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One sleeps where southern vines are dressed Above the noble slain;
He wrapped his colors round his breast
And one-o'er her the myrtle showers
The last of that bright band.
And parted thus they rest, who played
Spirit with the drooping wing,
Sink like waves upon the shore :
What's the grandeur of the earth
To the grandeur round thy throne!
To thy kingdom all have gone.
The wondrous band;
Bards, heroes, sages, side by side,
Earth has hosts; but thou canst show
No step has come;
There fixed, till the last thunder's sound
The Coronation of Winter.
On Wednesday, the 15th of January, 1845, a moderate and very cold snow-storm closed a little before midday, leaving the surface of the earth and of vegetables at so low a
temperature as to absorb heat rapidly from objects placed upon them. But during the following night, the thermometer rose almost to the freezing point, and a moderate rain commenced, which continued about two days almost without interruption. It was accompanied with but little wind, and the rain-drops, most of the time, were nearly as fine as mist; so that the whole amount of rain scarcely exceeded an inch and a quarter in depth.
The thermometer did not rise, during the storm, quite to the freezing point; and towards the close, it sank several degrees below it. The result was, that all the rain froze to the surface on which it fell, and formed a coat of pure, transparent ice, over the snow and other objects exposed to it, from a quarter of an inch to more than an inch in thickness. On the snow this crust was strong enough to sustain a man, and almost as smooth as the frozen surface of a lake or pond; looking as if the billows of the ocean had been suddenly congealed before they could subside entirely.
Still more striking, however, was the effect upon the vegetable world, now stripped of its foliage. The leafless branches and twigs of every tree, of every shrub, and even of every spire of grass or other annual plant that rose above the surface of the snow, were encased in this thick and beautiful hyaline coat, as transparent as the purest water. Along these branches, in many instances, the ice swelled into tubercular masses, and almost uniformly terminated in a knob, so as to resemble strings of gigantic glass beads. Now, just imagine the effect, as the sun, from time to time, on Saturday, broke through the clouds upon these countless natural gems, prepared to refract and reflect his light with more than its original brightness.
I thought I had before seen splendid exhibitions of this sort, in the glittering dewdrops of summer and the frostwork of winter; but the present scene surpassed all my former experience incomparably, and even the figments of my imagination. If the twigs of every tree, and shrub, and
spire, had been literally covered with diamonds of the purest water and largest known size, say an inch in diameter, they would not, I am sure, have poured upon the eye, in the sunlight, a more dazzling splendor. But it may give those not familiar with the diamond a better idea of the scene, to compare these icy pendants to those of cut glass, which are sometimes hung, in great profusion, around large chandeliers, in many of our churches and public halls. It is no exageration to say that each tree, nay, each shrub, of moderate size, exhibited as numerous crystalline drops, and as brilliant an aspect, as I have ever seen around the largest chandelier. Think, then, how much superior must have been the aspect of a large tree, with graceful shape and wide-spreading branches. Nay, think of a whole forest, with the rays of the sun darting through, and lighting up ten thousand radiant points of a diamond hue and intense brilliancy. These could be seen as many as forty or fifty rods; and beyond that distance, the forests, as far as the eye could reach, had the aspect and the richness of embossed silver.
When I perceived what a splendid robe Nature had put on, I went forth to pay my homage in her magnificent temple. As I wandered over "the sea of glass," through fields and forests, over hill and dale, new forms of beauty met me at every step. Amazement was soon succeeded by admiration, and admiration gave place to intense delight; nor could I help repeating over the poet's enthusiastic eulogy
"O Nature! how in every charm supreme,
I could not believe that any more splendid developments of this phenomenon awaited me. But on Saturday night the thermometer sank to zero, and on Sunday morning the sun arose in a cloudless sky, and the icy shoots and pendants, more thoroughly crystallized by the intense cold, formed ten thousand points of overpowering brightness on every side.
Nor were all the sparkling brilliants, as on the day before, of colorless light: but here and there I began to notice the prismatic colors; now exhibiting a gem of most splendid sapphire blue; next, one of amethystine purple; next, one of intense topaz yellow; then, a sea-green beryl, changing, by a slight change of posture, into a rich emerald green; and then, one of deep hyacinth red.
As the sun approached the meridian, the number and splendor of these colored gems increased, so that on a single tree hundreds of them might be seen; and sometimes so large was their size and intense their color, that at the distance of fifty rods they seemed equal to Sirius, nay, to the morning star; and of hues the most delicate and rich that can be conceived of,- exactly imitating, so far as I could judge, the natural gems; and not partaking at all of those less delicate and more gaudy tints, by which a practised eye can distinguish genuine from supposititious precious stones. And by moving the eye a few inches, we could see these different colors pass into one another, and thus witness the rich intermediate shades. I have seen many splendid groups of precious stones, wrought and inwrought in the large collections of our land; and until I witnessed this scene, they seemed of great beauty. But it is now literally true, that they appear to me comparatively dull and insignificant. In short, it seemed as if I was gazing upon a landscape which before had existed only in a poet's imagination. It is what he would call a fairy land; but a more Christian designation would be, a celestial land.
On Monday it was cloudy, and the phenomena presented no new aspect. On Tuesday, there was a storm of fine rain and snow, and the beautiful transparency of the icy coat was changed into the aspect of ground glass. This gave to the trees a new and most delicate appearance. They resembled enchased work, formed of pure but unburnished silver; and had the sun shone upon them, they must have been intensely beautiful.