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March 12, 2014

Spring in Verse

Cherry blossom trees

Cherry blossom trees in bloom in spring around the Central Park Reservoir


From You I Have Been Absent In the Spring (Sonnet 98)

by William Shakespeare (1609)

From you have I been absent in the spring

When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,

Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,

That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.

Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell

Of different flowers in odour and in hue,

Could make me any summer’s story tell,

Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:

Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,

Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;

They were but sweet, but figures of delight,

Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.

Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,

As with your shadow I with these did play.



‘IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING’: From the 1945 film version of State Fair, Jeanne Crain as Margy Franke sings Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ (Ms. Crain’s vocal was dubbed by Louanne Hogan). A musical adaptation of the 1933 film of the same name (starring Will Rogers), it is the only Rodgers & Hammerstein musical written directly for film. ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ won an Academy Award for Best Song. In addition to Jeanne Crain, the movie stars Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, Fay Bainter and Charles Winninger and was directed by Walter Lang. It was remade again in 1962 with a cast headed by Pat Boone and Ann-Margret.


The Spring

by Thomas Carew (1640)

Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost

Her snow-white robes; and now no more the frost

Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream

Upon the silver lake or crystal stream:

But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,

And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth

To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree

The drowsy cuckoo and the humble-bee.

Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring,

In triumph to the world, the youthful spring:

The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array

Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.

Now all things smile: only my love doth lower,

Nor hath the scalding noon-day sun the power

To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold

Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.

The ox, which lately did for shelter fly

Into the stall, doth now securely lie

In open fields; and love no more is made

By the fire-side, but in the cooler shade

Amyntas now doth with his Chloris sleep

Under a sycamore, and all things keep

Time with the season: only she doth carry

June in her eyes, in her heart January.



‘SPRING’S IN THE AIR/THERE’S MAGIC EVERYWHERE’: Ruby & the Romantics, ‘When You’re Young and In Love’ (1964). Produced by Allen Stanton, A&R director, Kapp Records. The single was a top five hit in Honolulu, but reached only #48 on the mainland. A 1967 version by The Marvelettes peaked at #23 on the Billboard Singles Chart and #9 R&B. Clearly a victim of bad timing, Ruby & the Romantics’ superior version was released in September 1964, long after spring had fled.


To Spring

By William Blake (from Poetical Sketches, 1783)

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down

Through the clear windows of the morning, turn

Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,

Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell one another, and the listening

Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn’d

Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth

And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds

Kiss thy perfumèd garments; let us taste

Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls

Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour

Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put

Thy golden crown upon her languish’d head,

Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee.



‘SPRING,’ FROM ANTONIO VIVALDI’S THE FOUR SEASONS (Allegro, Largo, Allegro), Itzhak Perlman & the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (1985)


Lines Written in Early Spring

By William Wordsworth (1798)

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?




AUDIO CLIP: ‘SPRING,’ from THE AMERICAN SEASONS (SEASONS OF AN AMERICAN LIFE) for violin and orchestra, by Mark O’Connor, from his American Seasons album (2001), with the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, Scott Yoo, Conductor


A Little Madness in the Spring

By Emily Dickinson

(written c. 1875, first published in 1914)

A little madness in the Spring

Is wholesome even for the King,

But God be with the Clown —

Who ponders this tremendous scene —

This whole Experiment of Green —

As if it were his own!



‘LET’S SING A GAY LITTLE SPRING SONG,’ from the Walt Disney film Bambi (1942). Music by Frank Churchill, lyrics by Larry Morey.


On a Forenoon of Spring

by William Allingham

I’m glad I am alive, to see and feel

The full deliciousness of this bright day,

That’s like a heart with nothing to conceal;

The young leaves scarcely trembling; the blue-grey

Rimming the cloudless ether far away;

Brairds, hedges, shadows; mountains that reveal

Soft sapphire; this great floor of polished steel

Spread out amidst the landmarks of the bay.

