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The First Snowfall

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Sydney Scharrer

on 18 December 2013

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Transcript of The First Snowfall

The First Snowfall
By: James Russel Lowell

Romantic Characteristics of the Fireside Poems
Meaning of the Poem
The First Snowfall is a poem about a man who is reminded of his daughter's death by the falling snow. He remembers her in his past, and mourns tremendously. He tries to move on and continue to live life happily. In order to do so, the snow, his other daughter, God, and time help him to get through his loss.
About The Author: James Russell Lowell
Born in Cambridge, Massachusettes, February 22, 1819
Began writing at a young age
Published his first book in 1841, "A Year's Life"
Attended Harvard Law School
Was an editor of "North American Review" and "Atlantic Monthly"
Sent as US Minister to Spain
Transferred to the Court of St. James in London
Was in the true sense a citizen of the world
His poetry contained various moods, humor, whimsicality, and the gift of kindly satire.
Died August 12, 1891
What does the first snowfall
remind the poet of?
Initially at the start of the poem, the snow reminds the poet of his daughter's death. Usually snow is looked at in a positive manner, but that same snow is falling on his daughter's grave causing the poet great grief and sorrow.
What does the falling
snow symbolize?
"I remembered the gradual patience

That fell from that cloud like snow,

Flake by flake, healing and hiding

The scar that renewed our woe" (8.29-32)

The snow in a way "blankets" the speaker's grief about losing his daughter. The snow is being compared to "gradual patience" and has the ability to "heal and hide the scar" of the affect of the loss of his daughter. At first it reminds him of his sorrow, but then reminds him that patience and love can aid in healing.
How does the speaker's
daughter aid his healing?
The speaker's living daughter helps him to move on with out living his whole life in sadness. Her own existence helps in that process, but in the poem she also provides as a reminder to the speaker that God can also help heal.
What role does God play in this poem?
What is the rhyme scheme of the Poem?
What is the stanza form?
What is the simile?
What is the imagery?
ABCB and is repeated 10 times throughout the poem.
There are 4 lines per stanza.
"And the sudden flurries of snow birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by" (4.15-16)
The poet describes the birds as if they were falling leaves from a tree.
"And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl" (2.7-8)
These lines are an example of the imagery used in the poem. They help paint the picture of the snow in the readers mind.
In the middle of the poem, the living daughter asks the speaker about who makes the snow. At that moment, the speaker realizes that the answer is God. God makes the snow cover the land as in the same way He will also help the speaker move on from mourning his daughter's death.

Romantic writers use nature and past experiences in their poems. Some main characteristics of romantic writing include: imagination, appreciation of nature, youthfulness, nostalgia, the belief that the city is corrupt, etc.

Romantic Characteristics
in "The First Snowfall"
"I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn Where a little headstone stood" (5.17-18)
In this excerpt, the speaker is demonstrating nostalgia for the past. While it was snowing, a memory of his daughter's grave played in his head.
"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." (2.5-8)
The romantic characteristic of the beauty of nature is very strong in the beginning of the poem when the speaker is describing the snow and what it's creating.
Song Lyrics with Similar Characteristics

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 were 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 snow-birds,
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 of our deep-plunged 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.

How does the speaker's
daughter aid his healing?
Wishing You were Somehow Here Again
This song is very similar to the poem because of the romantic characteristics it consists of. In this song, Christine has strong nostalgia for the past by remembering her father and what he was like. She's grieving throughout the song that she wishes that he was still living, but in certain parts of the song, she tries to remind herself that she needs to move on. Such as the lines "Dreaming of you / won't help me to do / All that you dreamed I could" and "Try to forgive / teach me to live / Give me the strength to try." Also in this song, the key switches from minor to major a lot, and when its minor she's singing of the nostalgia of her father's past, and in the major parts she sings of things to remind herself to move on and
become a happier person.

"Passing bells and sculpted angels
Cold and monumental,
Seem for you the wrong companions,
You were warm and gentle"
In this line, Christine is demonstrating a nostalgia for the past. She believes that the cemetery and all the gravestones in it is not a suitable place for her father to be. She likes to think of him as a very "warm and gentle" person, very unlike the stone he's now with.
James Russell Lowell: Literary Critique
Looking back at Lowell's works, one can be impressed by his many achievements, yet in his own time, Lowell's lyrical verse was considered overrated. Many of his pieces and criticisms had a great importance in American literature. At the time, Lowell's writings were charming and somewhat humerus, which was a big difference from the traditional poetic writing style. At the start of his poetic career (which he left his legal career for), Lowell was very unsuccessful, especially in his lyrical mode. Ralph Waldo Emerson even complained that Lowell had to "pump too hard" and forced specific qualities into his works. Lowell worked very hard on many of his writings, but he never made his way in the literary market place. Many critics of his time did not appreciate his merits, and it wasn't until the "national period" that he attained a few admirers.
During Lowell's time, he was a strong abolitionist. One of his fellow abolitionists was John Whittier who commented on Lowell's "Hosea Biglow" and said, "The world-wide laugh caused by the rustic Yankee poet was enough to have shaken half the walls of Slavery down."
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