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.
oh i love that poem, Liza. Thank you
You’re welcome, Gwen! So nice to hear from you. Hope you and Edmund are both safe and well. Xxx
we are! we are leaving NC for PA where we are going to be living in BA. We bought the old John Pennick house on Fettersmill Rd…next to the stone study…it is beautiful and Louise Eidse and Jency Latta are going to be living with us…
I have to pack…but am happy to be in touch.
Beautiful, Liza. You’ve captured the eerie quality of our weather and our time. Thank you.
Thank you, Nicie. I can’t think of a time when poetry has meant more to more of us.
Boy! This really does speak to our current reality!
I know, Susan. It’s haunting, isn’t it?
A breathtaking poem and, as you say so well, made for the moment. It so happens that we’ve just been tuned into the Shelter in Poetry program, the Academy of American Poet’s replacement program for the annual gathering. It was full of profound poems mean to capture elements of this strange passage we’re in. So many powerful reading. But particularly from the point of view of a birder, I don’t know that there was a more poignant one that these lines from Sara Teasdale.
Thanks, Anders. I thought last night’s virtual poetry benefit came off really well. Besides the remarkably moving poems and comments, there’s something very comforting about seeing inside so many interesting homes right now. Loved the woman padding back and forth in the background during Juan Felipe Herrara’s reading.
Sounds like peace is reigning in your home…even with all this going on around us all…hope you are well Liza. Edmund sends his best…he loves to tell tales of when your family and his family were kids and you vacationed together.<3
Thanks, Gwen. All the best with your move — and how lucky you are to have Louise and Jency as housemates!
Almost forgot to respond. Such a perfect, lovely, poem and not only for present times, but really for always.
Thank you for introducing it to me.
Thank you, Beata! The Berkshires this morning are like the final stanza of the poem — birds singing and spring awakening and not a human soul in sight!