Archive for the ‘May’ Category

May mornings wear
light cashmere shawls of quietness,
brush back waterfalls of
burnished silk from
clear and round brows.
When we see them approaching
over lawns, trailing
dewdark shadows and footprints,
we remember, ah
yes, the May mornings,
how could we have forgotten,
what solace
it would be in the bitter violence
of fire then ice again we
apprehend – but
it seems the May mornings
are a presence known
only as they pass
light stepped, seriously smiling, bearing
each a leaflined basket
of wakening flowers.

It is difficult to write an original poem about Spring or May or any of the cluster of associated topics.  The idea has been explored so many times through the ages.  Frankly, there’s only so many baby lambs gamboling across dewy fresh pastures that humanity can take.  Every apt description has become cliche, and the poem is trite before it is even begun.  For all this, sometimes someone comes along who is able to say something new and unexpected, something that makes you see this old subject with new eyes.  The work is even more delightful because it comes up to a challenge, adding that extra oomph that catches your attention and makes you say, “Ooooh, that’s nice!”  It’s like a seamstress who finishes all her seams beautifully on the inside.  The casual looker will never know, but the wearer, or perhaps the few who know how to recognize quality, will immediately be able to appreciate the craft and care that went into the garment.  This particular poem on May Mornings is like that.

The poem is also of particular interest to me because I consider myself something of a connoisseur of May mornings.  I was born in time to appreciate one some thirty plus years ago, and I have loved them ever since.  Reading this poem is like hearing a loved one praised.  It makes me happy.

The poem itself begins with personifying May mornings as women stepping quietly across wet grass.  However, the choice of specifying “light cashmere shawls”  and “waterfalls of burnished silk” bring in elements of softness, warmth, and luxury.  Already we see the richness of the burgeoning season and the hint of warmer days even as it is still necessary to wear a shawl.  The cashmere shawls are shawls “of quietness,” which introduces the idea of how peaceful and serene these women are as they pass.  Later in the poem Levertov calls them, “light-stepped.”  They have such a quiet, gentle coming that you don’t even remember their existence until you see them coming towards you.  This is heightened by contrasting it with the “bitter violence of fire then ice again” of the other seasons.  Other days are violent and bitter, but May mornings are quiet and cool and pass gently by.

This idea is reinforced by the last image.  The May morning women, as they walk, are carrying “basket(s) of wakening flowers” as they smile seriously.  This is not a frivolous skipping past, swinging a basket from which posies tumble helter-skelter, forgotten once they pass.  No, this is a serious business, and the flowers are precious.  It is important that they be carried carefully as they slowly waken from their winter slumber.  The May mornings hold them and tend them with due gravity, and the viewer is reassured and comforted by their presence.


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