As the morning frost gives way to sparkling dew, and squelchy mud is replaced with
proud, yellow daffodils, we start to feel the familiar happy tingle that spring is finally here.
But if the only poem that ever springs to mind in these sunny moments is ‘I Wandered
Lonely as a Cloud’ (aka ‘Daffodils’) by William Wordsworth, then please take this
opportunity to meet some more gorgeous poetry to make your spring even sweeter.
First though, as is traditional, here’s the opening of the great springtime behemoth (which,
rather shortsightedly, was never given an actual title, so please call it what you like):
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…
My personal favourite, though, is ‘Today’ by Billy Collins, a jubilant ramble which
celebrates the kind of glorious weather that lifts even the darkest of spirits. The whole
poem is just one sentence, the enjambment causing lines to trip over each other in
excitement to describe the type of spring day which,
made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb…
You all know those days. They’re the ones where office workers take their lunch outside
to the grass verge, and where Mrs Jones becomes the hero of the hour by telling the
class, “Come on then. Let’s read outdoors today.”
Sun-worshippers will also enjoy ‘Solar’ by Philip Larkin, an ode to the big ball of burning
gas we love so well. It’s also an excellent one for studying metaphor; why not try
rewriting the imagery-dense poem as an ode to the moon?
Suspended lion face
Spilling at the centre
Of an unfurnished sky
How still you stand,
And how unaided
Single stalkless flower
You pour unrecompensed…
It’s not all sunshine and buttercups, though. One of the most beloved poets of our time,
Seamus Heaney, writes of childhood loss of innocence, represented by his speaker’s
horror at the lifecycle of frogs in ‘Death of a Naturalist’.
Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst, into nimble
They begin as fun and fascinating springtime frogspawn, but mutate into grotesque,
burbling creatures which speak of sex and death and disease.
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran.
If that’s made you feel as queasy as Heaney’s speaker, don’t worry. John Clare has a
picture-perfect poem to get you back into the springtime spirit. ‘Young Lambs’ is full of
pretty flowers and cute lambs prancing around a verdant field.
And where suns peep, in every sheltered place,
The little early buttercups unfold
A glittering star or two–till many trace
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.
And then a little lamb bolts up behind
The hill and wags his tail to meet the yoe…
And finally, to come full circle, we have Gillian Clarke with her poem ‘Miracle on St David’s Day’, based on a moving — and true — experience. She writes, ‘I am reading poetry to the insane’, and she describes the power of poetry, nature and humanity intersecting.
We will finish here with an extract, and allow the labourer to have the last word:
A big, mild man is tenderly led
to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.
He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer’s voice recites The Daffodils.
The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients
seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect.
Outside the daffodils are still as wax,
a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables
unspoken, their creams and yellows still…
To view all these poems in full, follow the links below:
Becky Kleanthous is a freelance copywriter, poet and essayist. She is also a qualified English teacher of 11-18 year olds. She has a Master’s in Education (awarded with distinction), an English Language Bachelor’s degree and an English Literature and Creative Writing Bachelor’s degree. She has been an examiner for one of England’s leading exam boards, a private tutor, a Deputy Head of Year, a Gifted and Talented Coordinator, a TEFL teacher, and a mentor to trainee teachers. Becky has written extensively for educational sites such as Audiopi, University Compare and The Calculator Site, and she can be found at SheSellsSentences.com.