Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

Yesterday (March 20, 2021) marked the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures are gradually growing warmer, days are waxing longer, and the foliage is turning greener. Because this humble magazine is called The New Leaf Journal, I thought that it would be negligent to let the springing of spring pass without some comment. Today’s post is a joint-production of our Around the Web series and our distinguished Emu Café. Below, I will examine a variety of books, articles, and other texts from around the web and here on The New Leaf Journal about the onset of a new season.

Classic Dictionary Definitions

Before examining sources on spring, we ought to know that of which we speak. To learn about spring, I turn, as I often do, to a couple of classic dictionaries.

Neither The Century Dictionary (1889-1891) nor Webster’s 1913 included spring in its express seasonal sense among their myriad definitions for the word “spring.” Instead, I had to turn to “springtime” to find the definition that I was seeking. I noticed something interesting in Webster’s 1913’s definition of “springtime.”

The Webster’s 1913 Definition of “Springtime”

See Definition.

Webster’s 1913 defined “springtime” as follows:

The season of spring; springtide.

Springtide? It defined “springtide” as follows:

The season of spring; springtime.

Webster’s attributed “springtide” to a Mr. Thomson. After some brief research, I not only identified the Thomson, but also the poem in which he used “springtide.”

“The Castle of Indolence”

By James Thomson. Published in 1748.

Relevant Stanza on Wikisource.

The Castle of Indolence is a very long two-canto poem by James Thomson, a prominent British poet and playwright of his day who lived from 1700 to 1748. I must confess that I am not well-acquainted with the works of Thomson, the author of the lyrics for “Rule, Britannia!” and thus I am not well-suited to provide an in-depth analysis of the poem. I will, however, reprint the stanza wherein “spring-tide” appeared and earned its way into Webster’s 1913.

"But not even Pleaſure to Exceſs is good,
     What moſt elates then ſinks the Soul so low;
     When Spring-Tide Joy pours in with copious Flood,
     The higher ſtill th' exulting Billows flow,
     The farther back again they flagging go,
     And leave us groveling on the dreary Shore:
     Taught by this Son of Joy, we found it ſo;
     Who, whilſt he ſtaid, kept in a gay Uproar
 Our madden'd Caſtle all, th' Abode of Sleep no more."

“When Spring-Tide Joy pours in with copious Flood” is a very clever way to describe the onset of spring. Thomson does not seem to have been the first or the last to use “spring-tide” or “springtide.” Wordnik’s definition of “springtide” contains other usage examples from various earlier and later texts, including some relatively modern cases.

“The Secret Garden”

By Frances Hodgson Burnett. Published in 1911.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

In December, I published an article on the subject of healthy winter walks, using a passage from Frances Hodsgon Burnett’s classic children’s book, The Secret Garden, as my prompt. Much of the outdoor fun in The Secret Garden takes place in the winter, but eventually the spring that the heroine, Mary Lennox, longs to see finally comes. There are numerous pretty springtime passages to choose from. For this post, I will include a section from page 194 (Project Gutenberg version).

[Mary Lennox] unchained and unbolted and unlocked and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree. She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt as if she must flute and sing aloud herself and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it. She ran around the shrubs and paths toward the secret garden.

By building her strength and learning to love the English moor in the winter, Mary Lennox was able to fully appreciate the spring she longed for when it arrived.

Mary Lennox and Dickon sit outside in the spring in "The Secret Garden"
Mary Lennox (left) and Dickon (right) sit outside in the spring, as pictured in the original edition of The Secret Garden

If you are interested in reading (or re-reading) The Secret Garden in full and do not have a hard copy handy, I highly recommend the Standard Ebooks version, available for free in multiple formats on their website.

The New Leaf Journal: Reviewing the “Golden Oriole”

By Nicholas A. Ferrell. March 18, 2021.

Article.

Just last week, I published a piece reviewing a January 1897 article about the “Golden Oriole.” One problem – “the golden oriole” to which it referred is an American oriole, but the name “golden oriole” today refers to orioles on other continents. In order to discern the identity of the “golden oriole” in today’s terms, I relied upon clues in the article. One of the clues noted that the “golden oriole” described in the magazine passed through Florida in March and April, leaving its winter grounds for breeding season further north. I used that clue, in addition to others in the post, to venture that the original magazine article was most likely about the “orchard oriole.”

