The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Ode To Winter

Thomas Campbell (July 27, 1777 - June 15, 1844)

Germany, December, 1800.

Source: Francis Turner Palgrave, ed., The Golden Treasury. London: Collins, circa 1861, #256.

When first the fiery mantled Sun
His heavenly race began to run,
Round the earth and ocean blue
His children four the Seasons flew:—
First, in green apparel dancing,
The young Spring smiled with angel-grace;
Rosy Summer next advancing,
Rush'd into her sire's embrace—
Her bright-hair'd sire, who bade her keep
For ever nearest to his smiles,
On Calpe's olive-shaded steep
Or India's citron-cover'd isles.
More remote and buxom-brown,
The Queen of vintage bow'd before his throne;
A rich pomegranate gemm'd her crown,
A ripe sheaf bound her zone.

But howling Winter fled afar
To hills that prop the polar star;
And loves on deer-borne car to ride
With barren darkness at his side
Round the shore where loud Lofoden
Whirls to death the roaring whale,
Round the hall where Runic Odin
Howls his war-song to the gale—
Save when adown the ravaged globe
He travels on his native storm,
Deflowering Nature's grassy robe
And trampling on her faded form;
Till light's returning Lord assume
The shaft that drives him to his northern fields,
Of power to pierce his raven plume
And crystal-cover'd shield.

O sire of storms! whose savage ear
The Lapland drum delights to hear,
When Frenzy with her bloodshot eye
Implores thy dreadful deity—
Archangel! Power of desolation!
Fast descending as thou art,
Say, hath mortal invocation
Spells to touch thy stony heart:
Then, sullen Winter! hear my prayer,
And gently rule the ruin'd year;
Nor chill the wanderer's bosom bare
Nor freeze the wretch's falling tear:
To shuddering Want's unmantled bed
Thy horror-breathing agues cease to lend,
And gently on the orphan head
Of Innocence descend.

But chiefly spare, O king of clouds!
The sailor on his airy shrouds,
When wrecks and beacons strew the deep
And spectres walk along the deep.
Milder yet thy snowy breezes
Pour on yonder tented shores,
Where the Rhine's broad billow freezes,
Or the dark-brown Danube roars.
O winds of Winter! list ye there
To many a deep and dying groan?
Or start, ye demons of the midnight air,
At shrieks and thunders louder than your own?
Alas! e'en your unhallow'd breath
May spare the victim fallen low;
But Man will ask no truce to death,
No bounds to human woe.

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