Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Edith Nesbit - Spring in War-Time

Now the sprinkled blackthorn snow
Lies along the lovers’ lane
Where last year we used to go—
Where we shall not go again.

In the hedge the buds are new,
By our wood the violets peer—
Just like last year’s violets, too,
But they have no scent this year.

Every bird has heart to sing
Of its nest, warmed by its breast;
We had heart to sing last spring,
But we never built our nest.

Presently red roses blown
Will make all the garden gay . . .
Not yet have the daisies grown
On your clay.

What is the poem about?
Like “Perhaps-”, the poem is about losing a lover and how nature will go on despite this loss, but things will never quite be the same.

·        Regular rhyme and rhythm – like “Perhaps-”, reflecting the passing seasons and how time never stops.
·        Again, the stanzas are divided into two – the first 2 lines describe the beauty in nature and are positive and the last 2 reflect back on the lost man and are more negative.

Spring is obviously a time of new life and growth, and so the setting of the poem is quite ironic – as war brings death and the end of things.
“blackthorn snow” refers to the blossom on blackthorn hedges – the “snow” suggests purity and something being cleansed, but also perhaps how cold the speaker feels now her lover has died – new life and joy will not come for her with spring, winter will live on. The alliteration in the next line (“Lies along the lovers’ lane”) slows the line down and makes it even more sad – the name “lovers’ lane” highlights how it is somewhere she has no place now, as her lover is dead. The repetition of “Where” shows us how things have changed for her – what she had last year and how that will not happen again: “Where we shall not go again” – the loss of the future she had expected.
The “newness” of spring is shown in stanza 2 (“the buds are new”). There is a sense of a shared past with the dead man (“our wood”) and the cyclical nature of nature (“Just like last year’s violets”) – but it is not the same without him – they “have no scent last year”. The speaker’s life has been made much worse from the loss of the man.
The third stanza refers to families, with the birds in their “nest”. The internal rhyme (rhyme within a line) of “nest” and “breast” highlights this focus on the family, as does the use of the word “warmed” – this family life is nicer than the cold image we got at the beginning of the poem. Again, we hear what life was like last spring, and again, that sense of a lost future, the family they planned, comes in the last line of that stanza.
The 4th stanza mentions “red roses” which could refer to blood and love. This is the movement from spring to summer as this is when roses blossom. Perhaps the ellipsis (...) is her chance to reflect as she then moves to think about his “clay” (i.e. where he is buried in France) – perhaps wondering how time can have moved on when he is dead? Notice also that that it is now “your” clay – as opposed to “our wood” from earlier – she is making it very clear that he has gone where she cannot follow.
“Not yet have the daisies grown” – think of the phrase “pushing up the daisies” meaning dead. “clay” sounds unpleasant and emphasises the hideous death.

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