Comparing two lovely pieces of spring poetry

My two favourite spring poems are, I believe, ‘To my sister’ by Wordsworth, and ‘Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere’ by Alfred Tennyson. My favourite parts of both are the first few verses;

 

‘It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,

Which seems a sense of joy to yield

To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.’

 

 

And,

 

Like souls that balance joy and pain,

With tears and smiles from heaven again

The maiden Spring upon the plain

Came in a sunlit fall of rain.

In crystal vapor everywhere

Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between,

And far, in forest-deeps unseen,

The topmost elm-tree gather’d green

From draughts of balmy air.

 

Sometimes the linnet piped his song;

Sometimes the throstle whistled strong;

Sometimes the sparhawk, wheel’d along,

Hush’d all the groves from fear of wrong;

By grassy capes with fuller sound

In curves the yellowing river ran,

And drooping chestnut-buds began

To spread into the perfect fan,

Above the teeming ground.’

 

There is, however a great different between these two lovely poems. Take the first few lines of each, for instance. Compare

 

‘It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door. ‘

 

 

With

 

‘Like souls that balance joy and pain,

With tears and smiles from heaven again

The maiden Spring upon the plain

Came in a sunlit fall of rain.’

 

The first has a simple, natural sound, it depicts the plain, unsophisticated charm of nature. It sounds fresh, pure, and real. The second is full of similes, metaphors, and sophisticated language, difficult to read and to understand, but intricate as carving in the gold of a palace wall, or as silken embroidered hangings. It has not nearly so fresh and pure a sound, therefore it is perhaps less suited to describing spring, which is naturally a pure and unsophisticated season. However, there is a charm also in the more sophisticated and difficult language of Tennyson; he finds a lovely description for everything, especially in the beautiful lines

 

‘In crystal vapor everywhere

Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between’

 

To Wordsworth it would seem that there was enough beauty in the sky as it really was without having to depict it as ‘blue isles of heaven’. He would probably think it gilding the lily to describe it in that manner. I think however that it is a lovely description, in a different way. Yet to single out another lovely line of spring poetry, Wordsworth this time,

‘To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.’

it does seem that the joyful simplicity of ‘To my sister,’ suits the season better.

 

Somebody comment and tell me which they prefer.

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5 thoughts on “Comparing two lovely pieces of spring poetry

  1. I like the Wordsworth better, I think, mostly for the reasons you mentioned about it being “natural, fresh, pure and real”, while still being “joyful”. I want to say it may sound more sincere in tone, but since it is so long since I have thought about poetry from a literary criticism point of view, I may be way off track!
    As you pointed out, the Tennyson has its merits, too, and while he uses more sophisticated language, his descriptions are beautiful.

    • Dear Grandma,
      Thank you for your very interesting comment.
      I think you are just right that it seems more sincere,
      and I think partly because of that it suits spring better.
      However, I do love some of Tennyson’s descriptions…….
      I think I’ll leave it to the commenters to choose which one’s better!

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