Louis MacNeice’s “Snow” is not about love, or death, or animals, or children. Nor is about faith, nor is it about music or language itself. It’s about snow and roses, for sure; but it is also about how odd existence is when you think about it. In that way, it shares a theme with our other two Countdown entries for today, and with many other more elaborate poems we have read this semester.
The tiniest of unlikely contrasts leads to the poetic “moment” of this poem: how odd it is to be inside on a freezing day, with summer flowers just inches away from the snow.
But as great as the idea is in the poem, the execution of that idea enhances it greatly. The poem is in three four-line stanzas. The lines have an unprescribed number of syllables. Their true meter is “accentual””: that is, they seem to have about five strong “beats” or stresses to a line. How many stresses you hear depends on your choices when you read the lines aloud. But since only the stresses “count” in making up a line, the lines vary greatly, and beautifully, in rhythm. And they vary in syllable count from ten (the fourth line, if you read “world” as one syllable) to fifteen (the eleventh line). The poem is a riot of language, of “the drunkenness of things being various.”