The winter months in the northern states North America can be grim, long and very cold; imagine how much grimmer,. longer and very much colder it was a hundred and fifty years ago! Helen Hunt Jackson wrote ‘A Calendar of Sonnets’ and here is her chilly sonnet for February – with just a hint of spring with the catkins and reddening willow stems:

Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white;
And reigns the winter’s pregnant silence still;
No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill,
And willow stems grow daily red and bright.
These are days when ancients held a rite
Of expiation for the old year’s ill,
And prayer to purify the new year’s will:
Fit days, ere yet the spring rains blur the sight,
Ere yet the bounding blood grows hot with haste,
And dreaming thoughts grow heavy with a greed
The ardent summer’s joy to have and taste;
Fit days, to give to last year’s losses heed,
To recon clear the new life’s sterner need;
Fit days, for Feast of Expiation placed!

Helen Hunt Jackson

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