Spring, The Sweet Spring by Thomas Nashe

Spring, The Sweet Spring is a song from Thomas Nashe’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament. Summer’s Last Will and Testament is a play that was notable in the development of the English Renaissance drama. This was the only play that Nashe wrote by himself, as his other dramatic works were collaborations. Summer’s Last Will and Testament is a pastoral play, and the four seasons are personified through different characters.

The song has an AAABCCCDEEEF rhyme scheme, and the breaks in between the lines follow the rhyme scheme as well. It has a simple rhyme, which helps to establish a simple and cheerful rhythm to go along with the words of the song. The meter is also constant, except for the last line in each stanza. The last line of each stanza has a different rhyme and meter, and function as a chorus.

Spring, The Sweet Spring has a joyful tone, as the lyrical voice expresses excitement for the arrival of warm weather and opportunities. The main theme of the song is nature, as Nashe constructs a pastoral and idealized scenery. Moreover, spring and nature are also related to life and how this particular season brings freshness and joy.


Spring, The Sweet Spring Analysis

First Stanza

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,

Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,

Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The first stanza depicts the beauty of nature during the spring season. The lyrical voice states that spring “is the year’s pleasant king”. “Spring” is personified and contrasted with the rest of the seasons, by emphasizing its sweetness (“the sweet spring”) and its unique qualities (“the year’s pleasant king”). No other season compares to spring, as the lyrical voice explains that everything blooms and people are happy and joyful (“Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring”). Spring is the time when nature is most beautiful and people are celebrating. There is no cold weather and people aren’t sad (“Cold doth not sting”), and birds sing, portraying a sense of optimism and fulfilment (“the pretty birds do sing”). The stanza closes by emulating the song of those birds: “Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!”. This phrase that will serve as a chorus evokes the songs of the cuckoo, the nightingale, the lapwing, and the owl. The spring season is portrayed by a powerful pastoral imagery that presents all the glorious characteristics and events that take place in that particular time of the year.


Second Stanza

The palm and may make country houses gay,

Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,

And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The second stanza continues to portray the beauty of nature during the springtime. The “palm and may” refer to spring festivities in the form of a synecdoche (a part of something that refers to the whole of something). These celebrations bring joy to the people, they give a sense of a new start, and they “make country houses gay”. In this pastoral scenery, little lambs “frisk and play” creating a sense of excitement and energy. Moreover, everyone seems joyful as people in the countryside sing (“the shepherds pipe all day”). Everyone feels full of merriment and enjoyment due to the springtime. Once again, the birds sing their happy song (“And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay”). As in the previous stanza, the chorus is introduced as the song of the birds in the last line. This chorus has an onomatopoeic feel, as it seems to emulate the noises that these animals make. The birds sing: “Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!”.


Third Stanza

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,

Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,

In every street these tunes our ears do greet:

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!

Spring, the sweet spring!

The final stanza introduces the symbolic meaning of spring. The lyrical voice says that “The fields breathe sweet”. Here, the countryside is personified, implying that nature is reinvigorated by the fields and the flowers in it (“the daisies kiss our feet”). This countryside feels like an idyllic place where everyone can go; from “Young lovers” to “old wives”. By referring to the young lovers, the lyrical voice relates spring to a time where people meet and feel full of love and excitement. In fact, everyone appears to be affected by this joyful state as the happiness can be seen “In every street” because “these tunes our ears do greet”. The chorus is repeated, as the song that sings in everyone’s ears: “Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!”. Nevertheless, this chorus isn’t in the last line as in previous stanzas. To conclude, the lyrical voice says: “Spring, the sweet spring!”. This is a repetition from the beginning of the poem, emphasizing the message that the lyrical voice has conveyed throughout the stanzas. Moreover, this line breaks the metre and the constant rhythm established in the poem. This accentuates the enthusiasm that spring brings.


About Thomas Nashe

Thomas Nashe was born in 1567 and died in 1601. He was an English poet, playwright, and satirist. Thomas Nashe is considered to be one of the best pamphleteers of the Elizabethan time. He is known for his novel The Unfortunate Traveller or The Life of Jack Wilton, the first picaresque novel in English.

Thomas Nashe was an eccentric and invented a great number of verbal hybrids. His first works were about literary criticism and social commentary. By 1590, Nashe was a controversial figure in the London literary scene. He wrote several pamphlets under the name of Martin Marprelate. One of Nashe’s most distinguished pamphlets, An Almond for a Parrot, shows his distinctive style. After that, in 1592, he wrote Summer’s Last Will and Testament and, later that year, he wrote Pierce Penniless His Supplication to the Devil, one of his most famous works. Nevertheless, 1593 was a crucial year for Nashe, as he wrote The Terrors of the Night and Christ’s tears over Jerusalem. Thomas Nashe wrote the most powerful prose of his age and became one of the main figures of the Elizabethan period.

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