Friday, March 19, 2010

Poetry Friday: Spring

Spring appears to be on its way. Just when you think you can't survive one more gloomy day, the sun comes out and there are flowers and the color green reappears. I haven't gone through this in ten years, since I live in a tropical country when I'm not displaced by an earthquake. But I remember now how it feels, the way everything comes back to life.

I have to admit that the whole spring/rebirth/"now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer" metaphor sometimes seems a bit too easy. Part of me identifies with Edna St. Vincent Millay's take on the season.



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 the 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
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Yes, I know what I know. It's not winter in Haiti, but you can have beautiful weather and sunshine and still suffer abject misery. Soon it will be the summer of our discontent, the hurricane season of our discontent.

And yet, spring is still irresistible, even to me, with all my years of loving a seasonless tropical life. Look around! The flowers really are coming up. The dead brown really is turning green. Miracles really do happen. I can't help believing it.

So here's another take on spring, this one by Gerard Manley Hopkins, himself no stranger to grief and depression. Apparently spring was irresistible to him, too.



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.

"What is all this juice and all this joy?" "I know what I know." I'm holding both thoughts in my mind these days.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


Evelyn said...

Two of my favorite poems and poets! Millay hails from my home state. :)

I love Hopkins' way with language--"When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush"--such a pleasure to read.

Thanks for sharing these! I almost picked another GMH poem to share but figured I've been heavy on the spring poems the last few weeks.

Tricia said...

Wow, that Millay is kind of a downer. "Not only under ground are the brains of men//Eaten by maggots." Yikes! And even with repeated (and aloud) re-readings, I still don't quite get the last 4 1/2 lines of the Hopkins poem, but I think I understand his message.

We've been having wonderful weather for at least a week here in Michigan, but I know we're due at least 1 more snow storm and bout of cold weather. I have too many early April photos of iris peeking through snow to think winter is gone for good in my neighborhood...

Ruth said...

Yeah, it's a downer. That's the point! :-)

all things poetry said...

Hi Ruth,

I'm a GMH fan as well. I like both poems because they tell it "slant" like Dickinson asks the poet to do.

Laura Evans

Sherry said...

Please contribute a list of your 10 favorite poems to my poem survey. Read more about it here:

Mary Lee said...

What fabulous contrast in these two poems!