Christmas poem #1 — Louis Macneice, "Snow"

11 Dec


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 on the eyes on the ears in the palms of your hands–
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Louis Macneice

It isn’t really a Christmas poem, and anyway here in Oz snow is hardly something we associate with Christmas.

I offer “Snow” because I really hadn’t read it before today, and the lines that struck me most did so because they sum up my own view so well, as against monoculturalists and bigots generally, including all fundamentalists.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural.

And born in Belfast too…

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3 responses to “Christmas poem #1 — Louis Macneice, "Snow"

  1. marcellous

    December 13, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    This poem made a big impression on me when I first read it in year 12 under the tuition of the late EN. Apart from the bit you highlight, I have always liked “the drunkenness of things being various.”

  2. Miriam

    December 17, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Neil, I came upon your blog and the Louis MacNeice poem by a strange route. I was preparing a response for a workshop on a poem by Judith Bishop, ‘Interval’, about snow (see Best Australian Poems 2007 -ed. Peter Rose). I googled ‘poetry+snow’ and got many lovely poems, including the Louis MacNeice. It is amazing in how many different ways ‘snow’ is used as a metaphor. Besides, the whole topic fills me with nostalgia, as I was born in the Netherlands. I never thought I would miss it, but as the world heats up I feel more and more regretful about the loss of cold. (I’m told it doesn’t even snow in NL any more). I take it the ‘roses’ are ‘frost flowers’ as we used to call them, on the window. What I love about the poem is the intensity and beauty of life both within and outside the room and the thin (and beautiful) edge of glass that separates them. I do find a problem with the word ‘gay’ in its old context these days.

    I too have been an English/ESL teacher and lecturer, though I now spend most of my time writing my own poetry.

    I’ve enjoyed your blog.


  3. ninglun

    December 17, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks, Miriam.

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