Today officially marks the start of spring, the season long seized on by poets to symbolize rebirth and awakening. Since I'm in such a good mood -- thoroughly smitten with the weather -- I'll look past T.S. Eliot's "cruel" perspective on the season, and only smile at Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote that April "comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers." Instead, here are three celebratory, though still complex, poems about spring:
In his sonnet "Spring," Gerard Manley Hopkins captures the energy of a world infused with warmth and life again. In his typical fashion, Hopkins packs a lot of motion into the poem, using words like, "shoot," "rinse," "wring," "sing," "blooms," "brush", "racing" and "fling." In one effervescent line, he asks, "What is all this juice and all this joy?" He offers that spring is a taste of paradise -- of Eden before the fall. Experience it, he says, "before it cloy," before we fall again, in a sense, and grow weary of it.
Nothing is so beautiful as spring --
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. -- Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
D.H. Lawrence's "The Enkindled Spring" is similarly filled with energy and motion. Lawrence compares spring to a bonfire -- an intriguing choice, since flames are both beautiful and destructive. While spring led Hopkins to consider the fall of mankind, it led Lawrence to consider his own spirit: "And what fountain of flame am I," he asks, "among / This leaping combustion of spring?"
This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.
I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.
And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that's gone astray, and is lost.
On the surface, William Blake's "The Echoing Green," from his "Songs of Innocence and of Experience," highlights the joys of spring. But as with many of his "Songs of Innocence," it also hints at the lessons of experience, speaking to the ephemerality -- not just of spring, but of human life. The sporting children are juxtaposed with old folk under the oak, and by the end of the poem, the echoing green has become "the darkening green."
The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the spring.
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells' cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the echoing green.
Old John with white hair
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say:
'Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls and boys,
In our youth-time were seen
On the echoing green.'
Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry;
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end.
Round the laps of their mother
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest;
And sport no more seen
On the darkening green.
I hope you enjoy the echoing green today. And feel free to add your own spring poems in the comments section below.