Poems About Winter Nights

Gazing up into the darkness on a clear winter night, I quickly get lost in my own mind with thoughts about life, death, and the vastness of time.  Sometimes, I feel like I might be the only one who is pulled into philosophical rumination while standing outside in the darkness.  But then I read Sara Teasdale’s poem “Winter Stars”, and I feel like I am in good company.

“Winter Stars” by Sara Teasdale

I went out at night alone;
 The young blood flowing beyond the sea
Seemed to have drenched my spirit’s wings—
 I bore my sorrow heavily.

But when I lifted up my head
 From shadows shaken on the snow,
I saw Orion in the east
 Burn steadily as long ago.

From windows in my father’s house,
 Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
I watched Orion as a girl
 Above another city’s lights.

Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
 The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,
All things are changed, save in the east
 The faithful beauty of the stars.

I am especially drawn to this poem because Orion is one of my favorite constellations.  It is one that I can easily recognize, and it is one that often joins me on my early morning walks. 

I am also moved by Teasdale’s last stanza “All things are changed, save in the east/ The faithful beauty of the stars.”  It is a small reminder that the stars have been with us for all of recorded time. The stars are a constant feature in the transitory nature of human history. 

Orion Constellation: Photo credit: manpuku7 via Getty Images
Orion Constellation: Photo credit: manpuku7 via Getty Images

However, not everyone dives into musing about our place in the universe when they gaze into the night sky.  Poets like Langston Hughes take a slightly more observatory stance.

“Winter Moon” by Langston Hughes

How thin and sharp is the moon tonight!
How thin and sharp and ghostly white
Is the slim curved crook of the moon tonight!
Crescent Moon/Photo by Rok Romih on Pexels.com
Photo by Rok Romih on Pexels.com

Hughes’ poem brings me back to any dark evening when the waning crescent moon was barely illuminating the earth. This is another time where I begin to feel so small against the expanse of the night sky.

Hughes’ poem also makes me think about haiku poets like Kobayashi Issa, Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Horiuch Toshimi.  How can their verses add to this exploration of the winter night?

winter moon--
more and more and more
tall peaks
-Kobayashi Issa
vain mankind--
idling away this night
of winter moon
-Kobayashi Issa
Winter garden,
the moon thinned to a thread,
insects singing.
-Matsuo Basho
Miles of frost –
On the lake
The moon’s my own.
-Yosa Buson
Glittering flakes:
The wind is breaking
Frozen moonlight.
– Horiuchi Toshimi
in my wooden clogs
raising a racket!
winter moon
-Kobayashi Issa

This last haiku is one of my favorites out of this collection.  Specifically, because as I was out walking this morning, the sound of my shoes on the snow was echoing off the trees.  What a racket indeed!

Footprints in snow/Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on Pexels.com

Resources:

  1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge; “Frost at Midnight” retrieved from Poetry Foundation
  2. Sara Teasdale; “Winter Stars” retrieved from Poetry Foundation
  3. Langston Hughes; “Winter Moon” retrieved from Poetry Foundation
  4. Kobayashi Issa’s haiku was retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s Haiku of Kobayashi Issa at the Haikuguy.com
  5. Horiuchi Toshimi’s haiku retrieved from Robert Hass The Essential Haiku. 

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15 thoughts on “Poems About Winter Nights

Add yours

    1. Hi Melanie, Yes! I knew I wasn’t the only one who found who got lost in deep contemplations about the meaning of life while standing in the dark!

  1. Miles of frost –
    On the lake
    The moon’s my own.
    -Yosa Buson]

    Love the picture this haiku paints! I am imagining a full-moon night, and an iced-over lake – and the ethereal scene is all mine for a moment of artistic solace. 🙂

    Glittering flakes:
    The wind is breaking
    Frozen moonlight.
    – Horiuchi Toshimi

    Frozen moonlight – lovely, lovely, potent phrase. Exactly what I think of with a Montana winter night!

    1. Hi Tressa, I really like Buson’s haiku also. There is some about the imagery with that one. It is probably because I am very familiar with frozen lakes. Thanks for the comment and talk soon,

  2. Hey, Mark. I’m with you regarding Orion the Hunter. Such an iconic and easily recognizable constellation. There was a mid-’80s rock band called Orion the Hunter. Their music was so-so but the cover of their first album featured some cool artwork. I liked Teasdale’s verse for the same reason you did. Hughes’ poem was playful. All of the haiku spoke to me. There’s something so fantastical and otherworldly about the winter moon and how intensely winter stars pierce the void. The cold silence of winter nights on the farm still resonate with me all these years later. Great work as always, Mark. 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, Thanks you again for your thoughtful comments. I am usually pretty good with my 80s rock bands and I will have to say that I don’t know Orion the Hunter. I might have to go investigate that album cover! Thanks again! Talk soon,

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