He was right, T.S. Eliot: April most definitely is the cruellest month. A time when the days have lengthened and we are ready to stretch with them, but (true this year) when we are continually pounded by weather that refuses to show its gentle side.
‘The Waste Land’, T.S. Eliot
‘April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dulls roots with spring rain.’ (excerpt)
Forgetting ones gloves in April should not be an emergency, but this morning it has been nothing short of a catastrophe for me – blue fingertips pressed to the library radiator before I begin to type. On Monday I couldn’t remember ever being colder as I walked on Tyninghame Beach in East Lothian. Yes, the landscape was beautiful, stunning even, and although I was clad and shod for it, my sodden spirit could not overcome the miserable weather, leaching into my body and sapping any appreciation of my surroundings. The dramatic rocks, the orange hanging cliffs and the low tide pulling the sand tight like a sheet on a hospital bed; through eyes tired of too much winter its beauty could tip very quickly into the category of ‘wasteland’. Ezra Pound famously edited Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, he too, it seems, had a tendency towards gloom. I wonder if he wrote this one in April?
‘And The Days Are Not Full Enough’, Ezra Pound
‘And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.’
Back at base, after out walk on Monday, even the catkins on E.’s twisted hazel looked bedraggled and pathetic. “Have we come out too early?” their dishevelled tails wagging in the wind seemed to ask me. Of course they are not too early, it’s just that any show of clemency in the weather is stubbornly late. Nor have the catkins any problem with the sleet, the rain, the snow, the wind; they will push on, grow, even flourish while I bestow my own feelings upon a small tree standing in the sodden earth bearing this remorseless weather.
‘Self-Pity’, D.H. Lawrence
‘I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.’
Usually poetry is like that little bag of pick and mix that you used to get in Woolworths on a Saturday – a mixed bag that, depending upon your strength of will-power, brings joy and sweet moments as you save then savour your raspberry ruffles, chocolate limes, blackcurrant and liquorice, everton mints, fruit bonbons and strawberry creams well into the following week. Yet, any poems I have found lately (and I’ve deliberately not mentioned them all) appear to shore up negativity and bolster desperation. So here are two short and sweet confections from William Blake that are brighter and more hopeful.
‘The Angel That Presided O’er My Birth’, William Blake
‘The angel that presided o’er my birth
Said ‘Little creature, form’d of joy and mirth,
Go, love without the help of anything on earth.’
‘Eternity’, William Blake
‘He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.’
I keep saying it, as much to myself as to whoever is out there reading this, but one of these days we’ll wake up and see the sun. And April, dear April, there are 26 more days for you to change your mind. Feel free to do so.