There is something about spring that just feels like poetry. Maybe that’s why April was chosen for National Poetry month.
As I walked around my neighborhood this week, I saw the budding trees and the flowers inching up out of the ground, replacing browns and dusty yellows with vibrant golds and pinks. It just makes you want to wax poetic about the beauty of the world. I’m lucky to live in a place like Northern Virginia, where I get to experience the full glory of Spring.
However, as beautiful as Spring is with its pops colors and fresh fragrance beckoning for rebirth, I struggle to immerse myself in its wonder when there is so much still cold and harsh in the world.
How can I really enjoy this…
…When there are headlines and images of indiscriminate hatred like this in the world:
- Chemical attack kills dozens in northern Syria
- Man charged with killing Indian said to have shouted ‘go back to your country’
- Thousands across the country mourn six killed in Quebec City mosque
- St. Petersburg metro explosion: At least 11 dead in Russia blast
Given I’ve been wandering around feeling this way, when I came up on this poem written in April 1798 by William Wordsworth (could there be a better name for a poet?) during a recent flurry of poetry reading thanks to National Poetry Month, I had to stop and read it several times.
The more I read it, the more it burrowed into my soul. This is how I feel as I’m walking through life in my quiet neighborhood.
Lines Written in Early Spring
by William Wordsworth
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
Only poetry can do this – eternally capture a state of being.
This poem describes my internal conflict, even though it was written over 200 years ago. There is something comforting in the idea that our human emotions and responses are eternal, lasting across centuries of Springs, as if they’ve been captured in a bottle and preserved forever.
There is something heart-wrenching in that idea also. We are in a constant loop, budding, growing, withering, dying, never seeming to learn how to cultivate the ability to care as much about each other as we do about ourselves.
I hope someday Wordsworth’s words won’t resonate with me as much. But this Spring, they do. I doubt by next Spring I’ll feel much differently. Still, I have hope one future Spring I will no longer have to lament what man has made of man.