only the ephemeral
And pale diaphonous music of the snow.

The snow has ended and the highways lie
In lacquered desolation; and outthrown
The blue and staring shadow of the sky    
Appears above the emptied air — alone.

The night is not so silent as the snow
And yet the night is dark and mute and deep —
The faery stains that wander to and fro
Are what the night is dreaming in its sleep.

Ben Hecht (1894-1964)
from Poetry, February 1918

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

Ben Hecht biography

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