A Light Exists in Spring

Claude Monet

Claude Monet, “Garden at Givenchy”

I’m a day late celebrating Earth Day but here’s a wonderful spring poem by Emily Dickinson. I love how she picks up on the magical lighting at this time of year—“It almost speaks to you”—and how she describes it passing away as horizons constrict and time moves on (“Noons report”). Perhaps the missing “Formula of sound” is bells tolling the death of the light’s passing.

In other words, she is describing an epiphanic moment, perhaps comparable to the holy moment of connection captured by Kenneth Grahame’s “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” in The Wind in the Willows (which I’ve written about here). For a short time the world is appareled in celestial light, to quote Wordsworth, and indeed the poem seems shot through with allusions to  “Intimations of Immortality.” Then summer encroaches like business upon a holy sacrament. So enjoy the season while you can. 

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

Follow-up note: Here’s the most relevant passage from “Intimations of Immortality”:

I hear, I hear, with joy I hear! —
But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream? 

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  • Barbara

    Thank you, Robin. I tend to forget how much I love Emily Dickinson. I wonder why that is? Something else to ponder when the semester ultimately ends!


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