I am posting these poems in honor of Jacob’s 9th birthday today. Before Jacob was born, his parents’ longing for him was just like this hopeful waiting for Spring. Every year on this day, the happy anticipation of Jacob’s birth comes back anew in my memory. We rushed to the hospital twice on false alarms before he finally arrived at 11:10pm nine years ago.
We love snow. It is beautiful, magical to behold, fun to play with, and useful for fertilizing the earth. We have really enjoyed and made the most of our winter, from enjoying staying in and sledding to eating delicious home-made cold weather food. Jacob even wishes that the snow would never melt. Born March 3, he is such a winter baby.
Our problem with winter is the artificial heating we have to use in our home. It really dries us out and is just plain uncomfortable. David and James have been waking up with stuffy noses because we don’t have a stove in our bedroom. So, we are tired of the cold and the stuffy noses as well as the artificial heat. Only if we had a real fireplace!
Today I must resort to these classic tunes to feel Spring in my heart. Yes, Spring will come again.
For visual aids, I went to the National Parks Service website to look at the spring wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains. My vote for the most exotic wildflower is the Jack-in-the-pulpit.
There are over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants that grow in Great Smoky Mountains, more than in any other American national park. I did not know that this park has more visitors per year than any other and that 1,500 black bears live there.
Now the poems I selected from the Education section of the prolific About.com (no longer existing) and from the Academy of American Poets.
Waking from Drunkenness on a Spring Day – Li Po (c. 750, trans Arthur Waley, 1919)
“Life in the World is but a big dream;
I will not spoil it by any labour or care.”
So saying, I was drunk all the day,
Lying helpless at the porch in front of my door.
When I woke up, I blinked at the garden-lawn;
A lonely bird was singing amid the flowers.
I asked myself, had the day been wet or fine?
The Spring wind was telling the mango-bird.
Moved by its song I soon began to sigh,
And as wine was there I filled my own cup.
Wildly singing I waited for the moon to rise;
When my song was over, all my senses had gone.
Spring – William Shakespeare (Song, from Act V, Scene 2 of Love’s Labors Lost, 1598)
When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo!” O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear.
Spring, the Sweet Spring – Thomas Nashe (Summer’s Last Will and Testament, 1600)
Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!
Sonnet 98 – William Shakespeare (1609)
From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermillion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
Vanitas Vanitatum – John Webster (The Devil’s Law Case, 1623)
All the Flowers of the Spring
Meet to perfume our burying:
These have but their growing prime,
And man does flourish but his time.
Survey our progress from our birth–
We are set, we grow, we turn to earth.
Courts adieu, and all delights,
All bewitching appetites!
Sweetest Breath and clearest eye
Like perfumes goe out and dye;
And consequently this is done
As shadows wait upon the Sunne.
Vaine the ambition of Kings
Who seeke by trophies and dead things
To leave a living name behind,
And weave but nets to catch the wind.
The Spring – Thomas Carew (1640)
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
The 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 lower,
Nor hath the scalding noon-day 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 fire-side, 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.
Corinna’s Going a-Maying – Robert Herrick (1648)
Get up, get up for shame! The blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throw her fair
Fresh-quilted colors through the air:
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree!
Each flower has wept and bow’d towards the east
Above an hour since, yet you not drest;
Nay! Not so much as out of bed?
When all the birds have matins said
And sung their thankful hymns, ’tis sin,
Nay, profanation, to keep in,
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.
Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,
And sweet as Flora. Take no care
For jewels for your gown or hair:
Fear not; the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.
Come, and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:
And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth! Wash, dress, be brief in praying:
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.
Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park,
Made green and trimm’d with trees! See how
Devotion gives each house a bough
Or branch! Each porch, each door, ere this,
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove,
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
Can such delights be in the street
And open fields, and we not see’t?
Come, we’ll abroad: and let’s obey
The proclamation made for May,
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.
There’s not a budding boy or girl this day
But is got up and gone to bring in May.
A deal of youth ere this is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
Some have despatch’d their cakes and cream,
Before that we have left to dream:
And some have wept and woo’d, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
Many a green-gown has been given,
Many a kiss, both odd and even:
Many a glance, too, has been sent
From out the eye, love’s firmament:
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick’d: yet we’re not a-Maying!
Come, let us go, while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless folly of the time!
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun.
And, as a vapor or a drop of rain,
Once lost, can ne’er be found again,
So when you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drown’d with us in endless night.
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.
Spring Rain – Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
leaking through the roof
dripping from the wasps’ nest.
Spring Air – Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
and plum scent.
Four Haiku – Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
A hill without a name
Veiled in morning mist.
