Snow flakes.

Winter in Skit, 1904, Mikhail Nesterov
Background Image: Winter in Skit, 1904, Mikhail Nesterov

Sometimes the simplest of poems are the most delightful: the snow begins to fall and it makes her so happy that she begins to dance.

However, beyond the simple joy of this poem is the image of the poet who is, at first, attempting to capture the beauty of the falling snow through her poetry. At first she “counted [the snow flakes] till they danced” meaning that her observation was strictly one of someone who was being somewhat scientific. At the start of the poem she does not dance, rather the snow flakes do while she merely counts them. Perhaps she had been sitting at the window watching the sky turn as she tried to write a poem and them, slowly, a few flakes fell, and then a few more, and her attention wandered from her poetry to counting the flakes outside as they began to dance as the storm picked up.

By just the second line the snow has really begun to fall as the flakes “leaped the town”, meaning the whole town was experiencing a snow storm. Yet while the flakes “danced” her first inclination is to “[take] a pencil” and attempt to capture the moment in a poem and she she begins by trying to “note the rebels down” as if she is trying to find the words that will describe every unique flake. And her use of the word “note” is clever in that she’s not only describing the act of her writing (as in to note something down on paper) but she also introduces a musical element here to go along with the dancing from the first line.

Thus once she introduces music to the poem she is no longer able to just sit idly by like a “prig” a merely watch the “jolly” scene, she is so inspired that she puts down the poem and dances along with the “rebels” outside. And it’s this use of the word rebel which is fun because she’s not just describing the snow flakes, but herself as well – she has rebelled against the writing of the poem and has instead decided to just dance to express her joy. What’s clever here, however, is that she has written the poem after all, but it’s a poem about not writing a poem and instead just letting the pure emotion of being “jolly” transform one’s once “stately toes” into ten rebellious “toes” who are “marshalled for a jig”.

This poem provides a glimpse at Emily’s personality in that she seems like someone who rarely lets such an emotion overtake her to the point of her putting down her pencil to express herself. Emily is far too cerebral – which she describes as being a “prig” – to just get up and dance around, she’s someone who can only express herself though her writing – which she winds up doing anyway since what we have is the poem after all – if she actually danced remains unknown, perhaps is even unlikely.