Spring by William Shakespeare

The poem “Spring”, is a song, sung in one of William Shakespeare’s early comedies Love’s Labour’s Lost. It appears in the loss when the Duke’s had to wait for the response of the ladies they wooed. As the title suggests, this is a descriptive poem about “Spring” and what goes on in spring. In the play, ‘Ver’ and ‘Hiems’ sings the song considered to be the alter egos of Holofernes and Nathaniel protagonists’ of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Spring by William Shakespeare

 

Summary of Spring

The poem “Spring” by William Shakespeare gives a detailed description of the season “Spring” with all its scenic beauty. It is a pleasant season in England which comes immediately after the winter. Everyone will be mesmerized with the colors of the ferns and petals. The first four lines in both the stanzas capture spring in all its beauty. At the same time, there is also a possibility for something wrong to happen and the poet conveys that through the onomatopoeic words ‘Cuckoo’ and “Oh”. Cuckoo mocks at the married men who find solace in the beauty of nature that their women could become unfaithful when they are busy minding the beauty of nature.

The happy mood changes when the mocking cuckoo birds show up and kind of change the situation topsy-turvy. In the minds of the men, who are peacefully admiring and enjoying the lays the eggs of doubt and misunderstanding.

 

Analysis of Spring

Stanza One

When daisies pied and violets blue

And lady-smocks all silver-white

And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue

Do paint the meadows with delight,

The cuckoo then, on every tree,

Mocks married men; for thus sings he,

Cuckoo;

Cuckoo, cuckoo: Oh word of fear,

Unpleasing to a married ear!

The first stanza of the poem begins with a brilliant description of blooming flowers which generally mark the beginning of spring. The poet uses ‘daisies pied’ to mean that the place is filled with daisies of different colors. In the second line, the poet uses ‘lady-smocks’, which is another term for cuckoo-flowers, thus chiming with the cuckoo-cuckold connections. The onomatopoeic word indirectly supports the connotations used. The appearance of Cuckoo bird in spring is a sign of happiness but as a contrast, it appears to spoil the fun of married men. It seeds in all kinds of misunderstanding into the minds and hearts of them. Finally, with all these, men couldn’t enjoy or celebrate the beauty of spring for their mind is occupied with all negativity than the romance of spring season.

 

Stanza Two

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,

And merry larks are plowmen’s clocks,

When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,

And maidens bleach their summer smocks,

The cuckoo then, on every tree,

Mocks married men; for thus sings he,

Cuckoo;

Cuckoo, cuckoo: Oh word of fear,

Unpleasing to a married ear!

The second stanza also presents a pleasant description of “spring”. However, in this stanza, the poet brings in the images of “shepherds”, “larks”, and “maidens.” And then the ‘cuckoo’ shows up. Larks are called ‘ploughmen’s clocks’ for they rise early and sings; that wakes the farmers early in the morning to their work. The ‘turtles’ is a reference to the bird turtle-dove. Though turtle dove is also considered an innocent bird, here the poet ironically uses to describe its nature of enduring love or mating for life. This stanza also concludes with how the fun of spring is spoiled with the appearance of the Cuckoo. For, whatever the Cuckoo conveys is a “word of fear” and “unpleasing to the married ear.”

 

Structure and Theme of Spring

The poem Spring is written in 18 lines, divided into two stanzas. Though it looks like a Spenserian stanza, it is not. It doesn’t follow the rhyme scheme of the Spenserian stanza form or any particular poetry form. The last five lines are repeated in both the stanzas to highlight how the appearance of the Cuckoo ironically changes the situation and mood of the poem. Spring which considered being the season of love here projected totally in a different life. Cuckoo’s mocking of married men presents a cynical view of married life.

 

Poetic / Literary Devices used in Spring

The poem “Spring” by William Shakespeare incorporates many poetic devices like Rhyming couplet, Allusion, Imagery, etc which are used very frequently throughout Shakespeare’s works.

 

Rhyming couplet

The rhyming couplet is employed in almost all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. However, two rhyming couplets of different rhymes are placed consecutively in this poem. The end sounds in “tree/he” and “fear/ear” makes those lines form the couplets. The couplets “The cuckoo then, on every tree / Mocks married men; for thus sings he” and “The second is: “Cuckoo, cuckoo: Oh word of fear / Unpleasing to a married ear!” are repeated in the second stanza as a refrain to intensify the role of Cuckoo in creating the image of unfaithful wives in the minds of a married man.

 

Metonymy/Symbolism

The poet uses the metonymy “married ear” to specify that whatever the Cuckoo means is not something pleasant thing to accept. The reference to the cuckoo mocking married men is an allusion to the cuckoo’s trick of laying its eggs in another bird’s nest. Similarly, it symbolically means that the unfaithful wives would also be gone looking for other nests (other men). In this context, Cuckoo’s act of laying eggs in other birds can be metaphorically compared to how it lays unwanted thoughts in the minds of the unmarried men.

 

Irony

Shakespeare has used the title ‘Spring’ ironically, despite him knowing that it is not a regular romantic poem. Spring is the season of everything fresh and new which kindles passion. But, if a reader reads with such expectation of finding romance or passion, what awaits him/her is a disappointment. Instead of feeding love among the couples, it kindles the spark of suspicion. Cuckoo’s appearances and songs always meant to give solace to the people but here, in contrast, it spoils the fun of married men.

 

Imagery

In the first four lines of both the stanzas, the poet employed the visual imagery, which brings “spring” with all its mighty hue in front of the readers’ eyes. The refrains present in the poem, not only present the Cuckoo sitting on the branches but also the sweet sound it produces.

 

Apostrophe

In “Oh word of fear,” the poet uses “Apostrophe” to address the words that cause the married men dread.

 

Personification

The human attribute of ‘painting’ given to the followers in the lines “… cuckoo-buds of yellow hue/ Do paint the meadows with delight.” This use of personification describes how the flowers paint the meadow yellow in the spring, like painters who paint the walls.

 

Background to Spring

The poem “Spring”  by William Shakespeare in the final section of “Loves Labour’s Lost” by William Shakespeare. In the text, it is paired with another poem called “winter.” In both of these sections, the poet uses a bird connotatively to illustrate various activities. Like Cuckoo in the “Spring”, Owl is used in the “Winter”. Shakespeare presents the birds in contrast to the situation and mood of the poem. In “Spring” Cuckoo plays a trick on men when everything around is quiet and pleasant. At the same time in “Winter”, the Owl sings a song of happiness, while the other birds, people, and objects live in a sorrowful and frozen state.

 

About William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was a renowned English poet, playwright, and actor. He was born on 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and on his birthday 52 years later in 1616. Shakespeare is regarded as the greatest writer and a pre-eminent dramatist. He is considered as England’s national poet and nicknamed as the Bard of Avon. Shakespeare’s contribution to literature includes 38 plays, 2 narrative poems, and a variety of other poems. Centuries later, he continues to be one of the most important literary figures of English Literature.

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