James Russell Lowell and John Greenleaf Whittier were poets during the Romantic era. In that time, poets often wrote about humans’ relationship with nature. Romantics considered contact with nature as almost a religious experience. Lowell’s “The First Snowfall” and Whittier’s “Snowbound” can be explored through theme, tone, and figurative language.
“The First Snowfall” and “Snowbound” share the obvious, similar theme, snow. Lowell writes, “The snow had begun in the gloaming” (Line 1). This is the beginning of the poem where he’s introducing the subject of snow and describing the simple experience of the first snowfall. Whittier writes, “The coming of the snowstorm told” (14). He also writes about snow, but describes a frightful, winter snowstorm, rather than a simple snowfall.
Lowell’s and Whittier’s poems differ in tones. James Russell Lowell has an optimistic point of view toward the natural event, but the tone he uses is gloomy. “Again I looked at the snowfall and thought of the leaden sky” (25-26). Lowell is comparing the falling of snow to the mourning process of his daughter. Whittier is more depressed by the storm. He describes the snow as, “A hard, dull bitterness of cold” (11). Later, Whittier learns to accept the storm and writes about sitting and laughing by the fireplace with his family.
Both poets use a variety of figurative language in their poems. Lowell uses a simile to describe the birds he sees outside his window flying through the snowfall. “And the sudden flurries of snow-birds, like brown leaves whirling by” (15-16). Whittier also uses a simile to describe what he observes outside his window. “And through the glass the clothesline posts looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts” (39-40).
As shown, these two poems can be compared and contrasted through theme, tone, and figurative language. In the way the poets write, we can see their reactions to the snow. Even though they both wrote about snow, they didn’t approach the topic in the same way. Lowell and Whittier both lived in the Romantic era but lived different lifestyles, which affected how they saw events and formed the style of their poetry.