I love all four seasons in New York, but spring… ah…. Two days ago I stepped out into the gray and misted dawn and listened to the first real song of the American robin. I accepted what I heard as a modest gain compared to what many sections of the country were experiencing in a bloom already underway, but it felt good nonetheless.
Seven years ago, Alan Casline and I brought out a small volume of the poet’s work, called On the Helderhill (available on request). Here are two of Christman’s timely pieces:
The light that prints blue shadows on old snow Had wakened him at dawn as it had me, And drew him from his cave alert for spring. There in the bitter dark of the great birch Before his door He sharpened teeth and claws, For teeth and claws grow dull from long disuse.
The old Neanderthaler, hairy and brainless, Standing erect like a man! A vegetarian too, with those formidable teeth! The blackberry bank roofed him from winter; Today he feels the pull of the approaching sun And basks here, thinking, if he thinks at all, Of summer meadows spread with clover blooms.
Surely the earth must be our Mother, She bares her warm brown breast impartially to both; The sun our Father, kindling life anew, Restoring every soul.
* * *
The first melody that followed the thousand years of winter, The old, rollicking strain, The robin drawing the frost from the rigid trees, Starting the sap in the sugar maples, Thawing the frozen earth with song; The ice honeycombing, The hillside drifts wasting, Becoming fluid at the relaxing influence; The arteries of the continent responding to a chord And pulsing down the grooves ploughed by the old glaciers.
So he sang when the ancient ice melted: “Joy, oh, joy, the eternal winter receding! Oh willows with your all-golden sheaves! Oh dogwood osiers dipped in wine! The blessed spring returning With undiminished hope After a thousand years.”