March 26, 2012

Cranch: This is Spring

Though born in Virginia, and having spent the majority of his life in Massachusetts, Christopher Pearse Cranch had been living on Staten Island in New York for about ten years when he wrote "A Spring-Growl" on March 26, 1873:

Would you think it? Spring is come.
Winter's paid his passage home;
Packed his ice-box, — gone — half-way
To the Arctic Pole, they say.
But I know the old ruffian still
Skulks about from hill to hill,
Where his freezing footprints cling,
      Though 'tis Spring?

Heed not what the poets sing
In their rhymes about the Spring.
Spring was once a potent queen,
Robed in blossoms and in green.
That, I think, was long ago.
Is she buried in the snow,
Deaf to all our carolling, —
      Poor old Spring?

Windows rattling in the night;
Shutters that you thought were tight
Slamming back against the wall;
Ghosts of burglars in the hall;
Soaring winds and groaning trees;
Chimneys shuddering in the breeze;
Doleful dumps in everything,—
      Such is Spring.

Sunshine trying hard awhile
On the bare brown fields to smile;
Frozen ruts and slippery walks;
Gray old crops of last year's stalks;
Shivering hens and moping cows;
Curdled sap in leafless boughs
Nipped by Winter's icy sting, —
      Such is Spring.

Yet the other day I heard
Something that I thought a bird.
He was brave to come so soon;
But his pipes were out of tune,
And he chirped as if each note
Came from flannels round his throat,
And he had no heart to sing, —
      Ah, poor thing!

If there comes a little thaw,
Still the air is chill and raw.
Here and there a patch of snow,
Dirtier than the ground below,
Dribbles down a marshy flood;
Ankle-deep you stick in mud
In the meadows, — while you sing,
      "This is Spring."

Are there violets in the sod,
Crocuses beneath the clod?
When will Boreas give us peace?
Or has Winter signed a lease
For another month of frost,
Leaving Spring to pay the cost?
For it seems he still is king,
      Though 'tis Spring.

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