The First Snowfall
Poet James Russell Lowell could see his lot at Mount Auburn Cemetery from his family’s home, Elmwood. In 1847 he wrote this poem in remembrance of the daughter he had just buried in the family lot at Mount Auburn after watching the first snowfall of the season from his study window. Lowell’s poem about the snow falling at “Sweet Auburn” remains a New England favorite.
The First Snowfall by James Russell Lowell
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
Wore 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 swan’s-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 snowbirds,
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 the 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.