I stoop in sunshine to our circling net

From the black gunwale; tend these milky kine

Up their rough path; sit by yon cottage-door

Plying the diligent thread; take wings and soar–

O hark how with the season’s laureate

Joy culminates in song! If such a song were mine!

William Allingham (1824 -1889) was an Irish poet. ‘On a Forenoon of Spring’ was first published in his book Day and Night Poems (1856, first printing; 2nd issue, 1860, as Day and Night Songs and The Music Master: A Love Poem)



‘SPRING, SPRING, SPRING’ from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Music by Gene de Paul, lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Directed by Stanley Donen. Sung by (in order) Caleb (Matt Mattox), Benjamin (Jeff Richards), Dorcas (Julie Newmar billed as Julie Newmeyer), Frank (Tommy Rall), Liza (Virginia Gibson), Ephraim (Jacques D’Amboise), Lisa, Gideon (Russ Tamblyn), Caleb and Ruth (Ruta Lee, billed as Ruta Kilmonis) with Daniel (Marc Platt) and Martha (Norma Doggett)


Spring Quiet

by Christina Rossetti (1846)

Gone were but the Winter,

Come were but the Spring,

I would go to a covert

Where the birds sing;

Where in the whitethorn

Singeth a thrush,

And a robin sings

In the holly-bush.

Full of fresh scents

Are the budding boughs

Arching high over

A cool green house:

Full of sweet scents,

And whispering air

Which sayeth softly:

“We spread no snare;

“Here dwell in safety,

Here dwell alone,

With a clear stream

And a mossy stone.

“Here the sun shineth

Most shadily;

Here is heard an echo

Of the far sea,

Though far off it be.”


There is a gentle movement in this poem, as if we are walking through a wood, looking at the birds singing, smelling the blossom, listening to the wind, coming to a stream, picking up a stone, and finally hearing the distant murmur of the sea. But we might not be walking, we might be in one place, the covert, which forms a natural house where all these things occur together. Or perhaps rather than walking through a wood, we are simply following the imagination of the poet as she creates a series of mental pictures that bring her some ease. For this journey through nature is being invented, not remembered.

Robert Graves has noted how precocity in poetry writing, almost unknown in men, is fairly common among women, but it is still remarkable that this mature composition should have been done by a girl of sixteen. After a robust childhood, Rossetti fell ill when she was fifteen, and was to have a long invalid existence, but even without this biographical snippet you can detect in the poem the ideas of convalescence and a future recovery. Winter is now, the bad time, and Spring the time to look forward to. The two voices in the poem, the poet’s own and Nature’s reply, are her desire for a better time and then what she wants to hear, a promise that the better time will come. Nature promises safety, a stream that can provide drink, a stone that might be pressed to a forehead, a place which is warm, but in the shade, and quiet. (The far off sea is quiet: the echo of it quieter still. 

The easy rhymes and loose grammar, with both modern and Elizabethan verb-endings, capture the mood of a new freedom. The extra final line, part of the sea’s echo, can also be the repeating wave-fall of the sea which the poet is finally left listening to. (



MENDELSSOHN’S SPRING SONG (1931) was produced by animator Cy Young as an independent film, using the studio set up at Audio Productions in New York. The film was made in Brewster color, an early two-color process similar to Cinecolor. Lillian Friedman, the first female animator at the Max Fleischer studio, said she did ink and paint on this, the first production she worked on.

Paul Terry also used the setup at Audio Productions in the early ‘30s–there appears to be some partnership with the studio. Cy Young was an animator at various silent studios in the late ‘20s, though it’s not clear what studio he started at. One of the other curios that has shown up as well is a short commercial he produced at Audio productions for Aetna insurance.

Notice that Young has spelled his name ‘Sy’ instead of ‘Cy.’ My guess is that it was to hide his Chinese heritage in a time where that would be less acceptable. Disney saw this short and hired Young to head the newly formed special effects department at Disney, so ‘Spring Song’ is noteworthy for several reasons, and a fun little film as a way it’s a New York Silly Symphony. –-Steve Stanchfield at Cartoon

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