snow, distinct and firm as cordage, while the higher ones grow dimmer by fine gradations, until the slender topmost twig is blurred, and almost effaced.
But the denser upper spire of the young spruce by its side throws almost as distinct a shadow as its base, and the whole figure looks of a more solid texture, as if you could feel it with your hand.
More beautiful than either is the fine image of this baby hemlock: each delicate leaf droops above as delicate a copy, and here and there the shadow and the substance kiss and frolic with each other in the downy snow.
The larger larches have a different plaything: on the bare branches, thickly studded with buds, cling airily the small, light cones of last year's growth, each crowned with a little ball of soft snow, four times taller than itself,— save where some have drooped sideways, so that each carries, poor, weary Atlas
, a sphere upon its back.
Thus the coy creatures play cup and ball, and one has lost its plaything yonder, as the branch slightly stirs, and the whole vanishes in a whirl of snow.
Meanwhile a fragment of low arbor-vitae hedge, poor outpost of a neighboring plantation, is so covered and packed with solid drift, inside and out, that it seems as if no power of sunshine could ever steal in among its twigs and disentangle it.
In winter each separate object interests us; in summer, the mass.
Natural beauty in winter is a poor man's luxury, infinitely enhanced in quality by the diminution in quantity.
Winter, with fewer and simpler methods, yet seems to give all her works a finish even more delicate than that of summer, working, as Emerson
says of English agriculture, with a pencil, instead of a plough.
Or rather, the ploughshare is but concealed; since a pithy old English preacher has said that ‘the frost is God's plough, which he drives through every inch of ground in the world, opening each clod, and pulverizing the whole.’
Coming out upon a high hillside, more exposed to the direct fury of the sleet, we find Nature wearing a wilder look.
Every white-birch-clump around us is bent divergingly to the ground, each white form prostrated in mute despair upon the whiter bank.
The bare, writhing branches of yonder sombre oak-grove are steeped in snow, and in the misty air they look so remote and foreign that there is not a wild creature of the Norse mythology who might not stalk from beneath their haunted branches.
Buried races, Teutons and Cimbri, might tramp solemnly forth from those weird arcades.
The soft pines on this nearer knoll seem separated from them by ages and generations.
On the farther hills spread woods of smaller growth, like forests of spun glass, jewelry by the acre provided for this coronation of winter.
We descend a steep bank, little pellets of snow rolling hastily beside us, and leaving enamelled furrows behind.
Entering the sheltered and sunny glade, we are assailed by a sudden warmth whose languor is almost oppressive.