Night Wind in Spring

May 1, 2020

Today’s poem is “Night Wind in Spring” by Elizabeth Coatsworth.  She wrote poems, short stories and children’s stories.  In 1931 she received the Newbury Medal for her children’s book The Cat Who Went to Heaven.  Elizabeth lived with her husband, the writer Henry Beston, at Chimney Farm in Nobleboro.

In the anthology Maine Lines: 101 Contemporary Poems About Maine, she wrote this about her poetry: “Poets are like chameleons: they change color according to their background.  Of course, poems of the emotions, or historical poems or philosophic ones, make less use of their surroundings, if at all, but even then, the background usually shows through.  I have lived and written poetry in Maine for many years now, and most of these poems would have been different if they had been written anywhere else.  In fact, many of them would not have been written at all.  They are, perhaps, a dialogue between the countryside and the one who loves it.”

Night Wind in Spring
by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Two yellow dandelion shields do not make spring,
nor do the wild duck swimming by the shore,
so self-possessed, so white of side and breast,
nor, I suppose, the change in land-birds’ calls,
softened and sweetened to a courting note,
nor the new colors twigs are taking on,
not even the sun which rises early now
and lingers almost until dinner time.
We, too, are valid instruments; we, too, can say
if this be spring or only waning winter.
Tonight the wind is loud about our chimney.
There is no new moon in the sky, nothing but stars:
the Dipper upright on its shining handle,
Sirius bright above a neighbor’s house,
and this wind roaming, not enough to scrape
a branch along the roof, or try the shutters
for one to bang. No, just enough to cry
and cry and cry against the stalwart chimney,
as though it were a wanderer who had come
down half the world to find only one door
and that door locked and nothing answering.

Poem copyright ©1953 Elizabeth Coatsworth. Reprinted from Down Half the World, Macmillan, 1953, by permission of the Estate of Catherine Beston Barnes.