'Now you know: this is the place
where water insists on being ice...'
Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Snow Queen' is essential seasonal/magical reading. A story open to many re-interpretations (Disney's 'Frozen' for one), it has also inspired many poems, some of which I'd like to share here.
Love and more specifically, lack of love, seem to be the main themes prevalent in them. In this poem from Sandra Gilbert, we are offered a meditation on the nature of personalities and how some people just can't be saved from cruel influences or tragic fates. How love sometimes, is not enough to compete with the cold, in whatever form that may be.
The Last Poem About the Snow Queen - Sandra Gilbert
'Then it was that little Gerda walked into the Palace,
through the great gates, in a biting wind…She saw Kay,
and knew him at once; she flung her arms round his neck,
held him fast, and cried, “Kay, little Kay, have I found you at last.
But he sat still, rigid and cold.'
-Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen”
You wanted to know “love” in all its habitats, wanted
to catalog the joints, the parts, the motions, wanted
to be a scientist of romance: you said
you had to study everything, go everywhere,
even here, even
this ice palace in the far north.
You said you were ready, you’d be careful.
Smart girl, you wore two cardigans, a turtleneck,
fur lined boots, scarves,
a stocking cap with jingle bells.
And over the ice you came, gay as Santa,
singing and bringing gifts.
Ah, but the journey was long, so much longer
than you’d expected, and the air so thin,
the sky so high and black.
What are these cold needles, what are these shafts of ice,
you wondered on the fourteenth day.
What are those tracks that glitter overhead?
The one you came to see was silent,
he wouldn’t say “stars” or “snow,”
wouldn’t point south, wouldn’t teach survival.
And you’d lost your boots, your furs,
now you were barefoot on the ice floes, fingers blue,
tears freezing and fusing your eyelids.
Now you know: this is the place
where water insists on being ice,
where wind insists on breathlessness
where the will of the cold is so strong
that even the stone’s desire for heat
is driven into the eye of night.
What will you do now, little Gerda?
Kay and the Snow Queen are one, they’re a single
pillar of ice, a throne of silence -
and they love you
the way the teeth of winter
love the last red shred of November.