The beginning of autumn:
Sea and emerald paddy
Both the same green.
The winds of autumn
Blow: yet still green
The chestnut husks.
A flash of lightning:
Into the gloom
Goes the heron’s cry.
To Spring – William Blake (from Poetical Sketches, 1783)
O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Through the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails approach, O Spring!
The hills tell one another, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn’d
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
And let thy holy feet visit our clime!
Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.
O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languish’d head,
Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee.
Lines Written in Early Spring – William Wordsworth (1798)
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breaths.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thought I cannot measure:–
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
Three Spring Haiku – Kobayashi Issa
the pine on the ridge
Steam on the bay
Licking a bamboo leaf’s
Work Without Hope – Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1825)
All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair–
The bees are stirring–birds are on the wing–
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.
Yet well I ken the banks where Amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye Amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowsy my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.
Spring Quiet – Christina Rossetti (Verses, 1847)
Gone were but the Winter,
Come were but the Spring,
I would go to a covert
Where the birds sing.
Where in the whitethorn
Singeth a thrush,
And a robin sings
In the holly-bush.
Full of fresh scents
Are the budding boughs
Arching high over
A cool green house:
Full of sweet scents,
And whispering air
Which sayeth softly:
“We spread no snare;
“Here dwell in safety,
Here dwell alone,
With a clear stream
And a mossy stone.
“Here the sun shineth
Here is heard an echo
Of the far sea,
Though far off it be.”
812 – Emily Dickinson
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here.
A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.
It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.
Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —
A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.
Loveliest of Trees, the cherry now – A.E. Housman (from A Shropshire Lad, 1896)
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
1333 – Emily Dickinson
A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
The whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!
A Prayer in Spring – Robert Frost (from A Boy’s Will, 1915)
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far end He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
Two Tramps in Mud Time – Robert Frost (1934)
Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yards,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.
Good blocks of beech it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good
That day, giving a loose to my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And fronts the wind to unruffle a plume
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.
The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheel rut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water but don’t forget,
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.
The time when most I loved my task
These two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an axhead poised aloft,
The grip on earth of outspread feet.
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.
Out of the woods two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps.)
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.
Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right — agreed.
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.
The Enkindled Spring – D. H. Lawrence (1916)
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.
Spring Carol – Robert Louis Stevenson (from New Poems and Variant Readings, 1918)
When loud by landslide streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows.
Straightway my olden heart returns
And dances with the dancing burns;
It sings with the sparrows;
To the rain and the (grimy) barrows
Sings my heart aloud–
To the silver-bellied cloud,
To the silver rainy arrows.
It bears the song of the skylark down,
And it hears the singing of the town;
And youth on the highways
And lovers in byways
Follows and sees:
And hearkens the songs of the leas
And sings the songs of the highways.
So when the earth is alive with gods,
And the lusty ploughman breaks the sod,
And the grass sings in the meadows,
And the flowers smile in the shadows,
Sits my heart at ease,
Hearing the song of the leas,
Singing the songs of the meadows.
Spring – Gerald Manley Hopkins (1918)
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.
Young Lambs – John Clare (Poems Chiefly from Manuscript, 1920)
The spring is coming by a many signs;
The trays are up, the hedges broken down,
That fenced the haystack, and the remnant shines
Like some old antique fragment weathered brown.
And where suns peep, in every sheltered place,
The little early buttercups unfold
A glittering star or two–till many trace
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.
And then a little lamb bolts up behind
The hill and wags his tail to meet the yoe,
And then another, sheltered from the wind,
Lies all his length as dead–and lets me go
Close bye and never stirs but baking lies,
With legs stretched out as though he could not rise.
Spring – Edna St. Vincent Millay (from Second April, 1921)
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Spring Morning – A. E. Housman (from Last Poems, 1922)
Star and coronal and bell
April underfoot renews,
And the hope of man as well
Flowers among the morning dews.
Now the old come out to look,
Winter past and winter pains,
How the sky in pool and brook
Glitters on the grassy plains.
Easily the gentle air
Wafts the turning season on;
Things to comfort them are there,
Though ’tis true the best are gone.
Easily the gentle air
Wafts the turning season on;
Things to comfort them are there,
Though ’tis true the best are gone.
Now the scorned unlucky lad
Rousing from his pillow gnaw
Mans his heart and deep and glad
Drinks the valiant air of dawn.
Half the night he longed to die,
Now are sown on hill and plain
Pleasures worth his while to try
Ere he longs to die again.
Blue the sky from east to west
Arches, and the world is wide,
Though the girl he loves the best
Rouses from another’s side.