by Robert Laurence Binyon
The bare branches rose against the gray sky.
Under them, freshly fallen, snow shone to the eye.
Up the hill--slope, over the brow it shone,
Spreading an immaterial beauty to tread upon.
In the elbow of black boughs it clung, nested white,
And smooth below it slept in the solitude of its light.
It was deep to the knee in the hollow; there in a stump of wood
I struck my bill--hook, warm to the fingers' blood, and stood,
Pausing, and breathed and listened: all the air around
Was filled with busy strokes and ringing of clean sound,
And now and again a crack and a slow rending, to tell
When a tree heavily tottered and swift with a crash fell.
I smelt the woody smell of smoke from the fire, now
Beginning to spurt from frayed bracken and torn bough
In the lee of a drift, fed from our long morning toil
And sending smart to the eyes the smoke in a blue coil.
I lopped the twigs from a fresh--cut pole and tossed it aside
To the stakes heaped beyond me, and made a plunging stride,
And gathered twines of bramble and dead hazel sticks
And a faggot of twisted thorn with snow lumped in the pricks,
And piled the smoulder high. Soon a blaze tore
Up through hissing boughs and shrivelling leaves, from a core
Of quivering crimson; soon the heat burst and revelled,
And apparitions of little airy flames dishevelled
Gleamed and vanished, a lost flight as of elfin wings,
Trembling aloft to the wild music that Fire sings
Dancing alive from nothing, lovely and mad. And still
The snow, pale as a dream, slept on the old hill,
Softly fallen and strange. Which made me more to glow,
Beauty of young flames, or wonder of young snow?
Last updated January 14, 2019