Infographic depicting winter taking over a tree and a pocket watch

In Winter, Edwin Morgan writes about death and the relentless passing of time. Winter borrows words and ideas from Tennyson’s poem Tithonus. In Tithonus, the title character, a Trojan, is granted immortality but does not ask for eternal youth. As a consequence, he is doomed to age and wither, but never die.

Tithonus laments that Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn, keeps him in her home in the east (from which she rises every morning). In this poem, Morgan depicts a frozen pond, near his home in the West End of Glasgow, that becomes a symbol of death.

Form and structure

In this poem, the speaker uses the past tense to reflect on time and mortality. Although there is only one stanza, a natural break occurs between lines ten and eleven. In the first ten lines, the speaker establishes the setting and melancholic mood of the poem. He considers the passing of the seasons on the pond and, through his word choice and imagery, reveals death as the central concern of the poem.

In the latter section of the poem, he focuses on one particularly vivid memory to reflect on the paradox that although death is a certainty, it remains an enigma which even poets’ imaginations cannot decipher. The word choice and imagery are powerful and create a bleak sombre mood, while repetition and enjambment emphasise the inexorable and cyclical nature of the passing of time.