To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
Winter relaxing its hold, has already allow’d us a foretaste of spring,
In the soft rose and pale gold of the declining light, I heard the first hum and preparation of awakening spring—very faint—whether in the earth or roots, or starting of insects, I know not—but it was audible,
Then the first chirping, almost singing, of a bird,
And the grass not without proofs of coming fulness—
Palpable spring indeed, or the indications of it.
Now I feel to choose the common soil for theme—naught else. The brown soil here, (just between winter-close and opening spring and vegetation)—a few white patches of snow left—the dead leaves, the incipient grass, already in shelter’d spots some little flowers.
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.
Spring-time is here!
And what is this in it and from it?
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific,
The arbutus under foot, the willow’s yellow-green, the blossoming plum and cherry.
Plenty of the birds hang around all or most of the season—now their love-time, and era of nest-building.
Almost every bird I notice has a special time in the year—sometimes limited to a few days—when it sings its best; and now is the period of the russet-backs, roulading in ways I never heard surpass’d.
There are three peculiarly characteristic spring songs—the meadow-lark’s, so sweet, so alert and remonstrating (as if he said, “don’t you see?” or, “can’t you understand?”)—the cheery, mellow, human tones of the robin—and the amorous whistle of the high-hole, flashing his golden wings.
With these the lark and thrush, singing their songs,
The sparrow with its simple notes,
Meanwhile, up and down the lane, the darting, droning, musical bumble-bees.
The melted snow of March, the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow’s pink-faint litter,
And the mare’s foal and the cow’s calf,
Such the scenes the annual play brings on.
Here, lilac, with a branch of pine,
Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage,
These I singing in spring collect for lovers,
(Collecting I traverse the garden the world,)
Frost-mellow’d berries and Third-month twigs offer’d fresh to young persons wandering out in the fields when the winter breaks up.
Put in April and May, the field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month,
Growing spring and farms and homes.
The ploughing and planting in spring,
The tough fallow and the plow-team, and the stout boy whistling to his horses for encouragement,
The dark fat earth in long slanting stripes upturn’d,
The whole family in the field, even the little girls and boys dropping seed in the hill,
Something swelling in humanity now, like the sap of the earth in spring.
Apple-tree blossoms in forward April,
The farmers’ fires in patches, burning the dry brush, turf, debris,
The gray smoke crawls along, flat to the ground, slanting, slowly rising, lucid and bright, its acrid smell welcomer than French perfume.
The Fourth-month eve at sundown,
One of the calm, pleasantly cool, exquisitely clear and cloudless, early spring nights—the atmosphere that rare vitreous blue-black.
O the sweetness of the Fifth-month morning upon the water as I row just before sunrise toward the buoys,
The hylas croaking in the ponds, the elastic air,
All the young growth and green maturity of May, white laurel-blossoms within reach.
May-month—month of swarming, singing, mating birds (and then my own birth-month,)
The bumble-bee month—they dart to and fro, large and vivacious and swift, conveying to me a new and pronounc’d sense of strength, beauty, vitality and movement,
The hairy wild-bee murmurs and hankers up and down, gripes the full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with amorous firm legs, takes his will of her, and holds himself tremulous and tight till he is satisfied;
Here I sit long and long, envelop’d in their perpetual rich mellow bumble-bee symphony.
Fifth-month flowers experienced, month of the flowering lilac.
In the dooryard stands the aspiring lilac-bush, tall-growing,
With profuse purple or white flowers,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
The lilac with mastering odor holds me.
Gathering these hints, the preludes, the blue sky, the grass, the morning drops of dew,
The lilac-scent, the bushes with dark green heart-shaped leaves,
Wood-violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence,
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere,
To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of lilac-time, returning in reminiscence:
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
When the lilac-scent was in the air and Fifth-month grass was growing,
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets peep’d from the ground,
Night and day journeys a coffin,
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave.
And from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break,
Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes.
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac—
Nor for you, for one alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring.
How can you be alive you growths of spring?
Are they not continually putting distemper’d corpses within you?
Yet behold! The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The new-born of animals appear—
The calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.
Give me of you O spring, before I close,
I with the spring waters laughing and skipping and running,
Again old heart so gay, again to you, your sense, the full flush spring returning,
Again the freshness and the odors.
Every spring will I now strike up additional songs—
Nor ever again forget, these tender days, the chants of death as well as life.