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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 2, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

    Between the snow and the roses

    Fiona McCann

    It snowed today in Dublin, and given that this is such a rare, and heartflippingly thrilling occurence to see a white and flurring blizzard through the big panes of Tara street, I want to mark it with something beautiful about snow and more than snow. Though snow has caught the imagination of many literary giants (Orhan Pamuk, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson spring to mind – any others?), this is still my favourite, by Louis MacNeice.  


    The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was 
    Spawning snow and pink roses against it
    Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
    World is suddener than we fancy it.

    World is crazier and more of it than we think,
    Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
    A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
    The drunkenness of things being various. 

    And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
    Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
    On the tongue and the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands -
    There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

    • Steve K says:

      Pamuk’s Snow is excellent.

      Having recently moved to Sweden, I am finally understanding why snow inspires poetry. I haven’t written a poem since I was 12 and yet every time I walk outside the door I feel my mind working on a few lines.

      But the problem with snow is it turns to slush, then it freezes and you slip and sprain your wrist, and then it’s painful to type at a computer.

    • Fiona says:

      Steve K: Yikes! I’ll watch my footing. So let’s hear thsoe lines you’ve been working on . . .

    • Steve K says:

      So let’s hear thsoe lines you’ve been working on . . .

      I feat that last comment may have suggested some sort of output. I just feel some lines coming… and then it stops and I drop in somewhere for a coffee or something.

    • ede says:

      Driving across Ireland today, (safely) it was so beautiful it reminded me of a book I read many years ago ” Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow”, a thriller with a poetic metaphysical essence. Great day to cosy up and read.

    • Fiona says:

      Ede: Ooh, Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow – I’d forgotten that one. Excellent inclusion!

    • Jemimah says:

      Nice. But I’ll never forgive Ireland for spawning Bono. I know you’ll deny it, but you’ve got a bit up yourselves – well, a lot up yourselves if you’re honest – over the past few years. And in the process you’ve destroyed, through greed, much of what what made Ireland special.

      I’m English. I once loved Ireland, but you changed. I hope the current collapse helps you think things through a little more.

      The snow. Another discontinuity. Perhaps it will help.

    • Liam Grainger says:

      Try reading Pasternaks poem about snow, if anyone should know a thing or two about the white stuff its the Russians

    • Fiona says:

      Steve K: I know the feeling – didn’t mean to put you on the spot.

      Jemimah: Interesting comment, though I’m not quite getting the snow connection.

      Liam Grainger: The Russians! Of course – will have to search for that Pasternak poem.

    • Sinead says:

      I still think you can’t beat ‘The Dead’ by Joyce. I can’t think of that story without thinking of snow. The closing lines are so evocative.

      “A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

    • Fiona says:

      Sinead: Ooh, shivers up my spine. It’s haunting stuff (if you’ll excuse the clanging pun).

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