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A Spring Bouquet of Poetry IV

In celebration of the first day of Spring.

Nine poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay.



New England Spring, 1942

The rush of rain against the glass
Is louder than my noisy mind
Crying, "Alas!"

The rain shouts: "Hear me, how I melt the ice that clamps
      the bent and frozen grass!
Winter cannot come twice
Even this year!
I break it up; I make it water the roots of spring!
I am the harsh beginning, poured in torrents down the hills,
And dripping from the trees and soaking, later,
      and when the wind is still,
Into the roots of flowers, which your eyes, incredulous,
      soon will suddenly find!
Comfort is almost here."

The sap goes up the maple; it drips fast
From the tapped maple into the tin pail
Through tubes of hollow elder; the pails brim;
Birds with scarlet throats and yellow bellies
      sip from the pail's rim.
Snow falls thick; it is sifted
Through cracks about windows and under doors;
It is drifted through hedges into country roads. It cannot last.
Winter is past.
It is hurling back at us boasts of no avail.

But Spring is wise. Pale and with gentle eyes,
      one day somewhat she advances;
The next, with a flurry of snow into flake-filled skies retreats
      before the heat in our eyes, and the thing designed
By the sick and longing mind in its lonely fancies—
The sally which would force her and take her.
And Spring is kind.
Should she come running headlong in a wind-whipped acre
Of daffodil skirts down the mountain into this dark valley
      we would go blind.



The Goose-Girl

Spring rides no horses down the hill,
But comes on foot, a goose-girl still.
And all the loveliest things there be
Come simply, so, it seems to me.
If ever I said, in grief or pride,
I tired of honest things, I lied;
And should be cursed forevermore
With Love in laces, like a whore,
And neighbours cold, and friends unsteady,
And Spring on horseback, like a lady!



Song of a Second April

April this year, not otherwise
   Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
   Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
   Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.

There rings a hammering all day,
   And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
   The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
   The men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.

The larger streams run still and deep,
   Noisy and swift the small brooks run;
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
   Go up the hillside in the sun,
   Pensively,—only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.



The Wood Road

If I were to walk this way
   Hand in hand with Grief,
I should mark that maple-spray
   Coming into leaf.
I should note how the old burrs
   Rot upon the ground.
Yes, though Grief should know me hers
   While the world goes round,
It could not in truth be said
   This was lost on me:
A rock-maple showing red,
   Burrs beneath a tree.



The Pear Tree

In the squalid, dirty dooryard,
   Where the chickens squawk and run,
White, incredible, the pear tree
   Stands apart, and takes the sun;

Mindful of the eyes upon it,
   Vain of its new holiness,—
Like the waste-man's little daughter
   In her First Communion dress.



Northern April

O mind, beset by music never for a moment quiet,—
The wind at the flue, the wind strumming the shutter;
The soft, antiphonal speech of the doubled brook,
      never for a moment quiet;
The rush of the rain against the glass,
      his voice in the eaves-gutter!

Where shall I lay you to sleep, and the robins be quiet?
Lay you to sleep—and the frogs be silent in the marsh?
Crashes the sleet from the bough and the bough sighs upward,
      never for a moment quiet.
April is upon us, pitiless and young and harsh.

O April, full of blood, full of breath, have pity upon us!
Pale, where the winter like a stone has been lifted away,
      we emerge like yellow grass.
Be for a moment quiet, buffet us not, have pity upon us,
Till the green come back into the vein,
      till the giddiness pass.



The Road to Avrillé

April again in Avrillé,
   And the brown lark in air.
And you and I a world apart,
   That walked together there.

The cuckoo spoke from out the wood,
   The lark from out the sky.
Embraced upon the highway stood,
   Lovesick you and I.

The rosy peasant left his bees,
   The carrier slowed his cart,
To shout us blithe obscenities
   And bless us from the heart,

Who long before the year was out,
   Under the autumn rain,
Far from the road to Avrillé,
   Parted with little pain.



Spring in the Garden

Ah, cannot the curled shoots of the larkspur
      that you loved so,
Cannot the spiny poppy that no winter kills
Instruct you how to return through the thawing ground
      and the thin snow
Into this April sun that is driving the mist between the hills?

A good friend to the monkshood in a time of need
You were, and the lupine's friend as well;
But I see the lupine lift the ground like a tough weed
And the earth over the monkshood swell,

And I fear that not a root in all this heaving sea
Of land, has nudged you where you lie, has found
Patience and time to direct you, numb and stupid
      as you still must be
From your first winter underground.



English Sparrows

(Washington Square)

How sweet the sound in the city an hour before sunrise,
When the park is empty and grey and the light clear and so lovely
I must sit on the floor before my open window for an hour
      with my arms on the sill
And my cheek on my arm, watching the spring sky's
Soft suffusion from the roofed horizon upward with palest rose,
Doting on the charming sight with eyes
Open, eyes closed;
Breathing with quiet pleasure the cool air cleansed by the night,
      lacking all will
To let such happiness go, nor thinking the least thing ill
In me for such indulgence, pleased with the day and with myself.
      How sweet
The noisy chirping of the urchin sparrows from crevice and shelf
Under my window, and from down there in the street,
Announcing the advance of the roaring competitive day
      with city bird-song.
A bumbling bus
Goes under the arch. A man bareheaded and alone
Walks to a bench and sits down.
He breathes the morning with me; his thoughts are his own.
Together we watch the first magnanimous
Rays of the sun on the tops of greening trees
      and on houses of red brick and of stone.



Collected Poems (1956), ed. Norma Millay, pp. 469f, 161, 80, 157, 399, 219, 217, 290, 323f.

See also these:

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Thu. 03/20/08 08:37:47 AM
Categorized as Literary.

   
         
         

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