Where are the songs of spring?
"Ay, where are they?" You might recognise the questions of the title and the previous line as coming from Keats' 'Ode to Autumn'. Since I'm going to be poetic with my nearly-annual Matthew Arnold post, I might as well start that way. And with the weather we've had all through May and June it's as if we're searching for spring, with a troubling fear that we're already turning towards autumn. We are still putting the heating on in the evenings, I'm still wearing what I grandly call 'my winter wardrobe' to work (winter-weight trousers, long sleeved tops and cardigans, with a scarf round my neck for extra warmth, and wondering if I can climb back into my winter duvet coat), and several times recently I've set off for the allotment wearing three fleeces.
Some of the ingredients of Matthew Arnold's 'tempestuous morn' are here: volleying rain and tossing breeze, but the primal burst of bloom struggled onto the scene, and generally everything has been late and slow. The May blossom was still coming out in early June. My personal marker of the passing of the seasons, the cow parsley, arrived late and is still flowering up on Speyside.
"So, some tempestuous morn in early June,
When the year's primal burst of bloom is o'er,
Before the roses and the longest day -
When garden-walks and all the grassy floor
With blossoms red and white of fallen May
And chestnut-flowers are strewn -
So have I heard the cuckoo's parting cry,
From the wet field, through the vext garden-trees,
Come with the volleying rain and tossing breeze;
The bloom is gone, and with the bloom go I!"
Matthew Arnold, Thrysis
We travelled north on Friday through the central highlands, and saw snow lingering on all the hills.
It was a weekend of darkness at the lightest time of the year. Below is the view from my father's garden, as another heavy cloud settled over the village. We feel cheated of the lovely long evenings as we sit indoors or go out for quick, brisk walks. Despite that, the span of daylight at this time of year is a wonderful thing. On Saturday night I went to bed at 10.30 pm and it was still light. During the night we had to get a medical visit for my dad, and so we were up at 3 a.m. It was daylight again.
There are still blooms of course. The white lilac in the photo above is beautiful, and this clematis in my dad's garden holds all the blue of the skies we can't see just now. This is the first time for many years that we've visited at this moment when this clematis is out. I felt a bit like Monty Don, banished to boarding school and missing all the unfolding and blossoming going on in the garden at home.
The next verse of Matthew Arnold's poem goes on to describe the 'high midsummer pomps' of the garden. I'll settle for mid-level pomps and a bit of warmth and sun.