Thursday, April 8, 2010


It has been unexpectedly and gloriously warm and sunny for the past week, until early this morning when rain started and the wind blew in colder. The flowering that has begun will be arrested for a few days, forsythia flowers hanging on to provide a backdrop for redbuds and white pear trees, with a few more weeks until we see the pink of apple blossoms and the purples of lilacs.

As a person well past college age, I feel out of place when I stroll around the extravagantly blooming college campus amid students walking, running, playing frisbee, sitting on walls, lying in the grass together, baring their limbs to the sunlight for the first time since last fall. I feel like the speaker of Philip Larkin's poem Spring:

Green-shadowed people sit, or walk in rings,
Their children finger the awakened grass,
Calmly a cloud stands, calmly a bird sings,
And, flashing like a dangled looking-glass,
Sun lights the balls that bounce, the dogs that bark,
The branch-arrested mist of leaf, and me,
Threading my pursed-up way across the park,
An indigestible sterility.

Spring, of all seasons most gratuitous,
Is fold of untaught flower, is race of water,
Is earth's most multiple, excited daughter;

And those she has least use for see her best,
Their paths grown craven and circuitous,
Their visions mountain-clear, their needs immodest.

I love how he makes his "pursed-up way," as if his lips are pursed in disapproval, but then at the end he reveals that even though his paths have "grown craven and circuitous" and that he thinks he sees more than the young people cavorting in the grass are able to, his needs are "immodest." I think it's a poem about acting your age, and about how confining that can become. It's about being willing to learn from the young, and to appreciate--even imitate--their enthusiasm. (But not, you know, in such a publicly flesh-baring way because, well, "eeuw.")

It's a poem about looking around you to see new paths--about how sometimes, as Little Red Riding Hood observes in the musical Into the Woods, "the prettier the flower, the farther from the path."

Are you letting your attention be captured by anything new and lovely this spring?


lemming said...

My much beloved dog of mature years pretty much hibernated all winter, and I really feared that this was it. At his annual check-up (March) the vet said that, no, he was certainly an elderly gentleman, but by no means through. Sure enough, as the weather warmed up, he returned to herding squirrels and rolling in the grass. Knowing that this might be his last spring makes it all the more powerful.

Jenny said...

This spring I am loving the azaleas even more than usual. Such gorgeous flowers, and you only get them for a few weeks. I want to love them while they're here!

bermudaonion said...

We kind of went from winter to summer and the pollen has been horrific. We're finally getting a little rain to beat it down.

readersguide said...

I like this poem. I'm contemplating my life as something craven, clear-sighted and of immodest needs. Sounds about right, actually.

Jeanne said...

Lemming, that is new and lovely.

Jenny, I used to love the azaleas in my brother's Easter photos when he lived in Texas. We're almost too far north for them--rhododendrons grow better here (and they don't bloom until Memorial Day).

Kathy, I guess pollen is the dark side of spring.

ReadersGuide, I particularly love the word "craven," don't you?

Literary Feline said...

It sounds like you've been enjoying wonderful weather. It's warmed up here too, but cool enough to still enjoy a walk in the afternoon with the dog.

That's a lovely poem. Perfect for this time of year.