The Golden Oriole pictured in the January 1897 issue of Birds: Illustrated By Color Photography.
The “Golden Oriole” – as pictured in the January 1897 issue of Birds: Illustrated By Color Photography

Rather than rehash my detective story though, researching for the article reminded me that the chorus of birds preparing for breeding season is one of the better sounds of spring.

“Old Fashioned Flowers”

By Maurice Maeterlinck. Tr. by Alexander Teixeria. Published in 1905.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

Maurice Materlinck was a Belgian writer and recipient of the 1911 Nobel Prize for Literature.

In Old Fashioned Flowers, he described how the blooming of certain flowers herald the coming of spring. The following passage comes from pages 74-75 of the book on Project Gutenberg.

But, among those of March, April, May, June, July, remember the glad and festive names, the springtime syllables, the vocables of azure and dawn, of moonlight and sunshine! Here is the Snowdrop, or Amaryllis, who proclaims the thaw; the Stitchwort, or Lady’s Collar, who greets the first-communicants along the hedges, whose leaves are as yet indeterminate and uncertain, like a diaphanous green lyre.

Flower illustration for Maurice Materlinck's "Old Fashioned Flowers" (1905)
Illustration that appeared just below the above passage in “Old Fashioned Flowers”

The pretty passage continues, but I will leave it here for the purpose of this survey. Which flowers “proclaim the thaw” for you? Here in Brooklyn, I must vote for the crocus. That seems like a good prompt – let us learn more about the crocus.

“The Look About You Nature Book – No. 4”

By Thomas W. Hoarse.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

The Look About You Nature Books contained knowledge and experiments for children. This particular volume covers an experiment wherein children, under the guidance of their instructor, compare the growth of crocuses in soil and in water. But I reference it here for its beautiful illustration of a crocus in bloom, which you can see below:

Illustration of crocus flowers from volume for of Thomas W. Hoarse's "The Look About You Nature Book"
Illustration of crocus flowers from the book.

Those who want to learn more about how the experiments went can read all about them in the full volume.

“The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed – Vol. II”

By William Curtis. Published in 1790.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

This 1790 magazine was authored by William Curtis, a renowned English botanist who lived from 1746 to 1799.

In this volume of his beautiful magazine, Curtis discussed the Corcus Vernus, or Spring Crocus. You can see it as it was illustrated in the magazine, below:

Illustration of Spring Crocus from William Curtis's "The Botanical Magazine" (1790)
Spring Crocus – as illustrated in the magazine

Curtis wrote the following on cultivating the Spring Crocus:

The cultivation of this plant is attended with no difficulty; in a light sandy loam, and dry situation, the roots thrive, and multiply so much as to require frequent reducing; they usually flower about the beginning of March, and whether planted in rows, or patches, on the borders of the flower-garden, or mixed indiscriminately with the herbage of the lawn, when expanded by the warmth of the sun, they produce a most brilliant and exhilarating effect.

From this description, there is little question about why the “Spring Crocus” earned its “Spring” moniker. It was not, however, all rosy for the Crocus, as Curtis reported. Gardeners had to be wary of “[t]he most mischievous of all our common birds, the sparrow…” Curtis noted that he had some success in keeping the sparrows at bay with the use of a preserved cat skin or stuffed cat, but he suggested that gardeners may find more success with a live cat or a hawk confined in a cage. I actually saw a hawk flying off with a sparrow in Brooklyn recently, so I suppose that could work.

This story leads me to wonder what the British were thinking when they allowed the sparrows to be introduced into the United States, a subject I discussed in an earlier post.

“The Clerk of the Woods”

By Bradford Torrey. Published in 1904.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

Bradford Torrey lived from 1843 to 1912 and wrote extensively about birds and nature around the turn of the twentieth century. In The Clerk of the Woods, Torrey included a chapter titled Signs of Spring. The “signs of spring,” he tells us, “are not imaginary, but visible and tangible.” He brought them home with him and wrote, “I call them my books of the Minor Prophets.” Below, I will excerpt his description of a couple of the “Minor Prophets” of springtime:

This one is an alder branch. Along its whole length, spirally disposed at intervals of an inch or two, are fat purplish leaf-buds, each on its stalk. As I look at them I can see, only four months away, the tender, richly green, newly unfolded, partly grown leaves. How daintily they are crinkled! And how prettily the edges are cut! It is like the work of fairy fingers. And what perfecting of veining and texture! I have never heard any one praise them, but half the things that bring a price in florists’ shops are many degrees less beautiful.

