Nemerov’s “The Snow Globe”

I’ll have to admit that I find it difficult to identify with much of Nemerov’s rather dark vision in his early poems, at least those before 1960. Even the title Salt Garden suggests a bareness I’ve seldom felt in my life.

Even though I don’t share his vision, I can identify with poems like this one:


A long time ago, when I was a child,
They left my light on while I went to sleep,
As though they would have wanted me beguiled
By brightness if at all; dark was too deep.

And they left me one toy, a village white
With the fresh snow and silently in glass
Frozen forever. But if you shook it,
The snow would rise up in the rounded space

And from the limits of the universe
Snow itself down again. 0 world of white,
First home of dreams! Now that I have my dead,
I want so cold an emblem to rehearse
How many of them have gone from the world’s light,
As I have gone, too, from my snowy bed.

I’m old enough to have been fascinated with snow globes as a child, probably because I identify them with Christmas and because my family never owned one, a deficiency I’ve more than remedied in the last few years.

Unfortunately, like Nemerov, I’ve never recaptured the innocent joy they used to bring, and I keep them around more in hopes that they will inspire similar hopes in my grandchildren than any hope they will rekindle my own.

Though I fear it’s not true, I’d like to believe this is a universal feeling, that all children share this ability to dream bright dreams. I’m sure my happy childhood has helped me to get through some rough times and made it possible to believe that there is always hope for better times ahead.

6 thoughts on “Nemerov’s “The Snow Globe””

  1. When I taught poetry in Tonga ten years ago I think it would have been difficult teaching a poem about snow globes. None of my students had ever seen snow, and with no experience of snow to draw on, snow globes wouldn’t have sold. But I did assign Nemerov’s poem ‘Boom’. After my lecture, as we were filing out of the classroom into the sunshine, one of my students looked up in the sky and saw an airplane. He pointed at it and started laughing hysterically. A sonic boom might have amplified his response, but it wasn’t necessary. Nemerov had clearly made his point.

  2. Can you explain this poem to me? I know it’s about a child looking back on his childhood remembering what it was like to be alone in his room at night, with a little light. But what is the theme here?

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me! Have a good day!

  3. I am trying to understand the whole meaning of the poem, what the author wants to convey. And what is the meaning of “now that i have my dead i want so cold an emblem as to rehearse”
    could you explain it to me?

    thank you for your help!

  4. I’m pretty tired of saying that this isn’t a high school help line, and that I’ve pretty much said all that I want to say about the poems after I’ve written what I’ve written.

    If you read the entry carefully, you should definitely get some hints about the questions you ask. Go back and look at other entries on Nemerov and see if the background makes this poem clearer.

    1. Wow…your reply definitely does not encourage discussion, which is the whole point of comments, and it’s also a slap in the face to people who may have been genuinely curious about the poem. A little bitchy, to be honest.

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