I’ve always preferred winter to summer. It’s a time for rest, cozy activities like reading, and reflection. Everyone knows that in the Northern Hemisphere, December 21st is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Instead of lamenting the shortest day of the year, many winter poems focus on the fact that the days start growing longer again at the solstice. Cold, darkness, and the unknown can be powerful symbols, but these winter poems celebrate the solstice as a time for contemplation and renewal.
1. To Know The Dark by Wendell Berry
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
2. A Winter Solstice Prayer by Edward Hays
The dark shadow of space leans over us…
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred
also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth.
As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter,
we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness
may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter.
3. The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
4. An Old Man’s Winter Night by Robert Frost
All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
6. Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
9. Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot
Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
10. The World by Jennifer Chang
One winter I lived north, alone
and effortless, dreaming myself
into the past. Perhaps, I thought,
words could replenish privacy.
Below is Shakespeare’s poem set to music by John Rutter.
What are your favorite winter poems? Want even more poetry coverage? We got you.