Poetry Sunday: The Progress of Spring

It seems that spring will be early this year. Indeed, it already shows signs of wending its way northward from our southern border. There are days when it appears to have already arrived here.

That great observer of Nature, Alfred Lord Tennyson, had a poem about that. Of course he did! Here it is.  

The Progress of Spring

   by Alfred Lord Tennyson

THE groundflame of the crocus breaks the mould, 
Fair Spring slides hither o'er the Southern sea, 
Wavers on her thin stem the snowdrop cold 
That trembles not to kisses of the bee: 
Come Spring, for now from all the dripping eaves 
The spear of ice has wept itself away, 
And hour by hour unfolding woodbine leaves 
O'er his uncertain shadow droops the day. 
She comes! The loosen'd rivulets run; 
The frost-bead melts upon her golden hair; 
Her mantle, slowly greening in the Sun, 
Now wraps her close, now arching leaves her bar 
To breaths of balmier air; 

Up leaps the lark, gone wild to welcome her, 
About her glance the tits, and shriek the jays, 
Before her skims the jubilant woodpecker, 
The linnet's bosom blushes at her gaze, 
While round her brows a woodland culver flits, 
Watching her large light eyes and gracious looks, 
And in her open palm a halcyon sits 
Patient--the secret splendour of the brooks. 
Come Spring! She comes on waste and wood, 
On farm and field: but enter also here, 
Diffuse thyself at will thro' all my blood, 
And, tho' thy violet sicken into sere, 
Lodge with me all the year! 

Once more a downy drift against the brakes, 
Self-darken'd in the sky, descending slow! 
But gladly see I thro' the wavering flakes 
Yon blanching apricot like snow in snow. 
These will thine eyes not brook in forest-paths, 
On their perpetual pine, nor round the beech; 
They fuse themselves to little spicy baths, 
Solved in the tender blushes of the peach; 
They lose themselves and die 
On that new life that gems the hawthorn line; 
Thy gay lent-lilies wave and put them by, 
And out once more in varnish'd glory shine 
Thy stars of celandine. 

She floats across the hamlet. Heaven lours, 
But in the tearful splendour of her smiles 
I see the slowl-thickening chestnut towers 
Fill out the spaces by the barren tiles. 
Now past her feet the swallow circling flies, 
A clamorous cuckoo stoops to meet her hand; 
Her light makes rainbows in my closing eyes, 
I hear a charm of song thro' all the land. 
Come, Spring! She comes, and Earth is glad 
To roll her North below thy deepening dome, 
But ere thy maiden birk be wholly clad, 
And these low bushes dip their twigs in foam, 
Make all true hearths thy home. 

Across my garden! and the thicket stirs, 
The fountain pulses high in sunnier jets, 
The blackcap warbles, and the turtle purrs, 
The starling claps his tiny castanets. 
Still round her forehead wheels the woodland dove, 
And scatters on her throat the sparks of dew, 
The kingcup fills her footprint, and above 
Broaden the glowing isles of vernal blue. 
Hail ample presence of a Queen, 
Bountiful, beautiful, apparell'd gay, 
Whose mantle, every shade of glancing green, 
Flies back in fragrant breezes to display 
A tunic white as May! 

She whispers, 'From the South I bring you balm, 
For on a tropic mountain was I born, 
While some dark dweller by the coco-palm 
Watch'd my far meadow zoned with airy morn; 
From under rose a muffled moan of floods; 
I sat beneath a solitude of snow; 
There no one came, the turf was fresh, the woods 
Plunged gulf on gulf thro' all their vales below 
I saw beyond their silent tops 
The steaming marshes of the scarlet cranes, 
The slant seas leaning oll the mangrove copse, 
And summer basking in the sultry plains 
About a land of canes; 

'Then from my vapour-girdle soaring forth 
I scaled the buoyant highway of the birds, 
And drank the dews and drizzle of the North, 
That I might mix with men, and hear their words 
On pathway'd plains; for--while my hand exults 
Within the bloodless heart of lowly flowers 
To work old laws of Love to fresh results, 
Thro' manifold effect of simple powers-- 
I too would teach the man 
Beyond the darker hour to see the bright, 
That his fresh life may close as it began, 
The still-fulfilling promise of a light 
Narrowing the bounds of night.' 

So wed thee with my soul, that I may mark 
The coming year's great good and varied ills, 
And new developments, whatever spark 
Be struck from out the clash of warring wills; 
Or whether, since our nature cannot rest, 
The smoke of war's volcano burst again 
From hoary deeps that belt the changeful West, 
Old Empires, dwellings of the kings of men; 
Or should those fail, that hold the helm, 
While the long day of knowledge grows and warms, 
And in the heart of this most ancient realm 
A hateful voice be utter'd, and alarms 
Sounding 'To arms! to arms!' 

A simpler, saner lesson might he learn 
Who reads thy gradual process, Holy Spring. 
Thy leaves possess the season in their turn, 
And in their time thy warblers rise on wing. 
How surely glidest thou from March to May, 
And changest, breathing it, the sullen wind, 
Thy scope of operation, day by day, 
Larger and fuller, like the human mind ' 
Thy warmths from bud to bud 
Accomplish that blind model in the seed, 
And men have hopes, which race the restless blood 
That after many changes may succeed 
Life, which is Life indeed. 


  1. Favorite line: "Diffuse thyself at will thro' all my blood"
    I felt the diffusion yesterday and spent hours cultivating the hardpacked winter soil around my shrubs. How great to get my hands in the dirt!

    1. I'm itching to get outside and work in the yard today. It really is a spring-like day here.

  2. Well done thank you for this

  3. I wish I could say that; winter has arrived more or less with a vengeance. We are having subzero temperatures in the Northeast this weekend.

    1. Nevertheless, spring is progressing toward you. If you look toward your southern horizon, you might even be able to see it!


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