May 1, 2012

Osgood: Can this be May?

For hundreds of years, many have celebrated the first of May as "May Day," an opportunity to celebrate the coming of summer. Massachusetts poet Fanny Osgood celebrated it in her poetry collection A Wreath of Wild Flowers from New England (published in London in 1838) in a poem titled "May Day in New England":

Can this be May? Can this be May?
We have not found a flower to-day!
We roamed the wood—we climbed the hill—
We rested by the rushing rill—
And lest they had forgot the day,
We told them it was May, dear May!
We called the sweet, wild blooms by name—
We shouted, and no answer came!
From smiling field, or solemn hill—
From rugged rock, or rushing rill—
We only bade the pretty pets
Just breathe from out their hiding-places;
We told the little, light coquettes
They need'nt show their bashful faces,—
"One sigh," we said, "one fragrant sigh,
We'll soon discover where you lie!"
The roguish things were still as death—
They would'nt even breathe a breath.
Alas! there's none so deaf, I fear,
As those who do not choose to hear!

We wandered to an open place,
And sought the sunny buttercup,
That, so delighted, in your face
Just like a pleasant smile looks up.
We peeped into a shady spot,
To find the blue " Forget-me-not!"
At last a far-off voice we heard,
A voice as of a fountain-fall,
That softer than a singing-bird,
Did answer to our merry call!
So wildly sweet the breezes brought
That tone in every pause of ours,
That we, delighted, fondly thought
It must be talking of the flowers!
We knew the violets loved to hide
The cool and lulling wave beside:—
With song, and laugh, and bounding feet,
And wild hair wandering on the wind,
We swift pursued the murmurs sweet;
But not a blossom could we find;—
The cowslip, crocus, columbine,
The violet, and the snow-drop fine,
The orchis 'neath the hawthorn tree,
The blue-bell and anemone,
The wild-rose, eglantine, and daisy,
Where are they all ?—they must be lazy!
Perhaps they're playing "Hide and seek"—
Oh, naughty flowers! why dont you speak?
We have not found a flower to-day,—
They surely cannot know 'tis May!

You have not found a flower to-day!—
What's that upon your cheek, I pray?
A blossom pure, and sweet, and wild,
And worth all Nature's blooming wealth;
Not all in vain your search, my child!—
You've found at least the rose of health!
The golden buttercup, you say,
That like a smile illumes the way,
Is nowhere to be seen to-day.
Fair child! upon that beaming face
A softer, lovelier smile I trace;
A treasure, as the sunshine bright,—
A glow of love and wild delight!
Then pine no more for Nature's toy—
You've found at least the flower of joy.
Yes! in a heart so young, and gay,
And kind as yours, 'tis always May!

For gentle feelings, love, are flowers
That bloom thro' life's most clouded hours!
Ah! cherish them, my happy child,
And check the weeds that wander wild;
And while their stainless wealth is given,
In incense sweet, to earth and heaven,
No longer will you need to say—
"Can this be May? Can this be May?"


  1. Makes Emily Dickinson seem even more amazing.

  2. Oh, dear... I hope that doesn't imply that you think Osgood is not a good poet!