Take Heart 19 December 2012

Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2012 in Culture

Take Heart 19 December 2012

      A Conversation in Poetry

Edited and Introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate


In 1861, Longfellow’s wife Frances died from the burns she suffered after an ember from the fireplace set her dress on fire. Some say Longfellow grew his beard to hide the scars that resulted from trying to put the fire out. In today’s poem he looks back on his wife’s death, eighteen years later.


The Cross of Snow

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


In the long, sleepless watches of the night,

      A gentle face—the face of one long dead—

      Looks at me from the wall, where round its head

      The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.

Here in this room she died; and soul more white

      Never through martyrdom of fire was led

      To its repose; nor can in books be read

      The legend of a life more benedight.


There is a mountain in the distant West

      That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines

      Displays a cross of snow upon its side.

Such is the cross I wear upon my breast

      These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes

And seasons, changeless since the day she died.



Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Public Domain. Reprinted from The Maine Poets, Down East Books, 2003. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.


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