Spring is in the Air: Writers on the Beauty (and Sadness) of Spring

Spring is in the Air: Writers on the Beauty (and Sadness) of Spring

To celebrate the coming of spring (and the end of what seems like the worst winter in human history), we’ve gathered up quotes by poets, novelists, and journalists that capture the complex emotions and sensations stirred by the season.

“Spring has come again. The Earth / is like a child that knows poems by heart.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who wrote extensively on the value of youthfulness, likens spring to a child in this poem from the Sonnets to Orpheus.

“Sweete April showers, / Doc spring Male flowers.” — Thomas Tusser

This famous quote about spring–most often paraphrased as “April showers bring May flowers”–originally comes from 16th century English poet and farmer Thomas Tusser, who wrote a famous instructional poem called Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry. You can read the full text of the poem here; the quote can be found in Chapter 38.

“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring, and look up at the hectic trees. Amid the smashing and crashing and terrible silences, the trees are in blossom, and it’s soft and warm and bright. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” — Anne Lamott

In her novels and nonfiction books, Anne Lamott has continually advanced the idea that life’s splendors are indivisible from its frustrations and pain points. This quote, from her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, examines, through the lens of climate, the wayis in which fear, anxiety, and uncertainty can act as wellsprings of hope and joy.

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” — Harriet Ann Jacobs

This quote from Jacobs’ autobiographical work, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, demonstrates the ceaseless optimism the writer was able to maintain, even within the confines of slavery.

“O, Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

Another widely circulated quote about spring comes from 19th-century English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ode to the West Wind.” The poem was published in 1820, just two years before Shelley died at the age of 29.

“I want to do to with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” — Pablo Neruda

In a typically ravishing line from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, spring takes on the role of seducer. Find this poem, and other blush-making verses, in his collection, Twenty Love Poems and Songs of Despair.

“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” — Ellis Peters

This quote by historical fiction author Ellis Peters (a nom de plume for Edith Pargeter) captures the way in which spring, despite being an annual phenomenon, feels brand-new each year.

“If those who are enemies of innocent amusements had the direction of the world, they would take away the spring, and youth, the former from the year, the latter from human life.”— Honore de Balzac

The French writer’s quote articulates a familiar association between spring and innocence.

“Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.” — Kenneth Grahame

This quote appears on the first page of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, a classic children’s novel about a group of animals living in pastoral England.

“Early spring is the time for vigorous change, a preparation for the heat-driven oppression to come.” — Henry Rollins

This quote comes from an LA Weekly essay Rollins wrote about the process of aging. Another great line: “In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move.”

“I might have missed my calling as an editor. In the spring, the sight of my empty garden beds gives me the horticultural equivalent of writer’s block: So much space! So many plants to choose among, and yet none of them seem quite right!” — Susan Orlean

This characteristically playful quote comes from a New Yorker essay Orlean wrote about gardening. For more of Orlean’s thoughts on horticulture, look to her book, The Orchid Thief, which inspired the Charlie Kaufman film Adaptation.

“In California in the early Spring, / There are pale yellow mornings, when the mist burns slowly into day, / The air stings like Autumn, clarifies like pain — Well, I have dreamed this coast myself.”Robert Hass

These lines from Robert Hass’ poem “Palo Alto: The Marshes” capture the sometimes paradoxical sensations stirred by the changing of the seasons.

“Life in itself / Is nothing, / An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs. / It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, / April / Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay, known for her ability to render existential dread with graceful imagery and language, focuses on spring’s more melancholic aspects.

“When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d / And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, / I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.”Walt Whitman

These elegiac lines, written shortly after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, blend images of spring with mourning.

“I heard a thousand blended notes, / While in a grove I sate reclined, / In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts / Bring sad thoughts to mind.”William Wordsworth

This gorgeous quatrain opens Wordsworth’s famous poem, “Lines Written in Early Spring.” The 19th-century British poet, known for his magnum opus The Prelude, drew inspiration from England’s countryside, specifically the pastoral Lake District in the northwest region of the country.

 

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