It’s the first week of spring, and actual signs of the season in floral form are really arriving in temperate zones, quite early in some places (thanks, global warming!).
We thought we’d celebrate the advent of the most poetic season with a mixed group of poems, some melancholy and dark, some joyful, and absolutely none of them “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” Wordsworth’s pleasant yet extremely overplayed ode to daffodils. Enjoy selections from some of Flavorwire’s favorite poets below, and enjoy the lengthening days!
SpringEdna St. Vincent Millay
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, April Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
After the WinterClaude McKay
Some day, when trees have shed their leaves And against the morning’s white The shivering birds beneath the eaves Have sheltered for the night, We’ll turn our faces southward, love, Toward the summer isle Where bamboos spire the shafted grove And wide-mouthed orchids smile.
And we will seek the quiet hill Where towers the cotton tree, And leaps the laughing crystal rill, And works the droning bee. And we will build a cottage there Beside an open glade, With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near, And ferns that never fade.
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’dWalt Whitman 1 When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d, And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring, Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west, And thought of him I love.
2 O powerful western fallen star! O shades of night—O moody, tearful night! O great star disappear’d—O the black murk that hides the star! O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul of me! O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.
3 In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings, Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green, With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love, With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard, With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green, A sprig with its flower I break.
Spring Pools Robert Frost
These pools that, though in forests, still reflect The total sky almost without defect, And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver, Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone, And yet not out by any brook or river, But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds To darken nature and be summer woods – Let them think twice before they use their powers To blot out and drink up and sweep away These flowery waters and these watery flowers From snow that melted only yesterday.
More Than Enough Marge Piercy
The first lily of June opens its red mouth. All over the sand road where we walk multiflora rose climbs trees cascading white or pink blossoms, simple, intense the scene drifting like colored mist.
The arrowhead is spreading its creamy clumps of flower and the blackberries are blooming in the thickets. Season of joy for the bee. The green will never again be so green, so purely and lushly
new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads into the wind. Rich fresh wine of June, we stagger into you smeared with pollen, overcome as the turtle laying her eggs in roadside sand.
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. 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.
Very Early SpringKatherine Mansfield
The fields are snowbound no longer; There are little blue lakes and flags of tenderest green. The snow has been caught up into the sky– So many white clouds–and the blue of the sky is cold. Now the sun walks in the forest, He touches the bows and stems with his golden fingers; They shiver, and wake from slumber. Over the barren branches he shakes his yellow curls. Yet is the forest full of the sound of tears…. A wind dances over the fields. Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter, Yet the little blue lakes tremble And the flags of tenderest green bend and quiver.
II. Loveliest of trees, the cherry nowA.E. Housman
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, 5 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, 10 About the woodlands I will go To see the cherry hung with snow.
From you have I been absent in the spring (Sonnet 98) William Shakespeare
From you have I been absent in the spring, When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim, Hath put a spirit of youth in everything, That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped 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 vermilion in the rose; They were but sweet, but figures of delight, Drawn after you, you pattern of all those. Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away, As with your shadow I with these did play.
Monadnock in Early SpringAmy Lowell
Cloud-topped and splendid, dominating all The little lesser hills which compass thee, Thou standest, bright with April’s buoyancy, Yet holding Winter in some shaded wall Of stern, steep rock; and startled by the call Of Spring, thy trees flush with expectancy And cast a cloud of crimson, silently, Above thy snowy crevices where fall Pale shrivelled oak leaves, while the snow beneath Melts at their phantom touch. Another year Is quick with import. Such each year has been. Unmoved thou watchest all, and all bequeath Some jewel to thy diadem of power, Thou pledge of greater majesty unseen.