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April: Cruel or "Proud-pied"?

Ten great lines to greet spring!
March 16, 2017

Statue of John S. Pillsbury, father of the University, with lilacs

Statue of John S. Pillsbury, father of the University, with lilacs
Statue of John S. Pillsbury, "father of the University" and benefactor of Pillsbury Hall

Spring brings hope of renewal, of new life from winter's barren ground, an exultation recorded by many a poet. (For Minnesotans, the joy may be mixed with the kind of revengeful relief that drives A. A. Milne's "Daffodowndilly": "[She] shook her yellow head, / And whispered to her neighbor: / 'Winter is dead.'") As in T. S. Eliot's famous lines, though, many writers have greeted spring with more ambivalence. We offer a bit of both celebration and doubt below. (Have a favorite we missed? Email sutt0063@umn.edu and we'll post it on our Facebook and Twitter accounts March 20-24.)

1. "When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim / Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing" — William Shakespeare, from "Sonnet 98"

2. "The Sun—just touched the Morning— / The Morning—Happy thing— / Supposed that He had come to dwell— / And Life would be all Spring" — Emily Dickinson, from "The Sunjust touched the Morning"

3. "What a strange thing! / to be alive / beneath cherry blossoms" — Kobayashi Issa, "What a Strange Thing"

4. "O were my Love yon lilac fair, / Wi' purple blossoms to the spring, / And I a bird to shelter there, / When wearied on my little wing" — Robert Burns, from "O Were My Love Yon Lilac fair"

5. "A cold spring: / the violet was flawed on the lawn" — Elizabeth Bishop, from "A Cold Spring"

6. "And trees put forth new leaves to sing / In joy beneath the sky / As down the roadway / Passing boys and girls / Go singing, too" — Langston Hughes, "In Time of Silver Rain" [for Lorraine Hansberry]

7. "Spring is umbilical or else it is not spring" — Wallace Stevens, from "Holiday in Reality"

8. "She walks among the loveliness she made, / Between the apple-blossom and the water— / She walks among the patterned pied brocade, / Each flower her son, and every tree her daughter" — Vita Sackville-West, from "The Island"

9. "It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, / April / Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers" — Edna St. Vincent Millay, from "Spring"

10. "And smale fowles maken melodye, / That slepen al the night with open ye, / (So priketh hem nature in hir corages: / Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages" — Geoffrey Chaucer, from "The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales"