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Winter Sleep


When against earth a wooden heel

Clicks as loud as stone on steel,

When stone turns flour instead of flakes,

And frost bakes clay as fire bakes,

When the hard-bitten fields at last

Crack like iron flawed in the cast,

When the world is wicked and cross and old,

I long to be quit of the cruel cold.


Little birds like bubbles of glass

Fly to other Americas,

Birds as bright as sparkles of wine

Fly in the nite to the Argentine,

Birds of azure and flame-birds go

To the tropical Gulf of Mexico:

They chase the sun, they follow the heat,

It is sweet in their bones, O sweet, sweet, sweet!

It's not with them that I'd love to be,

But under the roots of the balsam tree.


Just as the spiniest chestnut-burr

Is lined within with the finest fur,

So the stoney-walled, snow-roofed house

Of every squirrel and mole and mouse

Is lined with thistledown, sea-gull's feather,

Velvet mullein-leaf, heaped together

With balsam and juniper, dry and curled,

Sweeter than anything else in the world.


O what a warm and darksome nest

Where the wildest things are hidden to rest!

It's there that I'd love to lie and sleep,

Soft, soft, soft, and deep, deep, deep!


Elinor Wylie



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