In her own words, written in her hand, on the tear stained tissue like
paper of the 1912 Home Book of Verse, in 1921 Grandmother
“As the first snowflakes fall, I read this poem in memory of
Ruth each year.”
The First Snow-fall
The snow had begun in the gloaming
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white
Every pine and fir and hemlock
Work ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.
From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails softened to swans down
And still fluttered down the snow
I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by
I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.
Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, “Father, who makes it snow”
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.
Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow
When that mound was heaped so high.
I remembered with gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar that renewed our woe.
And again to the child I whispered,
“The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall!”
Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
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|Ruth was my Grandmother's
Step-Daughter, who died at the
age of 5 of Diphtheria. She died
the day of the first snow fall that
Each year after, Grandmother
would sit down and read this
poem on the first snowfall.
I happened to be there in 1974 on
the day of the first snowfall for that
year, and while sitting in front of
her fireplace, in her old antique
rockers, she read the poem to me.
|The First Snowfall
By James Russell Lowell