As you may know, April is
the cruelest month National Poetry Month. I thought that perhaps one way for me to make myself keep updating regularly, I could post a poem each Friday this month (and maybe beyond!). The only rule for the month is that it should be a poem I haven’t read before; what’s the point of only sharing the poems I already like, after all? Past this month, I might share poems I do already know and love.
Today I’ve chosen “The Cross of Snow” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I have to be honest with you–I went searching for poetry about death because I am currently quite sad about the death of Roger Ebert. He was a clever, insightful man and one of my personal heroes.
Longfellow’s poem is about a much longer mourning period, though; eighteen years earlier, his wife died of burns sustained from an accident in the home. (An ember from the hearth caught her dress on fire.) His pain is not lessened by the span of years–to the contrary, he still sees her face and longs for her presence. But he’s learned to live with the loss and carries it with him wherever he goes. The depth of his love for his wife is heartbreakingly palpable here.
“The Cross of Snow” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face — the face of one long dead —
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.