Poetry Wednesday: Sprained Spring

I’m knocking on wood as I speak, but it looks like the March weather we’ve been enjoying through gritted teeth, frostbitten smiles, and defective windbreakers is finally over—just in time for May.

It would be a criminal shame not to spend as much time as possible outdoors on a day like today, and as the great outdoors doesn’t provide natural WiFi, all I wanted was a quick poem or two that celebrated Spring, or at least those first breathless moments of awe before we start complaining about the heat, pollen, and humidity.

I’ll tell you, the search took me a lot longer than I thought. Turns out the majority of Spring poems meant for readers over the age of six tend to run along the same lines: Enjoy the beauty of Spring while you can, suckers, ’cause the hearts of the people we love are encased in permafrost and we’re all gonna die anyway. And soon.

Exhibit A:

The Spring
(Thomas Carew)

Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost
Her snow-white robes, and now no more the frost
Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream;
But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,
And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth
To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree
Dust of SnowThe drowsy cuckoo, and the humble-bee.
Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring
In triumph to the world the youthful Spring.
The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array
Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.
Now all things smile, only my love doth lour;
Nor hath the scalding noonday sun the power
To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold
Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.
The ox, which lately did for shelter fly
Into the stall, doth now securely lie
In open fields; and love no more is made
By the fireside, but in the cooler shade
Amyntas now doth with his Chloris sleep
Under a sycamore, and all things keep
Time with the season; only she doth carry
June in her eyes, in her heart January.

Nothing like a spurned Seventeenth Century poet to make you wish for six more weeks of winter.   And who, I wonder, took a dump in Robert Herrick’s garden?

To Daffodils
(Robert Herrick)

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain’d his noon.Dead Daffodils
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the even-song;
And, having pray’d together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
We die
As your hours do, and dry
Away,
Like to the summer’s rain;
Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,
Ne’er to be found again.

Remember, kids:  In Robert Herrick’s world, daffodils never dance.  They haven’t the strength.

Seriously—even Shakespeare can’t be trusted:

Spring
(William Shakespeare)

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,

English: Guira cuckoo

The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo;
Cuckoo, cuckoo: Oh word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are plowmen’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo;
Cuckoo, cuckoo: Oh word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

Really, dude?

William Cullen Bryant comes closer to what I’m looking for:

The Yellow Violet
(William Cullen Bryant)

When beechen buds begin to swell,
And woods the blue-bird’s warble know,
The yellow violet’s modest bell
Peeps from the last year’s leaves below.

Ere russet fields their green resume,
Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,
To meet thee, when thy faint perfume
Alone is in the virgin air.

Of all her train, the hands of Spring
First plant thee in the watery mould,

English: Spring flowers, Hebden Primroses and ...

And I have seen thee blossoming
Beside the snow-bank’s edges cold.

Thy parent sun, who bade thee view
Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip,
Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,
And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.

Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,
And earthward bent thy gentle eye,
Unapt the passing view to meet
When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.

Oft, in the sunless April day,
Thy early smile has stayed my walk;
But midst the gorgeous blooms of May,
I passed thee on thy humble stalk.

So they, who climb to wealth, forget
The friends in darker fortunes tried.
I copied them—but I regret
That I should ape the ways of pride.

And when again the genial hour
Awakes the painted tribes of light,
I’ll not o’erlook the modest flower
That made the woods of April bright.

But he still sneaks a virtue or two in at the end, bless him.

Luckily, Arthur Symons is there to save the day, even if he dates it a month late, which this year is hardly his fault:

April Midnight
(Arthur Symons)

Side by side through the streets at midnight,
Roaming together,
Through the tumultuous night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.

Roaming together under the gaslight,
Day’s work over,
LoveHow the Spring calls to us, here in the city,
Calls to the heart from the heart of a lover!

Cool to the wind blows, fresh in our faces,
Cleansing, entrancing,
After the heat and the fumes and the footlights,
Where you dance and I watch your dancing.

Good it is to be here together,
Good to be roaming,
Even in London, even at midnight,
Lover-like in a lover’s gloaming.

You the dancer and I the dreamer,
Children together,
Wandering lost in the night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.

That’s better!

And just as I stopped looking, Mr. Shelley had to have his brilliant, gorgeous say, just this side of fashionably late:

The Question
(Percy Bysshe Shelley)

I dreamed that, as I wandered by the way,
Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring,
And gentle odours led my steps astray,
Mixed with a sound of waters murmuring
Along a shelving bank of turf, which lay
Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling
Its green arms round the bosom of the stream,
But kissed it and then fled, as thou mightest in dream.

There grew pied wind-flowers and violets,
Daisies, those pearled Arcturi of the earth,
The constellated flower that never sets;
Faint oxlips; tender bluebells, at whose birth

English: Daffodils Below Breakheart Hill Grass...

The sod scarce heaved; and that tall flower that wets—
Like a child, half in tenderness and mirth—
Its mother’s face with Heaven’s collected tears,
When the low wind, its playmate’s voice, it hears.

And in the warm hedge grew lush eglantine,
Green cowbind and the moonlight-coloured may,
And cherry-blossoms, and white cups, whose wine
Was the bright dew, yet drained not by the day;
And wild roses, and ivy serpentine,
With its dark buds and leaves, wandering astray;
And flowers azure, black, and streaked with gold,
Fairer than any wakened eyes behold.

And nearer to the river’s trembling edge
There grew broad flag-flowers, purple pranked with white,
And starry river buds among the sedge,
And floating water-lilies, broad and bright,
Which lit the oak that overhung the hedge
With moonlight beams of their own watery light;
And bulrushes, and reeds of such deep green
As soothed the dazzled eye with sober sheen.

Methought that of these visionary flowers
I made a nosegay, bound in such a way
That the same hues, which in their natural bowers
Were mingled or opposed, the like array
Kept these imprisoned children of the Hours
Within my hand,—and then, elate and gay,
I hastened to the spot whence I had come,
That I might there present it!—Oh! to whom?

Oh!  Me!  Me! Over here,  Mr. Shelley!

That’s what I’m talking about.

How’s the weather where you are?

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8 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Sprained Spring

    • Too true, Sue Ann, and I don’t envy you at all!

      “The Loveliest Tree” is a delightful poem. Housman still sneaks mortality in there, but at least he’s determined to do something with his time!

  1. So, I finally made it back to the ‘real’ world after being snowed in for a couple of days. We had around 6 inches, and lots of mud! Oh, that your ode to spring had held true!

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