Mariton: Snow and the Vernal Equinox

March 20, 2017

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Last week, I would go inside during breaks in my plowing and shoveling to flip on the television to see the latest predictions. I found both disdain and amusement in the anchors who showed such shock that a winter storm could strike so close to the Vernal Equinox.  My, my.  I am ready for some spring too, but all things will come in good time.  Sitting on the tractor I knew there was verse that addressed my feelings on the situation.  Over the weekend I went to the bookshelves.  (Sure, I could have typed in a few key words and quickly found the poem.  It just isn’t the same – just as it isn’t the same to read about the outdoors without actually going outside.)  I found what I was looking for in Robert Frost’s The Onset. In high school I was attracted to Frost’s poetry. Sure, he wasn’t as hip as some of the modern poets, but he sure captured the many moods of nature.  He put into words the same things I had been discovering as a young woods walker.  In the following poem he also captured my mood about the latest snow fall.

The Onset

by Robert Frost

Always the same, when on a fated night

At last the gathered snow lets down as white

As may be in dark woods, and with a song

It shall not make again all winter long

Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground,

I almost stumble looking up and round,

As one who overtaken by the end

Gives up his errand, and lets death descend

Upon him where he is, with nothing done

To evil, no important triumph won,

More than if life had never been begun.


Yet all the precedent is on my side:

I know that winter death has never tried

The earth but it has failed: The snow may heap

In long storms an undrifted four feet deep

As measured against maple, birch and oak,

It cannot check the peeper’s silver croak;

And I shall see the snow all go down hill

In a water of a slender April rill

That flashes tail through last year’s withered brake

And dead weeds, like a disappearing snake.

Nothing will be left white but here a birch

And there a clump of houses with a church.


The world keeps turning.