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English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Thomas Campbell

454. Ode to Winter

Germany, December, 1800

WHEN first the fiery-mantled Sun

His heavenly race began to run,

Round the earth and ocean blue

His children four the Seasons flew:—

First, in green apparel dancing,

The young Spring smiled with angel-grace;

Rosy Summer next advancing,

Rush’d into her sire’s embrace—

Her bright-hair’d sire, who bade her keep

For ever nearest to his smiles,

On Calpe’s olive-shaded steep

Or India’s citron-cover’d isles.

More remote, and buxom-brown,

The Queen of vintage bow’d before his throne;

A rich pomegranate gemm’d her crown,

A ripe sheaf bound her zone.

But howling Winter fled afar

To hills that prop the polar star;

And loves on deer-borne car to ride

With barren darkness at his side,

Round the shore where loud Lofoden

Whirls to death the roaring whale,

Round the hall where Runic Odin

Howls his war-song to the gale—

Save when adown the ravaged globe

He travels on his native storm,

Deflowering Nature’s grassy robe

And trampling on his native storm,

Till light’s returning Lord assume

The shaft that drives him to his northern field,

Of power to pierce his raven plume

And crystal-cover’d shield.

O, sire of storms! whose savage ear

The Lapland drum delights to hear,

When Frenzy with her bloodshot eye

Implores thy dreadful deity—

Archangel! Power of desolation!

Fast descending as thou art,

Say, hath mortal invocation

Spells to touch thy stony heart:

Then, sullen Winter! hear my prayer,

And gently rule the ruin’d year;

Nor chill the wanderer’s bosom bare

Nor freeze the wretch’s falling tear:

To shuddering Want’s unmantled bed

Thy horror-breathing agues cease to lend,

And gently on the orphan head

Of Innocence descend.

But chiefly spare, O king of clouds!

The sailor on his airy shrouds,

When wrecks and beacons strew the steep,

And spectres walk along the deep.

Milder yet thy snowy breezes

Pour on yonder tented shores,

Where the Rhine’s broad billow freezes

Or the dark-brown Danube roars.

O, winds of Winter! list ye there

To many a deep and dying groan?

Or start, ye demons of the midnight air,

At shrieks and thunders louder than your own?

Alas! e’en your unhallow’d breath

May spare the victim fallen low;

But Man will ask no truce to death,

No bounds to human woe.