Winter [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in The Singing Garden (1935).]


Now golden days of autumn are no more.
Down on the forest ruthless Winter frees —
First with far rumblings, waxing to a roar —
His shouting winds that riot thro’ the trees,
Raging like savage seas.
Bedraggled now the gown this garden wore;
Lost are those evanescent gems she bore;
Lost, half the melodies.

A grey thrush, every morn hops round the door,
His wise head cocked inquiringly aslant;
Magpie and robin, these are shy no more,
And every songster, as his fare grows scant,
Becomes a mendicant.
Small their demands upon the larder’s store
On these dark, sodden days or mornings hoar,
Cruel to bird and plant.

A strange and ghostly silence came last night,
After the wind’s wild clamour and the rain;
And now, at dawn, a coverlet of white
Swathes many a long, fantastic forest lane
And unfamiliar plain.
Beneath the burden spar and sapling slight
Bow down, revealing many a vista bright
In this once green domain.

The silence shouts in this new, muffled world
After the tempest’s nerve-destroying din . . .
Here, like three pixies, impudently curled
In a giant’s pallet, sheets up to each chin,
Three pert violas grin . . .
The forest is a lady richly pearled,
Else a white penitent in pure robes furled,
And newly cleansed of sin.

C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 147-148

Editor’s notes:
din = a loud unpleasant noise which continues for a significant time

evanescent = vapour-like; something that is almost imperceptible, fading quickly, or fleeting

hoar = hoarfrost, rime (the frost which forms on cold objects from the freezing of water vapour from clouds or fogs)

mendicant = beggar; characteristic of or relating to begging (may also refer to a religious person, such as a monk, who historically did not own personal property, or who lived on alms)

morn = morning

pallet = a crude, hard, makeshift or small bed; a straw-filled mattress

penitent = someone who repents their actions or faults and seeks forgiveness; someone of the Christian faith who repents their sins and seeks forgiveness from God, especially under direction of a minister of the Church, which may include the performing of specified formal religious acts (may also mean: to feel regret or shame over one’s actions; repentant)

wax = grow or increase gradually in intensity, number, size, strength, or volume (e.g. “the moonlight waxed and waned”); or to take on a particular characteristic or state (e.g. “to wax poetic”; often used in the context of someone speaking at length)

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