‘Crocus’ by Alfred Kreymborg is a five stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines or quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyming pattern of aabb ccdd eeff, and so on.
Before reading further into this analysis it is important to note the title of the poem, ‘Crocus.’ This word refers to a small flower that blooms in spring and has either yellow, purple or white flowers. The importance of this title, and the flower it speaks of, is revealed in the third stanza.
Summary of Crocus
The poem begins with the speaker stating that now is the time in which spring and summer are so far in the past that the trees have forgotten they ever had left. The narrator is overwhelmed by the dark cold of the season and wants to know whose fault it is that the world is the way it is.
He continues on to speak about the eventual “spark” that will come and set the Earth turning once more. It will set spring in motion, lead the crocuses to bloom, and overflow the rivers with water.
Analysis of Crocus
When trees have lost remembrance of the leaves
that spring bequeaths to summer, autumn weaves
and loosens mournfully — this dirge, to whom
does it belong — who treads the hidden loom?
In the first stanza, the of this piece speaker begins the first of his multi-line questions. He starts by speaking of the times in which the trees lose the “remembrance” of their leaves. Spring and summer are so far distant the trees are forgetting they ever bore leaves. They were given to the trees by spring via summer, and autumn has passed through and loosened them, “mournfully.”
The speaker’s tone is well represented by this word, “mournfully.” He is speaking of the passage of time as if it is something to dread and fear. In the next line, this fact is emphasized when he asks, “to whom” this “dirge” belongs. He is seeking out the cause of the loss of time and loss of beauty which the world suffers every year. He wants to know who it is who “treads” or works the “loom” which controls or weaves the passage of time. It is as if he is trying to hold someone responsible for this change.
When peaks are overwhelmed with snow and ice,
and clouds with crepe bedeck and shroud the skies —
nor any sun or moon or star, it seems,
can wedge a path of light through such black dreams —
In the second stanza, the speaker continues to describe what his environment is like once winter has come. He is truly in the coldest part of the season and the mountains which surround his home are “overwhelmed,” or covered fully, with “snow and ice.” Additionally, there are “clouds” which appear to be “bedeck[ed]” or embellished with “crepe.” They are ominous, multilayered, and capable of completely “shroud[ing] the skies.”
It seems to the speaker that there is nothing that can break through the dark skies of winter. There is not a “sun or moon or star” which is able to “wedge a path of light” through the sky. The narrator’s tone remains mournful as he compares the cloudy sky to “black dreams.” The loss of light is so overwhelming to this speaker that it is like a nightmare being played out in the sky above his head.
All motion cold, and dead all traces thereof:
What sudden shock below, or spark above,
starts torrents raging down till rivers surge —
that aid the first small crocus to emerge?
In the third stanza, the speaker turns from describing his environment to wondering what could possibly impact it. What force, or “sudden shock” would be able to rid the world of the motionless “cold” and “dead” which hangs in the sky?
He knows there has to be some “spark” that turns winter into spring, as it happens every year—but it seems so implausible.
He continues to question, asking what could cause the sky to open, rain to fall, and the first “torrents” of water to fill the rivers? This would aid all the plants beneath the soil in their quest to bloom. One of these plants a “small crocus” is mentioned specifically. This allows the viewer a more detailed image of what the speaker’s world could be. The flower is personal to him in some way and he is looking forward to seeing it this year.
It is also at this point the tone of the poem changes. What was once mournful becomes hopeful. There is a way out of the winter, one just has to wait for it to show itself.
The earth will turn and spin and fairly soar,
that couldn’t move a tortoise-foot before —
and planets permeate the atmosphere
till misery depart and mystery clear! —
In the second to last stanza the speaker continues to marvel at the change he knows will eventually come to his world. He can imagine that sometime (hopefully) in the near future, the “earth will turn and spin and fairly soar.” The “spark,” whatever that may be, will have set the world in motion once more in a way that seemed unimaginable.
In the Earth’s current state, as the speaker is experiencing it, there is not enough power to slowly move one foot. But all of a sudden, that will change. The atmosphere will be “permeate[d]” and all misery will “depart” and the deep “mystery” of winter will “clear.”
And yet, so insignificant a hearse? —
who gave it the endurance so to brave
such elements? — shove winter down a grave? —
and then lead on again the universe?
In the final stanza the speaker returns to the idea of responsibility, and how it is that such a great weight is lifted so easily. He remarks on the “insignificant…hearse” which has carried the winter away and once more asks, who controls all of this? What power created the “spark” and gave it the “endurance” to face the elements so bravely?
In the last lines, he speaks on the fact that this unseen force has been able to “shove winter down a grave,” until the next year comes. He seems unable to believe that it could really happen and that the “universe” could be moving forward once more.