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Dust of Snow’ and William Blake’s ‘Soft Snow

Robert Frost’s poem ‘Dust of Snow’ and William Blake’s ‘Soft Snow’ are strikingly simple in structure and style and stand unique in their own way. The most remarkable quality of these two poems is their awesome simplicity and their amazing profundity in meaning. The two poems written by the two greatest masters of art belonging to two different ages and countries have a common quality of being simple and thought provoking. Though both the poems share the quality of being simple in structure and style, they differ essentially in meaning and message.

While Frost’s poem presents a transition of the speaker’s mood from weariness to happiness, Blake’s poem describes the speaker’s natural sport and ends with a snap judgment. The obvious similarity between the two poems is that they are simple and short. Frost’s poem ‘Dust of Snow’ is divided into two tiny stanzas of four lines each, though the entire poem is single sentence. Blake’s poem ‘Soft Snow’ is just one single stanza running into four lines with three simple sentences and one compound sentence in the third line combined with semi colons and a comma.

The rhyme scheme in Dust of Snow is ab ab, where as it is aa bb in Soft Snow. Though the word ‘snow’ is in the titles of both the poems, the two poems are entirely different in making use of the image snow. In ‘Dust of Snow’ it is presented along with two other concrete images like crow and hemlock tree. But in Blake’s poem it is the only image besides the speaker. The three images in the poem ‘Dust of Snow’- snow, crow and the hemlock tree are suggestive of negative things in life which stand for death, evil and poison.

The poet has brilliantly used the images to bring out the speaker’s inner state of mind. The first stanza of the poem has all the three images of the poem. Though each of these stands for a distinct meaning conveying a negative feeling, their combined effect on the speaker is positive. The crow indicates a bad omen, the dust of snow stands for coldness and death and the hemlock is a poisonous tree. Surprisingly, the crow’s shaking of dust of snow from the hemlock tree relieves the speaker from his wearisome mood and shakes off his the gloominess from his mind.

The poem suggests that some good may take place even when everything is surrounded by negative and evil things. The shaking down of dust of snow on the speaker has brought him to his senses and has made him aware of the bright things in life filling his mind with happiness and hope. ‘Soft Snow’ is totally a different poem. The poet has qualified snow with the word ‘soft’ making it a welcome and positive thing. The poet does not provide any other image except soft snow and he leaves many things to the imagination of the readers.

The speaker is presented in a happy and playful mood. The poet says, I walk abroad in a snowy day; I asked the soft snow with me to play; He finds himself in a happy mood and feels like playing with the soft snow. It is natural for any to play with the snow when it is not deadly. The poet has personified the snow and made her a partner in his sport. The line “She played and she melted in all her prime” suggests snow as a woman in her youth. It is quite natural for anybody to involve in youthful pleasures especially when he is in happy surroundings.

But the poem ends abruptly with the statement of winter which calls it ‘a dreadful crime. ’ The season winter stands for old age and conservative nature. It also stands for rigid traditional thinking that does not accept the excesses of youthful enthusiasm. It is also possible to interpret that winter is against positive mood and happy feelings. By ending the poem with the statement of winter the poet has left it open for the readers to decide whether it is really criminal to enjoy oneself in the company of nature.

In Frost’s poem, it is some sudden and unexpected external action that has brought the difference in the mind of the speaker. On the contrary, in Blake’s poem, it is the speaker’s action itself which is unexpectedly declared unacceptable and criminal. The speaker is relieved of his burden of weariness in the former poem, where as the speaker is shocked at being called criminal in the latter. Thus, both the poems present a transition in the speaker’s state of mind.

‘Dust of Snow’ seems more personal and intimate as the speaker feels a change in his mood, a relief from his remorsefulness. It is the common personal experience of many people that a small and unexpected happening or incident can change the mind and help people realize the folly of ruining the day in unnecessary brooding. It is evident from the poem, as it is the experience of many, that a small change in the surroundings can have a strong impact on the mind. The speaker in Blake’s poem is happy actively involving himself in the world around himself.

Thus, Blake suggests that man should play an active role in the world and change it for a better world, though it may not be acceptable to some rigid and conservative people. On the other hand, the speaker in the Frost’s poem is passive and uninvolved. Unless something touches him or strikes him, he does not get aware of his world. The speaker in ‘Soft Snow’ is easy and outgoing happily playing and participating in the world, even if it is against the rigid frame of the world. In ‘Dust of Snow’ the speaker needs some external power to boost his confidence.

Blake brings out how a small incident in life can be viewed differently and how it can change the attitude of man. He indirectly pleads people to be happy and cheerful through his poem. Thus, the two poems present two different pictures and leave the readers to derive their own meanings. It is natural that one takes meanings that please him from the words of the poet. Works Cited Robert Frost – Dust of Snow http://www. online-literature. com/frost/743/ William Blake – Soft Snow http://www. pjbsware. demon. co. uk/SoftSnow. htm

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