Three-layer stained glass

Poetry springs forth

Although spring has sprung and northeastern Pennsylvania is beautiful with new life, the season is not yet in full bloom. We have more to anticipate. However we have already begun National Poetry Month, celebrated every April because poetry enriches our personal lives and culture. We have the Academy of American Poets to thank for inspiring us to intentionally read and write poetry this month, share poems with others, and honor poets who have left us their legacy and poets who walk among us.

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ legacy was not appreciated at the time of his death. Now we know his rhythm and imagery are masterful. One-hundred and twenty years ago, Hopkins wrote a sonnet to spring.

Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Stained glass pentaptych
Variations on an Anemone

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.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

[The Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1994)]

David Budbill still walks among New Englanders and is a poet from whom Garrison Keillor often reads on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. I found this poem of deep meaning and sweet humor in Keillor’s Good Poems (New York City: Viking, 2002).

The First Green of Spring by David Budbill

Abstract design stained glass panel
Now the Green Blade Rises

Out walking in the swamp picking cowslip, marsh marigold,
this sweet first green of spring. Now sauteed in a pan melting
to a deeper green than ever they were alive, this green, this life,

harbinger of things to come. Now we sit at the table munching
on this message from the dawn which says we and the world
are alive again today, and this is the world’s birthday. And

even though we know we are growing old, we are dying, we
will never be young again, we also know we’re still right here
now, today, and my oh my! don’t these greens taste good.

[from Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse, copyright 1999 by David Budbill]

Could we get through life without humor? without poetry? without beauty? Speaking of beauty, regarding the glass pictured on this page: The image at the top of the post is of “Tree Lines,” three panels which can be viewed side-by-side or, as here, through one another. Its spring-tint pastel colors create more colors as the viewer looks from different angles. The next image shows the center panels of “Variations on an Anemone,” a pentaptych named for a spring-blooming flower. It consists in five panels with identical lead lines but with colors (four hues of German mouth-blown glass) abstracted across the five panels. “Now the Green Blade Rises” took its title from an old hymn sung to the tune of a French carol. The verses are an Easter poem of faith, hope, and love.

Now the Green Blade Rises by John MacLeod Campbell
(Oxford Book of Carols, 1928)

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

It’s time to look out the window or walk out the door into spring. Remember to carry a poem in your pocket, especially on April 27, this year’s Poem In Your Pocket Day.

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