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The Sleighing Song
John Shaw


When calm is the night, and the stars shine bright,
  The sleigh glides smooth and cheerily;
       And mirth and jest abound,
       While all is still around,
       Save the horses’ trampling sound,
  And the horse-bells tinkling merrily.

But when the drifting snow in the traveller’s face shall blow,
  And hail is driving drearily,
       And the wind is shrill and loud,
       Then no sleigh shall stir abroad,
       Nor along the beaten road
  Shall the horse-bells tinkle merrily.

But to-night the skies are clear, and we have not to fear
  That the time should linger wearily;
       For good-humor has a charm
       Even winter to disarm,
       And our cloaks shall wrap us warm,
  And the bells shall tinkle merrily.

This poem is in the public domain.

John Shaw (1778 - 1809) was born in Maryland, studied medicine at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Edinburgh, and served as a physician and ship surgeon in the U.S. Navy before establishing a private practice in Baltimore. Successful and widely respected, he was instrumental in founding the College of Medicine at the University of Maryland. By all accounts a charming and modest man, John was fluent in several languages and wrote poetry on an ongoing basis. He also kept notes about his travels. Had he lived longer, critics surmize that John might have developed into a writer of significant standing. Unfortunately, he died at the age of thirty on a ship en route from Charleston, South Carolina, to the Bahamas--a voyage undertaken, ironically, in the hope of healing his tuberculosis; his small body of work was published posthumously by a group of his friends.



Post New Comment:
Sometimes I miss living where it snows, and reading this poem is one of those times. Thank you for sharing it, Jayne!
Posted 01/12/2022 12:52 PM
Lovely poem and interesting bio!!
Posted 12/15/2021 11:22 AM
I am listening to the wind outside the house and fear having to go out.
Posted 12/15/2021 08:45 AM
Darrell Arnold:
I am enormously impressed by this complicated structure of rhyme and meter. You have to have the TV off to read it, because it doesn't flow the same way most rhyming poetry does. Still, it does flow, kinda like a whitewater river, but it makes sense and keeps on flowing. I'm not sure I can pull it off, but I think I'll try to write something in this style.
Posted 12/15/2021 08:31 AM
What a study in craftsmanship! John uses both end-rhyme as well as interlinear rhyme, and precise meter masterfully. Delightful poem.
Posted 12/15/2021 08:22 AM
Larry Schug:
What an intense, short life for Shaw. And to have one's words kept alive by friends--amazing. I feel like I'm riding in the sleigh.
Posted 12/15/2021 08:11 AM

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