A selection of April poems, thoughts, reflection and hopes by my guest editor Anne Mofid
Photo: World Meteorological Organization
‘Heaven is my father and earth is my mother,
and I, a small child, find myself placed intimately between them.
What fills the universe I regard as my body;
what directs the universe I regard as my nature.
All people are my brothers and sisters; all things are my companions.’- Zhang Zai (1020–1077)
Dear GCGI Family,
After a long, hard winter, the sights, sounds and scents of spring will come as a welcome relief for many people. Furthermore, the return of the vernal equinox and the associated longer days, more light and warmer weather, as well as the Covid-19 vaccination in many parts of the world, comes a renewed sense of hope and optimism. As the Sun's centre passes over the equator, we are reminded that we are part of a great cosmic dance. That, as astronomer Carl Sagan put it, "we are all stardust".
“Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.” – Carl Sagan
Globally, we have endured a very challenging and disruptive year of pain, hurt, sorrow, death, and deep transformation. For many of us, the process of renewal has just begun. We are discovering the keys that will unlock the doors to inner peace, joy and hopefulness.
We are, once again, feeling the wonders for the mysterious gift of existence, life and its meaning and purpose. Moreover, in this tender and fragile moment in time, we are witnessing that the wheel of Life is turning, and it is Spring once again, all the more reason for hope to reimagine the better days, yet to come.
I was delighted when Kamran invited me to be his guest editor for His Poem of the Month for April. We need to discover ways to heal ourselves, heal each other and together bring this higher consciousness and transformative ways and paths to our everyday journey on this planet we call home. And, as Kamran had noted in the early days of the pandemic and the first lockdown, what better way to achieve this, than through poetry and poems.
Now I am very excited to share with you my chosen poems for April. Hope you will like them, as much as I do.
‘Poetry is the key which unlocks the gates of wisdom’
‘Reading poetry, solitude, silence and sanctuary: finding ourselves on pilgrimage of self-discovery’
My poem of the Month: Springing back in April with a Renewed Sense of Hope and Optimism
As the Irish poet, Billy Mills* writing about April has noted, ‘if March was the month of Mars, god of warfare, then this is the month of Venus, goddess of love and spring rebirth. Although the etymology of the word April is uncertain, given that it was dedicated to the Roman goddess of love the idea that it derives from Aphrodite is an appealing one. What is undoubtedly the case is that April is the month when spring has well and truly sprung.’
One of my favorite April poems is the one by Robert Browning: ‘‘Home-Thoughts, from Abroad’, when Browning casts himself in the role of the homesick traveler, longing for every detail of his beloved home. The poem describes a typical springtime scene in the English countryside, with birds singing and flowers blooming.
A beautiful spring day in the Cotswolds.- Photo: pinterest
‘Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!’
Another April Poem I very much like is Laurie Lee’s ‘April Rise’.
Slad Valley Stroud Gloucestershire Cotswold; Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
A source of inspiration for Laurie Lee’s poetry.- Photo: Alamy Stock/ Country Life
‘If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.
Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy green, and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud.
If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.
Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates,
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans.
Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.’
Moreover, April with its burst of light and warmth, in the beautiful words of Arthur Symons, in ‘ April Midnight’ is the poem of LOVE.
“Trafalgar Square by Moonlight” by Henry Pether, circa 1865
‘Side by side through the streets at midnight,
Through the tumultuous night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.
Roaming together under the gaslight,
Day’s work over,
How the Spring calls to us, here in the city,
Calls to the heart from the heart of a lover!
Cool the wind blows, fresh in our faces,
After the heat and the fumes and the footlights,
Where you dance and I watch your dancing.
Good it is to be here together,
Good to be roaming,
Even in London, even at midnight,
Lover-like in a lover’s gloaming.
You the dancer and I the dreamer,
Wandering lost in the night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.’
