March 19-25: Poems on Spring

On Choosing the Poems

Dickinson's Writing Desk
Dickinson’s Writing Desk

Dickinson was exquisitely attuned to the natural world, the changing of the seasons, and how they manifested themselves in her particular place. For example, in “The robin’s my criterion for tune”(F256A, 285), dated to 1862, the speaker locates herself in her regional geography, a specificity that “teaches” her how to see, understand, and “sing” about her world.  That is why the robin, so particularly identified with the coming of spring in the Northeast and the greening of the world, is her “criterion for tune.”

While this might limit the speaker to provinciality, it links her to “The Queen” (of England? who likewise sees the world through geographically tinted lenses) and defines and grounds her:

None but the Nut – October
fit –
Because – through dropping it,
The Seasons flit – I’m taught –
Without the Snow’s Tableau
Winter, were lie – to me –
Because I see – New Englandly –
The Queen, discerns like me –
Provincially –

Indeed, the robin is Dickinson’s symbol for the rebirth and blossoming of Spring, although this bird does not appear on St. Armand’s chart of Dickinson’s “mystic day,” discussed in this week’s post.

We could have focused our cluster of spring poems around the robin, and feature quite a few of those, but also include several others that expand on the symbolic meanings of spring. One of those could have been “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers”(F314B, J254) , which, though it never mentions spring, features a bird singing of the emotion associated with that season. In another poem, written much later in 1877, Dickinson captures this psychological state of “expectation” St. Armand links with spring. Though Dickinson was a matron of 47 when she wrote it, she manages to captures the erotic eagerness of a boy barely out of his teens.

March is the
Month of Expectation –
The Things we
do not know
We feel it by
the fluctuation
Are coming now

We try to show
becoming calmness
But +Awkward Joy                  + pompous [Joy] silly joy
Reports us
as his first
Betrays a Boy –

(F1422A, J1404)


Spring Daffodils at the Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, Boylston, MA
Spring Daffodils at the Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, Boylston, MA

Additional poems about spring written at other times: