Claude McKay's "Spring in New Hampshire"
Introduction and Text of Poem, "Spring in New Hampshire"
Claude McKay's "Spring in New Hampshire" dramatizes the human attraction to beauty as the world is coming alive in the springtime of the year. The versanelle features two sestets, each with the rime scheme, ABABCC.
(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")
Spring in New Hampshire
Too green the springing April grass,
Too blue the silver-speckled sky,
For me to linger here, alas,
While happy winds go laughing by,
Wasting the golden hours indoors,
Washing windows and scrubbing floors.
Too wonderful the April night,
Too faintly sweet the first May flowers,
The stars too gloriously bright,
For me to spend the evening hours,
When fields are fresh and streams are leaping,
Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping.
Reading of Mckay's "Spring in New Hampshire"
First Sestet: "Too green the springing April grass"
The speaker sings his lyrical tribute to the state of New Hampshire and to the season of new birth by universalizing himself, that is, he does not employ the first person pronoun as actor in the poem. His self reference appears only in the prepositional phrase "[f]or me." The "springing April grass," the speaker avers, is "[t]oo green" and the sky is "[t]oo blue" with its "silver-speckle[s]."
Because the grass is too green and the sky is too blue, the speaker insists that he cannot remain indoors. He also is finding remaining indoors difficult because "happy winds go laughing by." He is urged by inner urgings of joy to go outside and enjoy the new awakening of the earth that the spring is heralding.
The speaker does not want to continue "wasting the golden hours indoors." He especially finds the mundane task of "washing windows and scrubbing floors" a waste of his time, when outside the world is burgeoning with the beauty of nature and warm caressing breezes.
Second Sestet: "Too wonderful the April night"
The pattern of the second sestet follows that of the first. Again, the speaker intrudes in his tribute only by placing his pronoun self reference in the same prepositional phrase, "[f]or me.] Again, the speaker finds the attributes of spring too alluring for him to ignore. In the second sestet of the versanelle, the speaker addresses the spring's beautiful attributes of night.
The April night is "[t]oo wonderful" and the "first May flowers" are "[t]oo faintly sweet" and thus the speaker cannot "spend the evening hours" indoors. In addition to the wonders of the April night with its sweet smelling May flowers, the "fields are fresh," and fish are "leaping" up out the streams, inviting him to come outside and enjoy the night that is alive with springtime awakening. Instead of remaining inside and despite the fact that he is tired from a day's work, he does not want to waste the spring beauty "dully sleeping."
From the Sublime to the Mundane
In both sestets, the speaker moves from the sublime to the mundane. He first declares that the beauties of the day, the too green grass and the too blue sky, motivate him to go outside. And he ends the sestet by mentioning the mundane work he wants to abandon for the sublime enjoyment of the warm, spring day.
In the second sestet addressing the alluring features of the night, he finds the night too wonderful and May flowers too sweet to remain inside just mundanely sleeping. The speaker offers a glorious tribute to the season of rebirth by dramatizing the appealing qualities that lure him to step outside in New Hampshire to enjoy the ambiance of spring weather.
Brief Bio of Claude McKay
Born in Jamaica on September 15, 1889, Claude McKay received a home-school education in the English master writers through his older brother, Uriah Theophilus McKay, who was a teacher.
Claude began publishing poetry in 1912 with his Songs of Jamaica, in which he wrote about Jamaican life in a Jamaican dialect. Also, in 1912, Claude relocated to the USA, where he attended Tuskegee Institute briefly, before transferring to Kansas State University, where he studied agriculture.
In 1917, Claude's next publishing adventure included two tightly structured sonnets: "The Harlem Dancer," an English (or Shakespearean) sonnet and "Invocation," an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet. He continued to experiment with the sonnet form as he drifted into political interests and social activism.
After developing an interest in Communism, Claude took a trip to Russia. He then traveled to France, where he became acquainted with novelist and social activist, Lewis Sinclair and American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Claude eventually lost his enthusiasm for Communism, after returning to the USA. He settled in Harlem and while retaining his interests in politics, he also developed an interest in religion and spirituality. He later converted to Catholicism.
Claude's influence in politics and spiritual teachings helped him achieve a poetic style that attracted the younger writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, who became one the leading voices of that literary movement.
On May 22, 1948, Claude died of heart failure after suffering several years of declining health.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes