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Monday, March 21, 2011

Celebrate the first day of spring with a favorite poem

“A little madness in the Spring,” Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Is wholesome even for the King.” Decades later, in “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost echoed the sentiment, “Spring is the mischief in me.” What better mischief to kick off the change in seasons than to share a favorite poem about spring?

“May-Day,” a thirty-five page paean to spring, opens Ralph Waldo Emerson’s second collection of poems. His close observations of nature lead to intimations of an underlying, transcendent, transformative power, as this excerpt demonstrates:
For thou, O Spring! canst renovate
All that high God did first create.
Be still his arm and architect,
Rebuild the ruin, mend defect; . . .
Not less renew the heart and brain,
Scatter the sloth, wash out the stain,
Make the aged eye sun-clear,
To parting soul bring grandeur near. . .
In city or in solitude,
Step by step, lifts bad to good,
Without halting, without rest,
Lifting Better up to Best;
Planting seeds of knowledge pure,
Through earth to ripen, through heaven endure.
Writing around the same time, Emily Dickinson’s experience of spring is more ethereal and foreboding, as these first four lines of her twenty-line meditation show:
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period—
When March is scarcely here
In the 1891–1892 edition of Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman delights in something as simple as discovering “The First Dandelion”:
Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass—innocent, golden,
     calm as the dawn,
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.
For Robert Frost, a sense of the fleeting nature of discoveries like Whitman’s prompts “A Prayer in Spring,” which begins:
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
The Poetry Foundation features links to a number of other splendid poems about spring. Won’t you share your favorite?

Related LOA works: Ralph Waldo Emerson: Collected Poems & Translations; Walt Whitman: Poems and Prose; American Religious Poems (includes “A Prayer in Spring”)


  1. I might be a couple weeks early, but I'll say "April" by Nathaniel Parker Willis. "The young /read nature like the manuscript of Heaven, /
    And call the flowers its poetry."


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