Another beautiful and favourite April poem which I very much like is ‘An April Day’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, when he notices, speaks and celebrates the beauty of nature in spring: the flowers, forests, saplings (baby trees); the morning and the evening; even the moon and stars. He closes by romantically asserting the everlasting nature of his love for this time of year.
An April Day
‘When the warm sun, that brings
Seed-time and harvest, has returned again,
'T is sweet to visit the still wood, where springs
The first flower of the plain.
I love the season well,
When forest glades are teeming with bright forms,
Nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell
The coming-on of storms.
From the earth's loosened mould
The sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives;
Though stricken to the heart with winter's cold,
The drooping tree revives.
The softly-warbled song
Comes from the pleasant woods, and colored wings
Glance quick in the bright sun, that moves along
The forest openings.
When the bright sunset fills
The silver woods with light, the green slope throws
Its shadows in the hollows of the hills,
And wide the upland glows.
And when the eve is born,
In the blue lake the sky, o'er-reaching far,
Is hollowed out and the moon dips her horn,
And twinkles many a star.
Inverted in the tide
Stand the gray rocks, and trembling shadows throw,
And the fair trees look over, side by side,
And see themselves below.
Sweet April! many a thought
Is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed;
Nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought,
Life's golden fruit is shed.’
And then, there is this lovely poem by William Wordsworth, ‘To Daisy’ Where he honours Daisy's humility, purity and innocence. Wordsworth, again and again, so brilliantly reminds us that the ‘Love of Nature Leads to Love of Humankind.’
To the Daisy
Daisy collection. Illustration by Phuong Tran
‘In youth from rock to rock I went,
From hill to hill in discontent
Of pleasure high and turbulent,
Most pleased when most uneasy;
But now my own delights I make, -
My thirst at every rill can slake,
And gladly Nature's love partake
Of Thee, sweet Daisy!
Thee Winter in the garland wears
That thinly decks his few grey hairs;
Spring parts the clouds with softest airs,
That she may sun thee;
Whole Summer-fields are thine by right;
And Autumn, melancholy wight!
Doth in thy crimson head delight
When rains are on thee…’-To the Daisy
And how can I not mention the beautiful and inspiring “Nothing is so beautiful as spring.” by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Thrushes' Nest by Fidelia Bridges
‘Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.’
Inevitably, any mention of April will, sooner or later, involve some reference to showers, rain and rain.
Here, Amelia Josephine Burr, in ‘Raining’ says it beautifully:
All night long;
Sometimes loud, sometimes soft,
Just like a song.
There'll be rivers in the gutters
And lakes along the street.
It will make our lazy kitty
Wash his little dirty feet.
The roses will wear diamonds
Like kings and queens at court;
But the pansies all get muddy
Because they are so short.
I'll sail my boat to-morrow
In wonderful new places,
But first I'll take my watering-pot
And wash the pansies' faces.’
And finally, I would very much like to conclude by recalling the beauty and the elegance of Sweet Peas, which alongside Daisy, is the flower month of my birthday, April.
Sweet Peas by Pierre-Joseph Redouté
For me, the sweet peas are the sweetest of flowers, which I grow them annually in our garden. They are truly a delicate pleasure, a feast for your eyes and nose, and a precious connection to loved ones everywhere.
Whilst pleasing my eyes with the delicate sweet pea painting above, I wondered if I could find a poem in praise of sweet peas to accompany it. And, I think I have. It is by Alfred Noyes, the English poet, short-story writer and playwright, which wrote ‘A Child’s Vision’:
‘Under the sweet-peas I stood
And drew deep breaths, they smelt so good.
Then, with strange enchanted eyes,
I saw them change to butterflies.
Higher than the skylark sings
I saw their fluttering crimson wings
Leave their garden-trellis bare
And fly into the upper air.
Standing in an elfin trance
Through the clouds I saw them glance….
Then I stretched my hands up high
And touched them in the distant sky.
At once the coloured wing came back
From wandering in the zodiac.
Under the sweet-peas I stood
And drew deep breaths. They smelt so good.’
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