If you’ve never lived here, the winters in Boston can get pretty unbearable. This past season has been almost shockingly mild (much to the dismay of people like my dad who plow snow for extra cash), but throughout my childhood growing up in this area, there have been some winters for the books (literally; in the winter of 1995 it snowed 107 inches). I remember when the heat would go out and my family would all pile into the room with the fireplace, hanging blankets over the doors to keep the heat in. When we ran out of fuel, we would have to venture out into the blizzard, shoveling a path to the woodpile; my mom would turn it into a game of Little House on the Prairie (in which she was Pa, for some reason).
I mention these cruel winters of yesteryear, because there’s one thing about winter in Boston that makes it all worth it: that first day of spring. Which this past winter robbed us of by throwing us 70 degree days in February. At the time I didn’t mind, but now that I think about it, I’m kind of disappointed we missed that first, significant day of warmth, made so much sweeter after a long winter. Everyone emerges from their dens, bleary-eyed, venturing forth onto the Boston Common, some even daring to take their shoes off and wiggle their toes in the new grass just because it’s felt like so long. And when you see the hundreds of other people lounging on the Common, with their dogs and Frisbees and happy toddlers running around, there’s such a feeling of comraderie. We made it through another one, guys. We earned this.
Everyone is revived by spring, and artists in particular have been inspired by it for as long as there has been art. Even moreso in the past, when everyone relied more heavily on the land and the seasons, spring has always meant the return of life and rebirth. I think poetry is one of the best mediums to capture the spirit of spring, because something about the (relatively, I’ve read Paradise Lost) concise form forces the writer to encompass all the emotions of spring in a short burst, which is sort of the essence of spring; it’s here and then it’s gone, turned into the long, hot, hazy days of summer.
Some poets do this better than others, however.
Spring, the Sweet Spring
by Thomas NasheSpring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!The palm and may make country houses gay,Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,In every street these tunes our ears do greet:Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!
Spring is like a perhaps handby e.e. cummingsSpring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)andchanging everything carefully
spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
and fro moving New and
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and
without breaking anything.