Where new writing finds its voice
The List

‘When daisies pied, and violets blue …’

Felicity Cloake

Writers With a Spring in Their Step

  1. ‘One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have leisure and opportunity to see the Spring come in. The ice in the pond at length begins to be honeycombed, and I can set my heel in it as I walk. Fogs and rains and warmer suns are gradually melting the snow; the days have grown sensibly longer; and I see how I shall get through the winter without adding to my woodpile, for large fires are no longer necessary. I am on the alert for the first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving bird, or the striped squirrel’s chirp, for his stores must be now nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck venture out of his winter quarters.’

    – Henry Thoreau, from Walden

  2. ‘Temple bells die out.
    The fragrant blossoms remain.
    A perfect evening!’

    – Matsuo Basho

  3. ‘Nothing is so beautiful as spring –
    When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
    Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
    Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
    The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
    The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
    The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
    With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.’

    – Gerard Manley Hopkins, from ‘Spring’

  4. ‘On a lovely spring morning in the year 1829, a man of fifty or thereabouts was wending his way on horseback along the mountain road that leads to a large village near the Grande Chartreuse … The melting of the snows had filled the boulder-strewn bed of the torrent (often dry) that flows through this valley … The trees, with their different kinds of foliage, rise up straight and tall, fantastically coloured by patches of lichen, forming magnificent colonnades, with a line of straggling hedgerow of guelder rose, briar rose, box and arbutus above and below the roadway at their feet. The subtle perfume of this undergrowth was mingled just then with scents from the wild mountain region and with the aromatic fragrance of young larch shoots, budding poplars, and resinous pines. Here and there a wreath of mist about the heights sometimes hid and sometimes gave glimpses of the grey crags, that seemed as dim and vague as the soft flecks of cloud dispersed among them. The whole face of the country changed every moment with the changing light in the sky; the hues of the mountains, the soft shades of their lower slopes, the very shape of the valleys seemed to vary continually. A ray of sunlight through the tree-stems, a clear space made by nature in the woods, or a landslip here and there, coming as a surprise to make a contrast in the foreground, made up an endless series of pictures delightful to see amid the silence, at the time of year when all things grow young, and when the sun fills a cloudless heaven with a blaze of light.’

    – Honoré de Balzac, from ‘The Country Doctor’

  5. ‘Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled
    By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge,
    For though the summer oozed into their veins
    Like the injected drug for their bones’ pains,
    Sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass,
    Fearfully flashed the sky’s mysterious glass.

    Hour after hour they ponder the warm field –
    And the far valley behind, where the buttercups
    Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up,
    Where even the little brambles would not yield,
    But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing hands;
    They breathe like trees unstirred.’

    – Wilfred Owen, from ‘Spring Offensive’

  6. ‘Here it is spring again 
    and I still a young man! 
    I am late at my singing. 
    The sparrow with the black rain on his breast 
    has been at his cadenzas for two weeks past:
    What is it that is dragging at my heart? 
    The grass by the back door 
    is stiff with sap. 
    The old maples are opening 
    their branches of brown and yellow moth-flowers. 
    A moon hangs in the blue 
    in the early afternoons over the marshes. 
    I am late at my singing.’

    – William Carlos Williams, ‘The Late Singer’