"Winter Landscape" by John Berryman
Painting "Hunters in the Snow" by Pieter Brueghel (1565)
No matter how aweful my day may be, any title that uses any words relating to cooler weather is going to get an immediate smile out of my face, as I am a huge fan of fall and winter.
Something that effects me in this poem is the extreme breaks in the sentence structure. It would be interesting to recompose this poem in order to see if I better understand it.
The three men coming down the winter hill in brown,
with tall poles and a pack of hounds at heel.
Through the arrangement of the trees,
past the five figures at the burning straw,
returning cold and silent to their town.
Returning to the drifted snow,
the rink lively with children.
To the older men, the long companions,
they can never reach the blue light.
Men with ladders, by the church.
The sledge and shadow
in the twilit street are not aware,
that in the sandy time to come
the evil waste of history outstretched,
they will be seen upon the brow of that same hill:
when all their company will have been irrecoverably lost.
These men, this particular three in brown witnessed by birds
will keep the scene and say by their configuration with the trees,
the small bridge, the red houses and the fire,
what place, what time, what morning occasion
sent them into the wood, a pack of hounds at heel
and the tall poles upon their shoulders.
Thence to return as now
we see them and ankle-deep in snow
down the winter hill descend,
while three birds watch and the fourth flies.
By restructuring the poem I now feel that I have avbetter understanding of it. I also find that by restructuring it in a way that does not break the sentence in odd places, that the structure of the poem is not as neat and balanced as the original. I'm positive that with more time spent, there would be a way to split the sentences in a way that would satisfy both, the structure that the telling.
The only part that still confuses me is, "To the older men, the long companions, they can never reach the blue light."
I hear a tone of nostalgia throughout, as if looking into the future and already missing what's happening at the moment.