How One Winter Came in the Lake Region

For weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still,

Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze;

The fields were dead, the wind had lost its will,

And all the lands were hushed by wood and hill,

In those grey, withered days.

Behind a mist the blear sun rose and set,

At night the moon would nestle in a cloud;

The fisherman, a ghost, did cast his net;

The lake its shores forgot to chafe and fret,

And hushed its caverns loud.

Far in the smoky woods the birds were mute,

Save that from blackened tree a jay would scream,

Or far in swamps the lizard’s lonesome lute

Would pipe in thirst, or by some gnarlèd root

The tree-toad trilled his dream.

From day to day still hushed the season’s mood,

The streams stayed in their runnels shrunk and dry;

Suns rose aghast by wave and shore and wood,

And all the world, with ominous silence, stood

In weird expectancy:

When one strange night the sun like blood went down,

Flooding the heavens in a ruddy hue;

Red grew the lake, the sere fields parched and brown,

Red grew the marshes where the creeks stole down,

But never a wind-breath blew.

That night I felt the winter in my veins,

A joyous tremor of the icy glow;

And woke to hear the north’s wild vibrant strains,

While far and wide, by withered woods and plains,

Fast fell the driving snow.