Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
He gives his harness bells a shake
- Even though the speaker can read his little horse's mind, the horse can't talk back.
- So, the next best option is to shake his booty. And by shaking his booty, we mean that he shakes his harness a little. There are little bells attached to his harness, which give a nice little jingle (think Santa Claus's sleigh).
To ask if there is some mistake.
- Again with the mind reading. Our speaker knows his horse is shaking his bells in order to "ask" his master if something is awry, is there's a problem.
- It's kind of like the horse is saying, "Hey, is everything OK? We've been standing here staring at nothing for a little while, and I just wanted to make sure you didn't need me to keep on truckin'. I'm cool with the standing still thing, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting you."
The only other sound's the sweep
- Beyond the harness bells' shaking, the only other sound that the speaker can hear is the "sweep."
- The word "sweep" makes us think of the sound brooms make when they sweep dust into a dustpan.
- At this point, we realize that the speaker is taking inventory of all of the sounds around him. He's interested in sounds.
Of easy wind and downy flake.
- The sweeping noise comes from the slight wind and the softly falling snow.
- Have you ever listened to snow falling? It's very, very quiet. There's just a gentle whirr. Everything is very, very still.