London Snow by Robert Bridges is a beautiful description of the first snow in London and the reaction of children and adults to this first snow fall. Robert Bridges was an English poet who was trained to be a doctor. He worked in many hospitals but gave up his medical profession and took to writing at the age of thirty eight. Apart from writing he reviewed and edited works. He mostly edited poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins who was his friend from his university days. Bridges was a Poet Laureate, a British honorary role from 1913 to 1930, the year of his death.

Synopsis

Snow is the main character of this poem and snow is personified insome  lines. Snow has come down on the city unannounced. Snowflakes are lying all around and it has covered all that can be seen. The sounds on the street have become muffled because of this. Snow is a great leveller as it has wiped out all the differences and made everything even. The snow was seven inches deep but they were light and fluffy. People woke up early to see the ‘unaccustomed’ brightness.  There was a ‘strange unheavenly glare’. All marvelled at the whiteness as well as the silence that accompanied the snow. There was no sound of wheels rumbling or of foot falling. There was very little noise until the children came out. They caught the snow crystals on their tongue and made snow balls and played. They were all excited watching the trees. The elders came out with trucks which were not as heavy as usual.  They know that if they carry heavy load they will get stuck. There is a reference to Paul’s high dome towards the end of the poem and this is the only indication that the snow was falling around London. The morning sun which was near Paul’s high dome, spread, and melted the snow.With the sun shining forth more people stir out for their work. A ‘war is waged’ by the people as it is truly a struggle to go through seven inches of snow. For the adults the daily routine of going to work seems to be drudgery and toil. Even for these adults for a while there are no cares or worries. Their minds are taken away from the usual thought process or the habitual words spoken. The thoughts of work and sorrow sleep for a short time as they greet the beautiful snow covered sight in front of them.

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Structure

The poem is one single stanza with thirty seven lines. With no break for stanzas, presented as one whole, the chain of events is narrated in an unbroken manner. However there are three stops in line 9, 24 and 30 and this is indicative of the brief stops in the narrative. The length of the lines in the poem ranges from eleven syllables to seventeen syllables. The metre is irregular creating an image of a free verse. However there is a rhyme scheme which is not repeated all through the poem, but you will find the rhyming words.

Theme

The theme of the poem is very evident. It is the fall of snow and the change in the landscape because of this. There is a change not only in the visual but there is a change for the ears as well. Movement of vehicles and people is less and whatever is heard is muffled. Snow is personified in few lines.

the snow came flying

Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying

People’s reaction to the sudden snowfall forms the theme in the latter part of the poem.

Poetic Devices

Poetic imagery is used to help the readers understand this sudden shower of snow in the night. The “city brown” has now become white. The eyes are described here – ‘the eye marvelled ‘ at the ‘dazzling whiteness’. Four out of the five sense organs feel the snow. Snowflakes are seen by the eye, the muffled sounds are heard by the ear, the snowflakes are caught by the children on their tongue and when they play with the snow they are using the sense of touch. ‘His sparkling beams’ is another example of imagery and this time it is about the sun.

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Enjambment is a continuation of a thought beyond a line in the poem. Robert Bridges has used this.

And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness

Of the winter dawning,

 

Standing by Paul’s high dome, spread forth below

His sparkling beams

 

Alliteration is the repeated use of a letter or syllable mostly at the start of the word. When sibilant consonant is used it slows the pace. London Snow is one big narrative and the use of the sibilant consonant‘s’ constraints or reduces the speed with which it can be read. In “Asleep the snow’, Silently stifling’, ‘sorrow slumber’ the alliteration of sibilant consonant‘s’ is used. The other alliteration used is ‘country company’.

Bridges has used many adverbs in London Snow. Most adverbs end in ‘ly’ and tell more about the action described in a verb. It also tells how or when or where the action was performed. London Bridge is poem that is full of actions. The actions are mostly of the snow falling and then the reaction of the people to this snowfall. Bridges has extensively used adverb of manner in the poem London Snow. In the same manner extensive use of the ‘ing’ form of the verb is seen. The poetic device of repetition is seen with repeated use of the adverbs and the ‘ing’ form of verbs and it gives a lyrical ring to the poem.

London Snow is a single narrative which goes on with action in all its lines. The reader is compelled to keep reading until the end at one go. There is not a line which makes the reader go back and read again as the language used is simple. With a lot of imagery the visuals of the poem can be conjured and the reader is transported to the streets of London. It is a poem that connects nature and people. Snowfall can be a problem but Robert Bridges perspective gives a fresh approach to snowfall.