Torrey continued, noting that there were more Minor Prophets of spring on the alder branch:

Still more to the purpose, perhaps, more conspicuous, at all events, as well as nearer to maturity, and so more distinctly prophetic of spring, are the two kinds of flower-buds that adorn the ends of the twigs. These also are of a deep purplish tint, which in the case of the larger (staminate) catkins turns to a lovely green on the shaded under side. Flower-buds, I call them; but they are rather packages of bud-stuff wrapped tightly against the weather, cover overlapping cover. The best shingling of the most expert carpenter could not be more absolutely rain-proof.

You can see pictures of various alder trees in bloom on Wikipedia.

“Birds and Man”

By W.H. Hudson. Published in 1915.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

The author, William Henry Hudson, lived from 1841 to 1922 and was an Anglo-Argentine naturalist. As the title of “Birds and Man” indicates, he was, like all of us at The New Leaf Journal a lover of birds.

The following passage comes from a chapter of his book titled Early Spring in Savernake Forest:

When the spring feeling is in the blood, infecting us with vague longings for we know not what; when we are restless and seem to be waiting for some obstruction to be removed—blown away by winds, or washed away by rains—some change that will open the way to liberty and happiness,—the feeling not unfrequently takes a more or less definite form: we want to go away somewhere, to be at a distance from our fellow-beings, and nearer, if not to the sun, at all events to wild nature.

After that introduction, Hudson discussed his trips to Savernake Forest, a place where, he explained, spring took hold relatively late. While I am not sure that I fully relate to his very eloquent passage, I can say that the onset of spring does make me want to take some nice walks to enjoy the weather. As I argued in one earlier article here at The New Leaf Journal – there is a special time to take a walk in all seasons.

The New Leaf Journal: “Welcome to The Emu Café”

By Nicholas A. Ferrell. May 16, 2020.

Article.

In my introduction to The Emu Café, I wrote as follows:

The traits of the seasons are most crisp in the refreshing mornings.

The scent of spring in the air and the feeling of spring in the breeze are, without a doubt, strongest in the early morning. Consider taking an early morning walk once in a while to enjoy the season. I should take my own advice. There is something else that makes taking in the season in its purest form a bit easier in the spring than in the winter.

The New Leaf Journal: “Bed in Summer, Bed in Winter”

By Nicholas A. Ferrell. September 5, 2020.

See Article.

In this post, I discussed a children’s poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. In the poem, a young boy or girl complains about having to go to bed when it is still daylight in the long days of summer. I considered the poem from the perspective of working adults, who are more likely to fret about only being outdoors when it is dark during the short winter days. While I argued in that post that we should make an effort to appreciate the things that are particular to each season, I will venture that few will object much to sunny and clear spring mornings.

“Springtime and Other Essays”

By Sir Francis Darwin. Published in 1920.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

Sir Francis Darwin was a botanist who lived from 1848 to 1925. In some cases, an individual bears a well-known surname and likely goes through life having to append introductions with “no relation.” Sir Francis Darwin had no need to do that, for he was the third son of Charles Darwin. He began his essay “Springtime” with a touch of humor. I reprint the first paragraph of the essay below:

Governesses used to tell us that the seasons of the year each consist of three months, and of these March, April, and May make the springtime. I should like to break the symmetry, and give February to spring, which would then include February, March, April, and May. It has been said that winter is but autumn “shyly shaking hands with spring.” We will, accordingly, make winter a short link of two months—an autumnal and a vernal hand—December and January. It is a little sad for autumn to have to make room for chill November alongside of the happier months of September and October. But autumn is a season of decadence and cannot justly complain.

If this were about Brooklyn, New York, I would side with the Governesses over Sir Darwin. February does not belong in spring. It can hardly be said to be within earshot of spring on most days. It was just snowing here in Brooklyn in March a couple of days ago, as I reported. If any month is “shaking hands” with spring, it is March. However, since Darwin mentioned May, let us return for a moment to The New Leaf Journal.

The New Leaf Journal: “The Trees Leaf in May”

By Nicholas A. Ferrell. May 31, 2020.

Article.

I call my own number for one last time in this Around the Web post. In this article, I discussed the usage example for “leaf” as a verb: “the trees leaf in May.” The line is beautiful in its elegant simplicity. Below, I quote from a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, which I also quoted in the article:

The vales shall leaf flowers, the woods / Grow malty green with leafing buds.

