Not That Homely
A Homely Winter Idyll
Great, long, lean clouds in sullen host
Along the skyline passed today;
While overhead I’ve only seen
A leaden sky the whole day long.
My heart would gloomily have mused
Had I not seen those queer, old crows
Stop short in their mad frolicking
And pose for me in long, black rows.
An idyll is a poem that describes a pastoral scene — think peaceful hills and tranquil sheep. And then Crow shows up, like the Phantom of the Opera, swooping in on his eight notes of doom.
Sandburg begins this poem in state of melancholy: the clouds are “sullen,” the sky is “leaden,” and his heart tends toward gloomy musing. But then “those queer, old crows” enter and take over. Much like the dusting of snow Frost’s crow gives, interrupting his ruing.
The “mad frolicking” of Sandburg’s crows is amusing, not dangerous. And when the crows notice the poet noticing them, they “Stop short” and “pose.” Crows crave admiration. And sometimes we need to break out of our leadenness to give them what they want.
Which brings me to say, Mr. Sandburg, please consider removing the word “homely” from your title. Crow will remember your slight and harass you until you write something about him which he deems sufficiently glorious.