Literature has played a huge part of America’s past. Through literature and specifically poetry, people have expressed their feelings, whether of jubilance or sorrow, which, in some way, has affected the history of this country. I will be comparing and contrasting the works of two poets, Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Russell Lowell. Emerson and Lowell both lived in regions of the United States that received an abundance of snow during the winter season, which shows in Emerson “The Snowstorm” and Lowell’s “The First Snowfall”. But even though in their poems, they wrote about snow, both poems are unique because they were written by poets with different life experiences and different points of view.
Emerson’s tone of his poem “The Snowstorm” is optimistic and positive, “the frolic architecture of the snow”, even though snow is usually an inconvenience for many people. Lowell uses “The First Snowfall” to mourn his daughter, resulting in a melancholy tone to his poem. He also expresses how natural events can remind of sorrow and help to heal it, “Flake by flake, healing in hiding/the scar that renewed our woe”.
Both Emerson and Lowell use figurative language in their poems, but Emerson uses personification and Lowell uses similes. Emerson personifies the snow as being an artist, shaping the surroundings and painting them white, “the fierce artificer/Curves his white bastions with a projected roof”. Lowell uses similes in his poem when describing the birds he sees, likening them to brown leaves, “and the sudden flurries of snow-birds/like brown leaves swirling by”.
Both poets use imagery to appeal to the senses, but the differences are that Emerson uses imagery to appeal to the sense of hearing when he describes the snowstorm as being “Announced by all the trumpets of the sky”. Emerson describes the snow as having a “swan-like form”, which causes the reader to visualize the white delicacy of the snow. Lowell uses imagery to help the reader understand what the father in the poem is feeling, “and thought of the leaden sky/that arched o’er our first great sorrow/when that mount was heaped so high”.
The different effects of their poems are a result of their personal lives. Emerson was part of the Transcendentalism literary movement, which may explain why his poem was nature-themed and optimistic. Lowell was in the category of Fireside poets, but also Romanticism, which explains how he expressed his feelings in his poem and related how nature can help to heal pain and sorrow.
The similarities between Emerson’s and Lowell’s lives are that they both attended Harvard University as teenagers and both became active abolitionists. At Harvard, they were both chosen as Class Poets. The differences between them are that Emerson was an average student, but Lowell was a poor student and couldn’t recite his original poem when he was elected class poet because he was suspended and was not allowed to participate.
In Lowell’s lifetime, he had lost three of his four children; the first three had died, but his last, Mabel, had lived. In his poem “The First Snowfall” he is remembering his first daughter’s burial.
An important point to remember is that even though some poets may come from the same regions and be a part of the same literary movement, doesn’t mean all of their poetry will be the same. People lead different lives and experience different things and expressed it differently in their poetry. Poetry expresses feelings, thoughts, and ideas, based on the author’s personal life experiences.