Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring and All -- something for the vernal equinox

First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the first day of spring, the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The Earth is tilted on its axis, so as it travels around the sun each pole is sometimes tilted toward the sun and sometimes tilted away. It is this tilt that causes the seasons, as well as the shortening and lengthening of daylight hours. On this day, the North and South Poles are equally distant from the sun, so we will have almost exactly the same amount of daytime as nighttime.

     Emily Dickinson said:

"A little Madness in the Spring / Is wholesome even for the King."

     Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

"Spring still makes spring in the mind,
When sixty years are told;
Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
And we are never old."

     Mark Twain said:

"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"

* * * * 

And there is this poem, one that means the most to me on the first day of spring:

Here is a selection from Spring and All by William Carlos Williams (1923).

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast -- a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines --

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches --

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind --

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined --
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance -- Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken

* * * * *

Personal Postscript:

When I think of poems about spring, I almost always think first of the foregoing by William Carlos Williams. The poem's dramatic juxtaposition of "the contagious hospital" -- a scene of despair and death -- and the signs of renewal in the "sluggish dazed spring" leave me disturbed and hopeful; yes, for me, that paradox -- promise of renewed life in spite of the threatening presence of death -- speaks volumes about the human condition.

Well, now it is your turn. What poem about "sluggish dazed spring" do you think is most worth remembering today?



  1. Metamorphosis

    Always it happens when we are not there--
    The tree leaps up alive into the air,
    Small open parasols of Chinese green
    Wave on each twig. But who has ever seen
    The latch sprung, the bud as it burst?
    Spring always manages to get there first.

    Lovers of wind, who will have been aware
    Of a faint stirring in the empty air,
    Look up one day through a dissolving screen
    To find no star, but this multiplied green,
    Shadow on shadow, singing sweet and clear.
    Listen, lovers of wind, the leaves are here!

    -- May Sarton --

    Here's one I think worth contemplating.

    1. Sometimes, Fred, I forget to stop, look, and listen to Nature's metamorphoses. This poem is a wonderful reminder to get outside and contemplate the changes. Thanks for sharing a poem I had not previously encountered.

  2. Putting in the Seed

    You come to fetch me from my work tonight
    When supper's on the table, and we'll see
    If I can leave off burying the white
    Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
    (Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
    Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea;)
    And go along with you ere you lose sight
    Of what you came for and become like me,
    Slave to a springtime passion for the earth.
    How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
    On through the watching for the early birth
    When, just as the soil tarnishes with the weed,
    The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
    Shouldering its way and and shedding the earth crumbs.

    -- Robert Frost --

    Is there something else going on here?

    1. Fred, thank you for both poems. Let me take some time to read and ponder. I will respond more later today or tomorrow. Again, thanks.

    2. Hmmm. I detect quite a bit of eroticism in this poem. This one must have raised a few eyebrows when it first appeared. And Frost must have had an interesting expression on his face while he composed it. But my reactions might be nothing more than a creative misreading. Hmmmm.

    3. Tim,

      I also am guilty, if so, of a creative misreading. I wondered if I was over-reading, as I have been accused of in the past, so I'm happy to see that you see it too.

  3. no poems; just gritting of teeth and fighting moles and trying to start the #@%$* lawnmower...

    1. Mudpuddle, what a coincidence. I have the same make and model lawnmower: #@%$*. Moreover, I discovered yesterday that my "weed-eater" is made by the same #@%$* manufacturer. Either the repair shops or the landfills await! Fortunately, I have no moles. However, mole crickets (not really crickets) are an ugly nuisance. Perhaps those are a southern pest.

    2. haha glad to hear i'm not the only struggler, grappling with the merciless coils of spring...

  4. Not time for thinking about spring after the Stellal-storm, but off the top of my head I like Frost's "Spring Pools." (Favorite fall poem: "Spring and Fall," Gerard Manley Hopkins.) And Blake and Christina Rossetti and lots of others... But most of all this one:


    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.

    "Thrush's eggs look little low heavens": the brilliance of that!

    1. Forgot to say that was GMH also, and unmistakably.

    2. Yes! That line is brilliant! Thank you for sharing Hopkins' poem, Marly.