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a cold spring by elizabeth bishop

May 16, 2009 at 11:27 pm

for Jane Dewey, Maryland

Nothing is so beautiful as spring. -Hopkins

violets-rs

A cold spring:
the violet was flawed on the lawn.
For two weeks or more the trees hesitated;
the little leaves waited,
carefully indicating their characteristics.
Finally a grave green dust
settled over your big and aimless hills.
One day, in a chill white blast of sunshine,
on the side of one a calf was born.
The mother stopped lowing
and took a long time eating the after-birth,
a wretched flag,
but the calf got up promptly
and seemed inclined to feel gay.

dogwood1

The next day
was much warmer.
Greenish-white dogwood infiltrated the wood,
each petal burned, apparently, by a cigarette-butt;
and the blurred redbud stood
beside it, motionless, but almost more
like movement than any placeable color.
Four deer practiced leaping over your fences.
The infant oak-leaves swung through the sober oak.
Song-sparrows were wound up for the summer,
and in the maple the complementary cardinal
cracked a whip, and the sleeper awoke,
stretching miles of green limbs from the south.
white_lilac

In his cap the lilacs whitened,
then one day they fell like snow.
Now, in the evening,
a new moon comes.
The hills grow softer. Tufts of long grass show
where each cow-flop lies.
The bull-frogs are sounding,
slack strings plucked by heavy thumbs.
Beneath the light, against your white front door,
the smallest moths, like Chinese fans,
flatten themselves, silver and silver-gilt
over pale yellow, orange, or gray.
Now, from the thick grass, the fireflies
begin to rise:
up, then down, then up again:
lit on the ascending flight,
drifting simultaneously to the same height,
–exactly like the bubbles in champagne.
–Later on they rise much higher.
And your shadowy pastures will be able to offer
these particular glowing tributes
every evening now throughout the summer.

grave_fireflies_bluebat

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May we cherish, and not despoil, the cup of loveliness entrusted to our hands for a space.  So may the green land be blessed, whose smoky highlands yield their mineral riches to the soil below, and whose surf-bound coast is protected by necklaces of sand.  Guard the peaceful Sounds; protect the forest mantle, the pliant ploughlands.

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MAY DAY, MAY QUEENS AND FESTIVALS AND WISHES

England celebrates May Day today, 1st May.  Related to the celtic festival of Beltaine, May Day is a celebration to mark the banishment of the cold, dark winter and to welcome in the summer.  It was a time when the cattle were turned out to their pastures.  Fertility was important, and the Beltaine celebrations were centered around blessing the earth and making offerings for a good harvest later in the year.  May Day was traditionally the day that saw renewal, rebirth, re-awakening and regrowth begin.

Villages all over England have their own May Day traditions, often built around maypole dances, Morris men, the crowning of a Queen of the May and the revels of the Green Man or Jack-in-the-Green, an ancient woodland spirit.  The tradition goes back to the 17th century.

Morris Dancing is common on May Day and in true English style, there are many different styles of dress and dancing.  They are broadly similar and since the 1970s have enjoyed a big revival all over the country. Forms of this type of folk dance can claim pre-Christian origins and may have developed as a means of ensuring fertility of the soil, crops and animals when the survival of whole communities depended on the fortune of the crops.  The ritual elements of its origins can still be seen in the dances today  the clockwise circle to represent the sun, crouching down, leaping in the air and banging sticks on the ground to encourage the crops to grow.  Handkerchiefs are waved, bells ring and sticks are clashed to ward off evil spirits.

Vassar College Plaiting the May Pole

May 1911  U. of Missouri

WATCH DANCE AND WEAVING: May Day Festival at Brideport Mountfield Green 2005

Many years ago, one Easter Sunday morning when my husband and I lived in Barboursville, W.Va., and had a small three year old son, a young neighbor girl of ours paid us a Sunday visit. She was dressed in a simple pastel dress, was wearing matching heels and short white gloves. She was also carrying her Bible and had just come from church.

She came by to wish us a happy Easter. She was warm and her intentions filled our life with her sweetness for a while on that Spring day. We were away from family and friends, having moved to a new home in a faraway place. We were touched and reassured by her gentle presence.

I have often wondered, if I could do my life over again, just what one thing would I change? My answer, and it always remains the same as I ponder the thought: I would learn to be more of a “lady.” To have more manners, to be more thoughtful, more serene, and polite.

I would enjoy even more the feminine things: dresses, babies, flowers, scents, giggles, and a lightness of being. I’d want to be softer and lighter, more serene and gracious than I am, like the young girl that Easter morning.

These days I enjoy seeing my granddaughters develop these traits in the encouraging presence of their mother.  She carefully does their nails and puts the matching bows in their hair. She has taught them to mind their manners and learn to share.  She speaks well of them and offers a gentle embrace. Today’s blog is to honor young ladies, their beauty, innocence and joy of life.

I pray that the world will become safer for them all.

THE MAY QUEEN by ALFRED LORD TENNYSON
 
You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,
And you’ll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side ’ill come from far away,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
The honeysuckle round the porch has woven its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;
And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the livelong day,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
All the valley, mother, ’ill be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale ’ill merrily glance and play,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
So you must wake and call me early, call me eary, mother dear,
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
To-morrow ’ill be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

Wreaths for the May! for happy Spring
To-day shall all her dowry bring, The love of kind, the joy, the grace,
Hymen of element and race,
Knowing well to celebrate
With song and hue and star and state,
With tender light and youthful cheer,
The spousals of the new-born year.

Spring is strong and virtuous,
Broad-sowing, cheerful, plenteous,
Quickening underneath the mould
Grains beyond the price of gold.
So deep and large her bounties are,
That one broad, long midsummer day
Shall to the planet overpay
The ravage of a year of war.

 
THE MAY QUEEN by ALFRED LORD TENNYSON
 
You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,
And you’ll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side ’ill come from far away,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
The honeysuckle round the porch has woven its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;
And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the livelong day,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
All the valley, mother, ’ill be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale ’ill merrily glance and play,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 
So you must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear,
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
To-morrow ’ill be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.
 

 

England – that glorious melting pot of history and culture – celebrates May Day today, 1st May. Related to the pagan festival of Beltaine, May Day is a celebration to mark the banishment of the cold, dark winter and to welcome in the summer. Fertility was important, and the Beltaine celebrations were centred around blessing the earth and making offerings for a good harvest later in the year. May Day was traditionally the day that saw renewal, rebirth, re-awakening and regrowth begin.

Villages all over England have their own local May Day traditions, often built around maypole dances, Morris men, the crowning of a Queen of the May and the revels of the Green Man or Jack-in-the-Green, an ancient woodland spirit.

Morris Dancing is common on May Day and in true English style, there are many different styles of dress and dancing.  They are broadly similar and since the 1970s have enjoyed a big revival all over the country. Forms of this type of folk dance can claim pre-Christian origins and may have developed as a means of ensuring fertility of the soil, crops and animals when the survival of whole communities depended on the fortune of the crops. The ritual elements of its origins can still be seen in the dances today  the clockwise circle to represent the sun, crouching down, leaping in the air and banging sticks on the ground to encourage the crops to grow. Handkerchiefs are waved, bells ring and sticks are clashed to ward off evil spirits.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory