By chance, I encountered the poem “Thorn Leaves in March” by W.S. Merwin (1956, Poetry magazine) a day ago and felt levels of resonance such as poems can evoke. The powerfully “clear expression of mixed feelings”–thank you again, W.H. Auden–converges with seasonal details in this early Merwin piece and merges, completely by happenstance, with events in my current life.
Walking out in the late March midnight
With the old blind bitch on her bedtime errand
Of ease stumbling beside me, I saw
At the hill’s edge, by the blue flooding
Of the arc lamps, and the moon’s suffused presence…
My elderly dog stumbles beside me on these late-winter nights; I do not think she will see another full-blooming spring. Resonance.
“As a white lamb the month’s entrance had been…” Well, that has certainly been true of this year’s weather. And the lamb allusion makes me think not just of the old saying about March but about my daughter, who is spending this month’s last two weeks working among ewes on a farm in Scotland as lambing season progresses.
Merwin’s speaker refutes the aphorism; his March comes in like a lamb because it is white, and goes out in white, as well:
…as a lamb, I could see now, it would go,
Breathless, into its own ghostliness,
Taking with it more than its tepid moon.
The lion, he claims, is “The beast of gold, and sought as an answer,/Whose pure sign no solution is.” No lion in this quiet, late-winter/cusp-of-spring snowfall–the light is silvery, the budding leaves of the thorn trees translucent and cold. The speaker stands beneath the “sinking moon” and wonders, questions, listening for something he knows he will not hear.
The old dog, domestic companion (neither lion nor lamb), completes her mission; the man lets go of metaphysical thoughts; the earth inexorably turns toward summer–despite the snow.
I’ll keep this poem in mind as the next snowstorm heads my way on the equinox.