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.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins: “Spring,” Poems and Prose [Penguin Classics, 1985])
Actually, it’s something I should welcome, a kind of herald, if you will, of spring’s approach and our soon deliverance from winter’s long night.
I do love its entrance. For one thing, there’s the pleasure of working outside again, hoeing away winter’s scattered debris. They say we’re having temperatures in the high fifties here in Kentucky this weekend and already, in excited revery, I’m planning my priorities for making the weekend count, beginning with haircuts for the shrubbery, a few dead tree limbs to trim, and mulching the rose bed into weedless blackness.
I notice the box stores and gas stations are getting ready, too, witness the potted pansies peeking over their rims that I saw at Walmart today and the high piled bags of mulch when I pulled in for gas this morning.
As a former student and teacher of myth, I can understand the archetypal reverence for this season, mirrored in story, music, and dance celebrating regeneration, or earth’s greening. And there’s that beautiful story the Greeks loved to tell of Persephone’s return from the Underworld in consort with every spring, rekindling a dormant landscape into verdant tapestry. Spring is Easter and Passover, celebrations of passage from death and bondage to new life and future hope. Universally, the egg is its symbol.
But I’m also cognizant that spring isn’t always kind and sometimes lashes its way into entrance, forsaking sweet whisperings redolent of incipient blessedness. In Kentucky, for example, it brings not only the Kentucky Derby, but tornado sirens and, on occasion, flooding, reminding us of the delicate weave of life and death, sorrow and joy that has always defined our destiny.
Alas, we ourselves have been playing havoc with that balance, unwittingly triggering with our technology, fossil fuel dependence, and ravaging of our resources, whether of mineral, plant or animal, our own demise. As in T. S. Eliot’s magnificent Wasteland poem, we have springs more often associated with too little rain, or hot summers arriving too soon, suggesting spring’s own waning in the growing menace of global warming. Our earth weeps to be delivered, but there are no saviors among us to redeem and restore.
But then there are those momentary lulls when Equinox hovers in a topography of gentle wind and earth rages with the fever of life and healing and languorous days of apple and cherry blossom, lilacs, tulips, hyacinths and daffodils and we dream not of a distant heaven, but bathe in a heaven brought down to earth in renewal of Edenic splendor.
Would that this could always be. In the meantime, pile up the nows of halcyon days that sew warmth and bloom and hope.