While snowstorms are generally as unpleasant and problematic as they are beautiful, occasionally some good comes of them. Such is the case of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, a native of Haverhill who had relocated to Amesbury. There he began writing, for the benefit of his caretaker niece, not for publication, a poem about his family seated in the kitchen of their ancestral home during a major snowstorm many years earlier.
Eventually, Whittier was convinced by his publisher to go public with his lengthy but charming poem. It was a smart decision; within six months of its publication in February 1866, “Snow-bound” had sold an astounding 20,000 copies and lifted the poet out of relative obscurity and poverty. Today, the work is considered one of the most beloved ever written by an American poet.
Salem historian Jim McAllister writes a regular column for The Salem News.