Jack Frost, the personification of winter, speeds forth in an icicle train to the north pole to stop spring from coming. To stop spring, Frost must keep winter’s candle lit.
Frederick Edwin Church – Aurora Borealis, 1865
Through the snowy passes
Hurtles an old and hoary train.
It dashes past crevasses
Along the cold moraines.
Its transit is annuary—
Only once in ice and snow—
Only deep in January
Is the Icicle Train prepared to go.
And how extraordinary
This Icicle Train is to see
It seems imaginary
As it curves ’round glaciers and the scree.
Its locomotive is wrought of iron,
Embellished with curls and coils
With raveled figurines of wire on
Its smokestack, which blows and boils.
Its cars are made of stained glass
Each are as vitreous as the sea
The glass is mullioned in fine brass
With designs of spruce and cedar trees.
The conductor is an old man
Jack Frost is his true name
For longer than mankind’s lifespan
He has steered this venerable train.
He wears a jester’s cap of black and white
With five points that have five bells
And he wears a cloak that’s black as night
With gloves and shoes as white as shells.
He drives the train into the north
Where the bears and walrus live
Into dark lands where few rove forth,
Where the cold does not forgive.
What does the conductor seek there?
It’s a secret you should know.
He is searching with intent care
For a faint and feeble glow.
He seeks the flame of winter
Which gutters night by night,
The flame lies furthest hinter
Beneath dancing aurora light.
The flame of winter shudders
With each approaching spring
And when at last it gutters
The earth begins to green.
But Frost wants winter eternal—
A world of snow and ice—
So he strives to cease the vernal
Tidings by this particular device.
For if he can keep that cold flame
Burning in the north
Then he will meet his own aim
And spring shall not come forth.
So the Icicle Train speeds onwards
Through the snow and ice and frost
To thwart the coming season
And to render summer lost.
Frost stokes the boiler’s fire
He throws in wood and coal
So the flames in it lick higher
As he steams on toward his goal.
But the winter’s flame has dwindled so far
Even as he comes
The fire flickers beneath a bell jar
As the locomotive hums.
Jack Frost speeds across a prairie
Of flat ice and winter’s snow
Across dazzling ice that’s glary
Toward the paltry distant glow.
Now he’s very near it
And Frost will fan its flame
But the candle is but half-lit,
Or half-dead to say the same.
And then the fire does choke
And a tragedy strikes for him
The fire becomes a feathered smoke
The flame dies within the glim.
And although no word is spoken
There comes a thundering crack of ice
As winter’s spell is broken
And spring is taken from its glacial vise.
The Icicle Train must go back
For another long, green year
And Jack Frost with his coat black
Must take his bow and disappear.
But this is not forever—
Every year he tries his worth—
And in eras when Frost was quick and clever
We’ve had a snowball earth.
But this year he’s been frustrated
And the north sounds with his rage
For Frost will never be placated
Till we live in a perpetual ice age.