Original: January 1951. Probably late at night while I was out with my dog in a small wooded area nearby. A snow had fallen some time before this.
I know the darkness of the midnight snow
I know the brilliance of the wood in ice
The blackness overhead, the white below
And me with eyes to see it in between.
I see this sight within, I see it twice
But with my eyes I do not see this scene.
There is a desolation in my mind.
I am thewood, I am the midnight snow.
I do not know myself, and this is why I'm blind.
Ar m'eolas dubh an tsneachta láir na hoíche
Ar m’eolas geal na coille ‘tá ar reo
An duibhe os mo chionn, an bháine thíos
Sa lár le súile lena fheiceáil mé.
Istigh a fheicim seo, is sin faoi dhó
Ach ní le súile é go bhfeicim é.
Tá duibheacadh i n-usigneas mo mheabhrach.
'Sé mé an choill, an sneachta lár na hoíche
Gan eolas orm, féin, is uime sin gan amharc.
Raymond J. Clarke / Réamonn Ó Cléirigh
Version in Irish: 1 November, 2005. Lá Samhna.
Comment: In a way, there's need for another poem here to reveal the source of the trouble in this one. I don't remember what it was. It seems I was between one identity and another, between the past and the future. I was about to be graduated from school and I was about to be drafted into the military. Either of those could have had something to do with this. It's as if I didn't know who I had been or what I was to be. I was blind about myself. If that has resonance with anyone, maybe this sonnet can sing on its own.
It's a strange poem in its construction. More than just a metaphor (I am the snow), it's a metaphor with a kind of incantation leading up to it with mystery language (the snow dark, the wood brilliant, the sky black, the ground white) and mumbojumbo or riddle (seeing it twice and not seeing it with eyes). It's backed up with a little philosophy (I know, I know, and then I do not know / and the reason 'why' I'm blind --- is it because the wood and snow have no eyes ?). There's natural science in it too (the desolation already in the winter wood). In analyzing it, it seemed at first that someone else had written it, but the further I went I realized 'yes, that was the confused me of fifty years ago.' So, after all, my identity was not lost in the snow.
A few personal words about the winter wood at night which I didn't see then but can see now: For a long time, the woods had been my favorite outdoor place to go in any season, but always in the daytime. These were happy times for me. At night, nature reversed things. It was the opposite of day. And also, the winter, especially in the snow, was the opposite of summer, and even of the spring and fall. It was like death, the opposite of life. It was not happy, but gloomy and scarey. I've noticed in reviewing these poem written in my late teens and early twenties that in several of them I use or make mention of the night woods and snow as a background for sad things or worries. But, in those years, I never made a connection between the happy woods and the unhappy woods.
By the way, unless I was just looking for a word to rhyme with 'ice', I think the phrase 'I see it twice' in the poem referred to seeing it first in the real and then in the unreal, maybe with the colors reversed. That could solve the riddle. It's more likely that I brought in 'ice' to match 'twice', rather than the other way around.
As to the Irish, I'll let others pick that apart. I'll say only that 'n-uaigneas' has to have three syllables: nu-aig-neas.