Study Guide

The Snow Man Quotes

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: Perspectivism

    One must have a mind of winter (1)

    Really? Must we, Wally? We'd rather have a mind of cupcakes, or a mind of jet skis, or a mind of baseball. But if we must have a mind of winter, we guess we'd like to know what it can do for us. Luckily, Stevens answers this question—a mind of winter allows us to see winter with no blinders on. Instead of viewing winter as a cold, miserable season that's wedged between a cool fall and a glorious spring, we can see that winter is nothing we don't make it. It just is. It becomes something when our imaginations and minds make it so.

    Which is the sound of the land
    Full of the same wind
    That is blowing in the same bare place (10-12)

    Bleak, much? What we think Stevens is getting at here is that, without our individual perspectives and imaginations, the world might be a very boring, desolate place. It's our minds that give misery to the wind, sure, but it's also our minds that "behold junipers shagged with ice" and "the distant glitter of the January sun." Those things are beautiful—not bare—and it's our minds that make them so.

    For the listener, who listens in the snow,
    And, nothing himself, beholds
    Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is. (13-15)

    Yikes. Now there's a doozy. Seriously, what are we supposed to make of these final lines? There's a nothing that's not there? And a nothing that is there? We think that what Stevens is getting at here is that if you're in the right mindset, you don't project anything onto what you're seeing and perceiving; in other words, you don't behold anything that isn't there. And you also see what's around you for what it really is: nothing. That is, it's nothing without the ideas, images, and feelings your mind projects onto it.'

  • Man and the Natural World

    To regard the frost and the boughs
    Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; (1-2)

    When's the last time you really regarded anything? We mean, we're sure you see trees out your window all the time, but we doubt you regard them. So what's Stevens's point? That seeing isn't enough. When it comes to phenomena outside ourselves, we have to work hard to regard, to behold, and to perceive.

    To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
    The spruces rough in the distant glitter

    Of the January sun; and not to think
    Of any misery in the sound of the wind, (5-8)

    Confession time: Shmoop has totally called the wind miserable. And bitter. And mean. But was that really fair? According to Stevens, probably not.

    Which is the sound of the land
    Full of the same wind
    That is blowing in the same bare place (9-12)

    Wait a second. What happened to all those frosty boughs and glittering branches? In this case, the natural world seems to have gotten a bit bleaker than we remembered it being from the first two stanzas. But in Stevens's world, bleak probably isn't a fair term to use either. This is just the natural world, stripped of our all our imaginative perceptions. Nature is just itself here—no flourishes, no embellishments, no fluff.