In the early part of the Civil War, one dark Saturday morning in the middle of winter, a young woman, 22 years old, died at the Commercial Hospital, in Cincinnati, Ohio. This young woman had once been beautiful, and the pride and joy of highly regarded parents. She was highly educated and accomplished, and she would have been a shining star in the best of society. But, she was stubborn and willful, and would not listen to warning. She played with fire, and called it “fun.” One day, she awoke to find herself ruined by a fatal mistake which she could not erase. She was fallen.
She spent the rest of her young life in disgrace and shame, and died poor and friendless, a broken-hearted outcast. Among her personal belongings, was found the hand written poem, “Beautiful Snow.” The poem was immediately taken to Mr. Enos B. Reed, who was editor of the newspaper, “The National Union.” On the Sunday morning following the young woman’s death, the poem appeared in print for the first time, within the columns of that newspaper. One of the readers of that newspaper was Thomas Buchanan Reed, who was one of the first nationally recognized American poets. Mr. Reed was so stirred by the anguish, despair, and tragedy of the poem, that he sought out where the young ladies’ remains were taken, and he accompanied the body to its final resting place.
Oh! The snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and earth below,
Over the housetops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet.
Beautiful snow, it can do no wrong.
Clinging to lips in frolicsome freak,
Trying to kiss a fair lady’s cheek,
Beautiful snow from heaven above,
Pure as an angel, gentle as love.
Oh! The snow, the beautiful snow,
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go,
Whirling about in maddening fun,
Cheering the heart and dispelling the gloom.
It lightens the face and sparkles the eye.
And the dogs with a bark and a bound,
Snap at the crystals as they eddy around;
The town is alive and its heart in a glow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow!
How wild the crowd goes swaying along,
Hailing each other with humor and song,
How gay the sleighs, like meteors flash by,
Bright for a moment, then lost to the eye;
Ringing-Swinging-Dashing they go,
Over the crest of the beautiful snow,
Snow so pure when it falls from the sky,
As to make one regret to see it lie,
To be trampled and tracted by thousands of feet,
‘Till it blends with the horrible filth of the street,
Once I was pure as the snow, but I fell,
Fell like the snowflakes from heaven to hell:
Fell to be trampled as filth of the street,
Fell to be scoffed at, to be spit on and beat.
Pleading-Cursing-Dreading to die,
Selling my soul to whoever would buy,
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,
Hating the living and fearing the dead.
Merciful God! Have I fallen so low?
And yet I was once like the beautiful snow,
Once I was fair as the beautiful snow,
With an eye like a crystal, a heart like its glow,
Once I was loved for my innocent grace,
Flattered and sought for the charms of my face,
God and myself I have lost by my fall.
The vilest wretch that goes shivering by,
Will make a wide sweep lest I wander too nigh;
For all that is on or above me, I know,
There is nothing so pure as the beautiful snow.
How strange it should be that this beautiful snow,
Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!
How strange it should be when the night comes again;
If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain.
Too wicked for prayer, too weak for a moan,
To be heard in the streets of the crazy town,
Gone mad in the joy of the snow coming down!
To be and to die in my terrible woe,
With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow.
Helpless and foul as the trampled snow,
Sinner, despair not, Christ stoopeth low,
To rescue the soul that is lost in sin,
And raise it to life and enjoyment again.
Groaning-Bleeding-Dying for thee,
The Crucified hung on the cursed tree,
His accents of mercy fall soft on thine ear,
“Is there mercy for me? Will He heed my weak prayer?”
O God! in the stream that for sinners did flow,
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Story and poem taken from:
GOSPEL TRACT SOCIETY, Inc.