‘Spring’ is a vivid depiction of the spring season and all the feelings, sights, and sounds that go along with it. Rossetti uses imagery skillfully in this piece to depict what it’s like to view the beginnings of the season. There are a few memorable lines in the poem, such as the concluding lines “Now newly born, and now / Hastening to die,” that make this lesser-known piece a joy to read.
Throughout the stanzas of ‘Spring,’ Rossetti’s speaker looks around her world and describes some of the many features of the coming season. She notes the warmth of the sun, the green shoots of plants growing from the ground, and the newly hatched birds. These are charming and heartening sights to behold, but ones that she knows will not last forever. The beauty of spring comes from its temporal nature. Sooner rather than later, everything born is going to die.
In ‘Spring,’ Rossetti engages with themes of new life and death while also suggesting the poem’s cyclical nature. One cannot exist without the other in ‘Spring.’ While this piece focuses on the first moments of spring, as the shoots of grass are just starting to grow and before the nestlings learn how to sing, it also looks to the future. It alludes to a time in which all of the beauty that’s just bursting forth in the world returns to the earth and is again part of death. Death nurses these vivid lives until the next spring comes around, and they are again allowed to “spring” to the surface and lighten and enliven the world.
Structure and Form
‘Spring’ Christina Rossetti is a four-stanza poem that is separated into sets of nine lines. These lines do not follow a consistent rhyme scheme, but each stanza does contain a great deal of rhyme. For example, the first stanza rhymes ABCBDEFEEE, with at least one of these end sounds dependent on pronunciation. Or, another example, the third stanza rhymes AAABBABCCC. The same can be said of the meter. Close readers can find several good, rhythmic examples of trochaic meter, but it is not consistent throughout.
Rossetti makes use of several literary devices in ‘Spring.’ These include but are not limited to repetition, alliteration, and imagery. The latter is one of the most important techniques a writer can use in their work. Without it, readers will leave the poem unaffected by the writing. For example, the first two lines of the second stanza. They read: “Blows the thaw-wind pleasantly, / Drips the soaking rain.”
Repetition is a frequently used device in ‘Spring.’ It appears when the poet repeats an entire line, like “Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,” as well as when she reuses words like “life” or “death.” Alliteration is another kind of repetition, one that’s concerned with the use of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of multiple words. For instance, “new nestlings” in stanza three.
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
Frost-locked all the winter,
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
What shall make their sap ascend
That they may put forth shoots?
Tips of tender green,
Leaf, or blade, or sheath;
Telling of the hidden life
That breaks forth underneath,
Life nursed in its grave by Death.
In the first stanza of ‘Spring,’ the speaker begins by suggesting that change is coming to the landscape around her. Winter has, for the past months, locked in the growth of plants of all variety. The speaker wonders (with the answer in mind), in the fourth line, what will break them free of these barriers and allow them to “put forth shoots.” Of course, the answer is spring and the change of weather that brings with it “Tips of tender green.” The color returns to the world. Slowly at first, with only bits of life, but then more quickly as that which was “nursed in its grave by Death” is reborn into the world.
Blows the thaw-wind pleasantly,
Drips the soaking rain,
By fits looks down the waking sun:
Young grass springs on the plain;
Young leaves clothe early hedgerow trees;
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
Swollen with sap put forth their shoots;
Curled-headed ferns sprout in the lane;
Birds sing and pair again.
The second stanza brings in several elements that also accompany spring. There are the rains, the “waking sun,” and the “Young grass.” It “springs on the plain,” a play on words an allusion to the broader season that’s feeling it. The poem’s musicality comes through clearly in these lines when Rossetti repeats the phrase “Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits.” The internal rhyme in this line, as well as the effect of the entire phrase as a refrain, improves the reader’s experience with the verse.
There are also examples of alliteration in all the stanzas, for instance, “Swollen” and “sap” in line seven of this stanza. The poet moves on from plants to animals in the final line and the next stanza. Birds are a very common symbol of spring, peace, and new life, all things that Rossetti was interested in within ‘Spring.’
There is no time like Spring,
When life’s alive in everything,
Before new nestlings sing,
Before cleft swallows speed their journey back
Along the trackless track –
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack, –
Before the daisy grows a common flower
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.
It’s not until the third stanza that the poet uses the word “Spring” to refer to the season. She states very clearly that there is “no time like Spring.” It’s a special period of the year in which “life’s alive in everything.” She provides a few examples of what she means by this in the next lines. There are birds, newly born, waiting to spring, and then fly. She brings God into the poem, suggesting that he guides the wings of these birds and controls all elements of spring-time growth.
In one of the best images in this piece, Rossetti describes how, before a daisy blooms, there is but a “common flower” in its place. This is part of the cyclical nature of this season and all seasons. It is emphasized through her use of repetition throughout the poem as well.
There is no time like Spring,
Like Spring that passes by;
There is no life like Spring-life born to die, –
Piercing the sod,
Clothing the uncouth clod,
Hatched in the nest,
Fledged on the windy bough,
Strong on the wing:
There is no time like Spring that passes by,
Now newly born, and now
Hastening to die.
The first line of the fourth stanza is the same as the first line of the third stanza. This is another example of a refrain, one that helps the musical feeling of the poem. It’s also in this stanza that Rossetti spends more time thinking about what comes after this burst of life—death. It is common in Rossetti’s poetry to find themes of death in amongst brighter and cheerier subject matter. It’s something that was often on her mind, as it is tied so closely to everything one does and sees.
In the final lines, she repeats the phrase, “There is no time like Spring that passes by.” Now, the emphasis seems to be on the “passes” part of the phrase. Now, things are newly born, but soon they’ll be dead, and the entire cycle will begin again. Life is born or hatched “strong on the wind.”
Readers who enjoyed Christina Rossetti’s ‘Spring’ should also consider reading some of her better-known poems. For instance, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter,’ ‘Goblin Market,’ and ‘Remember.’ The latter depicts the thoughts of a narrator who asks her lover or partner to remember her after her death. This goes on for almost the entire poem until the speaker changes her mind, deciding that it’s okay for her listener to forget her. ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ is certainly one of Rossetti’s most popular poems. It was published in 1872 and is now one of the best-loved English Christmas carols. It describes the birth of Christ and those who came to worship him. ‘Goblin Market’ is an image-filled poem that describes the adventures of two sisters who break the rules by speaking to “goblin men.”