Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring, Sprang, Sprung: The Jesuit asks "What is all this juice and this joy?"

The 2011 verbal* [sic] equinox was yesterday, March 20. “An equinox occurs twice a year, in March and September, when the center of the Sun crosses directly over the Earth's equator, as the Earth is tilted neither away nor toward the Sun.”

The poets have honored this season with their best. I love the phrasing of their thoughts. Rilke offers the very definition of spring: "Harshness vanished." Here's a sprinkling of some of the most famous lines about the season.

A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring
In contrast with the things that sing
Emily Dickinson


I cannot meet the Spring unmoved --
I feel the old desire --
A Hurry with a lingering, mixed,
A Warrant to be fair --
Emily Dickinson

Spring is the Period
Express from God.
Among the other seasons
Himself abide,

But during March and April
None stir abroad
Without a cordial interview
With God.
Emily Dickinson
Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
(snip)
What is all this juice and all this joy?
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Early Spring
Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.
Rainer Maria Rilke

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven—
All's right with the world!
Robert Browning

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
Tennyson Locksley Hall


If Winter’s comes, can Spring be far behind?
Lord Byron, Ode to the West Wind, 1819 Florence
(I happened upon the plaque in Florence near the train station that commemorates the site where Byron lived when wrote this important poem. It’s up quite high and it was a fluke that it caught my eye. A classic cheap thrill.)

Spring, when the dead earth stirs to life. We each experience many personal springs, when our body and/or soul comes back to life after an illness, or a depression, or a failed love. That’s why the poets feel such an affinity to this season, and we are each blessed by its restorative power.

*A typo that I quite enjoyed.

2 comments:

RC said...

I love Gerard Manley Hopkins! I memorized his great poem Pied Beauty in college, and generally find him underappreciated.

Fun typo :-)

M.A.Peel said...

RC, thanks for mentioning the great dappledness. I haven't thought about that poem for years and I just reread it. Great way to start the day.