Winter Evening

Oh! How the snow’s been snowing!

My window pane is a garden of frost.

Oh! How the snow’s been snowing!

What is the the spasm of living

to the painful grief I have, I have!

The author of this poem is Émile Nelligan. He was born in Montreal in 1879. His father, David Nelligan, was an Irish immigrant who only spoke English at home. His mother, Émilie-Amanda Hudon, was a gifted French-Canadian musician who was proud of her culture.

Coming from the upper class, Nelligan was able to attend good schools, but his lack of self-discipline and lack of interest made him a poor student. He preferred to study and write poetry.

In 1897, at 16 years old and against his parents’ wishes, he left school to dedicate himself to poetry.  The same year, he became a member of the Montreal Literary Circle where Young intellectuals and artists met to exchange ideas.

From16 to 19 years old, he wrote approximately 170 poems and succeeded in publishing a few. Unfortunately, his glory was fleeting because when he was 20 years old he was admitted to a hospital because he was having psychological problems.  He stayed there for the rest of his life.

Émile Nelligan was a pioneer of French-Canadian literature and is still considered one of its greatest writers. He was responsible for bringing French-Canadian poetry to the modern age. Some of his most famous poems include the following: « La Romance du vin », « Le Vaisseau d’or » and « Soir d’hiver », of which there is an extract above.

Author:  Service national du Récit de l’univers social

Quickly check your knowledge: