I think this is the best short piece on The Snowman, that I've read to date. And since this is the season of snowmen, I thought I'd include it today.
The Snow Man, by Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves.
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
commentary by Robert Pack:
In the remarkable poem "The Snow Man," Stevens dramatizes the action of a mind as it becomes one with the scene it perceives, and at that instant, the mind having ceased to bring something of itself to the scene, the scene then ceases to exist fully.
[. . . .]
We, with the "one" of the poem, begin by watching the winter scene while in our mind the connotations of misery and cold brought forth by the scene are stirring. But gradually, almost imperceptibly, we are divested of whatever it is that distinguishes us from the snow man. We become the snow man, and we see the winter world through his eyes of coal, and we know the cold without the thoughts of human discomfort. To perceive the winter scene truly, we must have the mind of the snow man, until correspondence becomes identification. Then we see with the sharpest eye the images of winter: "pine-trees crusted with snow," "junipers shagged with ice," "spruces rough in the distant glitter/ Of the January sun." We hear with the acutest ear the cold sibilants evoking the sense of barrenness and monotony: "sound of the wind," "sound of a few leaves," "sound of the land," "same wind," "same bare place," "For the listener, who listens in the snow." The "one" with whom the reader has identified himself has now become "the listener, who listens in the snow"; he has become the snow man, and he knows winter with a mind of winter, knows it in its strictest reality, stripped of all imagination and human feeling. But at that point when he sees the winter scene reduced to absolute fact, as the object not of the mind, but of the perfect perceptual eye that sees "nothing that is not there," then the scene, devoid of its imaginative correspondences, has become "the nothing that is."
From Wallace Stevens: An approach to his poetry and thought. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1958. Copyright © 1958 by Rutgers, The State University.
This article and more like it can be found on the Modern American Poetry site, here.