Friday, 3 January 2014

'The Snow' by Sidney Keyes: "The Earth Not Crying Any More..."

Harald Sohlberg, Winter Night in the Mountains, 1914. 

I wanted to start out 2014 on the blog by paying tribute to Sidney Keyes, who I have written about once before, here. He died in World War II at the age of 20, in 1943. This year his work is out of copyright, it being more than 70 years since his death. If he had not been killed at such a young age he could potentially still be alive today. It is very likely that you'll see him more than once on the blog this year.

THE SNOW (Sidney Keyes)

They said, It will be like snow falling - 
Tonight a hollow wind beating the laurels,
And in the morning quiet, the laurels quiet,
The soft sky resting on the treetops and 
The earth not crying any more.

I read it would be safe, like snow lying
Locked in a secret promise with the ground.
And the clear distances, the friendly hills
Would whisper, It is easy, easy as sleep
To the lost traveller frozen in the field.

But now it's come, how different without
Those reassuring voices. Now I face
The bright white glare of January, naked
Among the clashing laurels, while the earth
Stumbles and cries like any lonely lover.

                                                    January 1942.


  1. Hi Clarissa , thanks a lot for bringing to lights this sad and nice poem . It sounds to me , the snow in this poem , is just a metaphor for death or pre-death hopelessness !!!
    Of course , this claim could be a loser one , but no doubt , being here is a big win for me...

    1. Hi Ibrahim - thanks for your comment! I'm glad you liked the poem.

      The snow is certainly a metaphor for death or the prospect of death here, though I think it could stand for other things that might be confronted with a feeling of dread. The contrast between how he was told it would be, and the cold reality, is very poignant.

      I think that in the wars, a lot of young men must have found themselves confronted with the feeling that they would not survive. This may have particularly been the case in World War II where they could look back on the horrors of World War I and the deaths of so many. My other favourite World War II poet, Keith Douglas (who died in 1944 at the age of 24), seems almost to have foreseen his own death, in his poems. I think that a lot of this can be attributed to the dark atmosphere of the times and a certain feeling of hopelessness that may have come with it. Douglas was completely different from Keyes in other respects, though - he was quite a tough pragmatic type, while Keyes was obviously very romantic and seems somewhat death-obsessed in any case. But even with their very different styles, both poets certainly have something prophetic about them.