In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
–From Locksley Hall, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred_Tennyson..jpgI am not a Tennyson fan, honestly. I found his work ponderous. I am happy to blame it on my own shortcomings; I was in college when I read everything I would ever read of his–In Memoriam, some parts of The Idylls of the King, and the play Becket. I think I liked Becket a little and the others not much at all. Perhaps I didn’t work at it, think deeply enough, read some good literary criticism to gain a deeper understanding. Or perhaps it was my professor for that survey course, a boozy guy who would cut class shorts most days–especially Fridays–to get to the campus restaurant where they served beer and wine. He was a funny, brilliant, caustic guy who had his opinions, and I made the opinions mine. I ended up with a love of Hardy, an admiration of Eliot, and the conclusion, at least for a while, that Pride and Prejudice was a perfect novel.

But Tennyson? Not so much.

There sits that wonderful line, though, about a young man’s fancy and thoughts of love. It comes to mind maybe as often as the word “spring” does. It’s there, beckoning to me, especially now, on March 10th, when it’s 61 degrees outside, and the clocks are about to change, and the Vernal Equinox is just days away. We could still have bad weather–it’s Boston, we have had blizzards in April–but if we do have snow it will be followed by warmer days and a strong sun that will beat down on the southern-facing front of my house and melt it all away.

The Red Sox are more than a week into spring training games. Opening day is in a little more than three weeks. I bet when I step aside this morning a cluster of irises will be pushing up through my front garden, along the brick wall. Spring will come I like to say, with the emphasis on will. I won’t let it not come, and of course it will whether I say so or not. Still, saying so has its own pleasure, when the winters are long and cold and deep, and you know that you’ll be standing outside soon, in a light jacket or a shirt, your face tilted to the sky, the warm sun on you, and the smell of fresh, warm, moist dirt rising to you, bringing you to life again.

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