Last year, I started the custom of reposting this to mark the first snowfall of the winter. With a few changes, it’s essentially the same post that I’ve done twice before, except that this time I put the poem first and all the background material second. Also, I added “2014” to the title to distinguish this post from the others.
Whether you’ve read this poem before, or this is your first time, I hope it’s a blessing to you.
Oh! The snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below.
Over the housetops and over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet.
Beautiful snow! It can do no wrong;
Flying along to kiss a fair lady’s cheek,
Clinging to lips in frolicsome freak;
Beautiful snow from heaven above,
Pure as an angel, gently as love!
Oh! The snow, the beautiful snow,
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go
Whirling about in maddening fun,
It plays in its glee with everyone:
It lights on the face and it sparkles the eye;
And the dogs with a bark and a bound
Snap at the crystals as they eddy around;
The town is alive, and the heart is aglow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.
How the wild crowd goes swaying along,
Hailing each other with humor and song;
How the gay sleighs like meteors flash by,
Bright for a moment, then lost to the eye:
Dashing they go,
Over the crest of the beautiful snow;
Snow so pure as it falls from the sky,
To be trampled in time by the crowd rushing by –
To be trampled and tracked by thousands of feet
Till it blends with the horrible filth on the street.
Once I was pure as the snow, but I fell,
Fell like a snowflake from heaven to hell;
Fell to be trampled as filth in the street,
Fell to be scoffed at, to be spit on and beat.
Dreading to die,
Selling my soul to whoever would buy;
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,
Hating the living and fearing the dead.
Merciful God! Have I fallen so low?
And yet I was once like the beautiful snow!
Once I was fair as the beautiful snow,
With an eye like a crystal, a heart like its glow;
Once I was loved for my innocent grace –
Flattered and sought for the charm of my face!
Sisters – all,
God and myself I have lost by my fall.
The veriest wretch that goes shivering by,
Will make a wide sweep lest I wander too nigh.
For all that is on or above me I know,
There is nothing that’s pure but the beautiful snow.
How strange it should be that this beautiful snow
Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!
How strange it should be when the night comes again
If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain!
Too wicked for prayer, too weak for a moan
To be heard in the crash of the crazy town:
To be and to die in my terrible woe,
With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow.
The poem ended there. Later, a Christian added the following:
Helpless and foul as the trampled snow,
Sinner, despair not! Christ stoopeth low
To rescue the soul that is lost in sin,
And raise it to life and and enjoyment again.
Dying for thee.
The Crucified hung on the accursed tree!
His accents of mercy fall soft on thine ear,
There is mercy for thee; He will hear thy weak prayer:
“O God, in the stream that for sinners did flow,
Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
There are several versions of who actually wrote the poem. The main one seems to be that it was written by Joseph Warren (Whitaker?) Watson. It’s found among his published poems. Perhaps he did write it. I really don’t know, although the poem is written in the first person. Unless Mr. Watson had a really vivid imagination, I find it hard to believe that he “dealt in shame for a morsel of bread.” It’s certainly possible that he wrote the last stanza.
The background from years ago that I remember about the poem I found again in avisoland.blogspot, dated March 26, 2011. Briefly, here it is:
In the early part of the Civil War, a young woman of 22 or so died at the Commercial Hospital in Cincinatti, Ohio. She had once been beautiful, but a hard and dissolute life had written another story on what had been a fair countenance.
This poem was found among her belongings. It was given to the editor of the National Union, where it was printed for the first time. When the paper came out, the girl hadn’t yet been buried. A noted American author (some sites say Walt Whitman) was impressed with the poem and followed her to her burial.
Perhaps this is the first time you’ve read the poem, or it may be a second or third time, and you’re feeling a little like the poor young woman who wrote the poem: abandoned and helpless. So far as we know, though there are varying thoughts about it, this lady died without the Lord Jesus. You, though, have an opportunity. The Lord says to you, “Come.” The Spirit says to you, “Come.” I say to you, “Come.” Come to the Lord Jesus just as you are. You don’t have to dress up or clean up or shape up. You just have to ‘fess up. With all your discouragement, your depression, your depravity, just come. “But,” you say, “You don’t know me, or what I’ve done.” That’s all right. He does. And He died for such as you, anyway. And me. He didn’t die for the “good people;” He died for sinners. That’s all you have to be to come to Him. O, that you might do it today.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.