Thursday, February 11, 2016

Maria Egel writes

Village winter.

Whiteness covers all poverty
A lone fox saunters across the frozen snow
Leaving neither print nor scent.
The mighty evergreens stand tall,
Topped with their own, glistening crowns
The wind howling through their branches
Creating an eerie concert
Accompanied by the doleful howling of a wolf
The wind driven snow, its perfect conductor.
And in this noisy stillness, all time is drowned. 

 Jagers in de Sneeuw (The Hunters in the Snow) -- Pieter Bruegel the Elder


  1. Many painters depict literary themes, but it is more unusual for paintings to inspire poets. Here are four relatively recent examples of this, however:

    John Berryman: "Winter Landscape"

    The three men coming down the winter hill
    In brown, with tall poles and a pack of hounds
    At heel, through the arrangement of the trees,
    Past the five figures at the burning straw,
    Returning cold and silent to their town,

    Returning to the drifted snow, the rink
    Lively with children, to the older men,
    The long companions they can never reach,
    The blue light, men with ladders, by the church
    The sledge and shadow in the twilit street,

    Are not aware that in the sandy time
    To come, the evil waste of history
    Outstretched, they will be seen upon the brow
    Of that same hill: when all their company
    Will have been irrecoverably lost,

    These men, this particular three in brown
    Witnessed by birds will keep the scene and say
    By their configuration with the trees,
    The small bridge, the red houses and the fire,
    What place, what time, what morning occasion

    Sent them into the wood, a pack of hounds
    At heel and the tall poles upon their shoulders,
    Thence to return as now we see them and
    Ankle-deep in snow down the winter hill
    Descend, while three birds watch and the fourth flies.

    William Carlos Williams: "The Hunter in the Snow"

    The over-all picture is winter
    icy mountains
    in the background the return

    from the hunt it is toward evening
    from the left
    sturdy hunters lead in

    their pack the inn-sign
    hanging from a
    broken hinge is a stag a crucifix

    between his antlers the cold
    inn yard is
    deserted but for a huge bonfire

    that flares wind-driven tended by
    women who cluster
    about it to the right beyond

    the hill is a pattern of skaters
    Brueghel the painter
    concerned with it all has chosen

    a winter-struck bush for his
    foreground to
    complete the picture

  2. Walter de la Mare: "Brueghel's Winter"

    Jagg'd mountain peaks and skies ice-green
    Wall in the wild, cold scene below.
    Churches, farms, bare copse, the sea
    In freezing quiet of winter show;
    Where ink-black shapes on fields in flood
    Curling, skating, and sliding go.
    To left, a gabled tavern; a blaze;
    Peasants; a watching child; and lo,
    Muffled, mute--beneath naked trees
    In sharp perspective set a-row--
    Trudge huntsmen, sinister spears aslant,
    Dogs snuffling behind them in the snow;
    And arrowlike, lean, athwart the air
    Swoops into space a crow.

    But flame, nor ice, nor piercing rock,
    Nor silence, as of a frozen sea,
    Nor that slant inward infinite line
    Of signboard, bird, and hill, and tree,
    Give more than subtle hint of him
    Who squandered here life's mystery.

    Joseph Langland: "Hunters in the Snow: Brueghel"

    Quail and rabbit hunters with tawny hounds,
    Shadowless, out of late afternoon
    Trudge toward the neutral evening of indeterminate form
    Done with their blood-annunciated day
    Public dogs and all the passionless mongrels
    Through deep snow
    Trail their deliberate masters
    Descending from the upper village home in lovering light.
    Sooty lamps
    Glow in the stone-carved kitchens.

    This is the fabulous hour of shape and form
    When Flemish children are gray-black-olive
    And green-dark-brown
    Scattered and skating informal figures
    On the mill ice pond.
    Moving in stillness
    A hunched dame struggles with her bundled sticks,
    Letting her evening's comfort cudgel her
    While she, like jug or wheel, like a wagon cart
    Walked by lazy oxen along the old snowlanes,
    Creeps and crunches down the dusky street.
    High in the fire-red dooryard
    Half unhitched the sign of the Inn
    Hangs in wind
    Tipped to the pitch of the roof.
    Near it anonymous parents and peasant girl,
    Living like proverbs carved in the alehouse walls,
    Gather the country evening into their arms
    And lean to the glowing flames.

    Now in the dimming distance fades
    The other village; across the valley
    Imperturbable Flemish cliffs and crags
    Vaguely advance, close in, loom
    Lost in nearness. Now
    The night-black raven perched in branching boughs
    Opens its early wing and slipping out
    Above the gray-green valley
    Weaves a net of slumber over the snow-capped homes.

    . And now the church, and then the walls and roofs
    Of all the little houses are become
    Close kin to shadow with small lantern eyes.
    And now the bird of evening
    With shadows streaming down from its gliding wings
    Circles the neighboring hills
    Of Hertogenbosch, Brabant.

    Darkness stalks the hunters,
    Slowly sliding down,
    Falling in beating rings and soft diagonals.
    Lodged in the vague vast valley the village sleeps.

    [Pieter Breughel (ca. 1525-1569); Walter de la Mare (1873-1956); William Carlos Williams (1883-1963); Joseph Langland (1917-2007)]

  3. Wonderful rhyme in this short poem. Thank you, Maria


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?