It’s been a long slow wet spring in the Berkshires. Temperatures struggle to get out of the 50s by day and sink into frost territory overnight. We’re still waking up to a dusting of snow some mornings. It feels as though we’re stuck in Ground Hog Day and will keep rebooting this unremarkable moment in mid-February forever. Though there is some comfort in the predictable rhythm of repetition right now, the sense of time passing homogeneously within the same four walls for the most part, between the same two people, protected from the jarring dissonance of change.
The work of Sara Teasdale, one of my earliest poetic crushes, has the same sort of lulling, unsurprising effect. Though she was famous in her time and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1918 for her collection Love Songs, she’s largely forgotten now. It was an illustrated reissue of Love Songs, falling into my hands at a very impressionable age, that first made poetry seem so vital to me. Like many others, I eventually came to view her as a lightweight, hopelessly romantic and dated. But then, I recently came upon this poem, written during the First World War, which speaks so directly to the current moment that it took my breath away.
There Will Come Soft Rains
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.