That passage comes from John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Clear Vision.”

“Poems of Cheer”

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Published in 1914.

See Book on Project Gutenberg.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a well known author and poet who lived from 1850 to 1919. In the poem “No Spring,” “spring” acts as a bit of a motif. Below, you will find the entire poem, but please pay special attention to the final stanza.

"No Spring" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Up from the South come the birds that were banished,
    Frightened away by the presence of frost.
 Back to the vale comes the verdure that vanished,
    Back to the forest the leaves that were lost.
 Over the hillside the carpet of splendour,
    Folded through Winter, Spring spreads down again;
 Along the horizon, the tints that were tender,
    Lost hues of Summer-time, burn bright as then.

 Only the mountains’ high summits are hoary,
    To the ice-fettered river the sun gives a key.
 Once more the gleaming shore lists to the story
    Told by an amorous Summer-kissed sea.
 All things revive that in Winter time perished,
    The rose buds again in the light o’ the sun,
 All that was beautiful, all that was cherished,
    Sweet things and dear things and all things—save one.

 Late, when the year and the roses were lying
    Low with the ruins of Summer and bloom,
 Down in the dust fell a love that was dying,
    And the snow piled over it, and made it a tomb.
 Lo! now the roses are budded for blossom—
    Lo! now the Summer is risen again.
 Why dost thou bud not, O Love of my bosom?
    Why dost thou rise not, and thrill me as then?
 
Life without love is a year without Summer,
    Heart without love is a wood without song.
 Rise then, revive then, thou indolent comer:
    Why dost thou lie in the dark earth so long?
 Rise! ah, thou can’st not! the rose-tree that sheddest
    Its beautiful leaves, in the Springtime may bloom,
 But of cold things the coldest, of dead things the deadest,
    Love buried once, rises not from the tomb.
 Green things may grow on the hillside and heather,
    Birds seek the forest and build there and sing.
 All things revive in the beautiful weather,
    But unto a dead love there cometh no Spring.

“But unto a dead love there cometh no spring.” That is a hauntingly pretty line, but I offer a slight riposte.

Fruits Basket (2001): “Don’t Cry, for the Snow Will Surely Melt”

Fruits Basket (2001), Episode 8. Originally aired on August 23, 2001.

See Episode on Funimation.

Back in December, I listed anime recommendations that aired from 2011-2020. Among the primary recommendations was Fruits Basket, which will conclude with a third season starting this April. In that post, I noted that Fruits Basket had previously been the subject of a separate and very good anime adaptation in 2001. While the new adaptation that began in 2019 is technically superior, more comprehensive, and truer to the source material (which was still being produced when the first adaptation aired), the 2001 adaptation had the best single episode of either Fruits Basket.

Episode 8 of Fruits Basket 2001 featured the protagonist, Tohru Honda. He learned about a tragic love story wherein a man was prevented from marrying his beloved, and ultimately had to erase her memories, only to see her subsequently fall in love with another. The particulars of why that all occurred are well beyond the scope of the instant article, but the entire episode was handled in a very humane way. I note it for its title though, in response to the conclusion of Wilcox’s poem: “Don’t Cry, for the Snow Will Surely Melt.”

Spring will always come around.

An Anecdotal Springtime Association: “Harvest Moon: Back To Nature”

I will conclude with a video game that I associate with springtime, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature.

In 2002, I obtained a copy of Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. For those not in the know, the Harvest Moon series – later rebranded as Story of Seasons – is a video game series where the player generally takes the role of being a farmer. In most entries, the player can expand his or her home, improve the village, and even wed. I recently discussed my memories of a slightly later entry in the seriesHarvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.

Harvest Moon: Back To Nature was an early entry in the series, released for PlayStation. It made it stateside in 2000, and I obtained my copy in 2002. The game is broken into four 30-day seasons, with each year taking place over the course of 120 days. The player first takes control of the main character on Spring 2, wherein he (the option to play as a girl was not introduced until subsequent remakes and remasters) is confronted with the prospect of reviving his grandfather’s rundown farm and the town that is giving him only three years to accomplish the task.

Going Back to Nature

Early on in Back To Nature, you have very little money and poor farming tools. What is a poor young farmer to do? The answer, invariably, is to invest in turnips. Turnip seeds, you see, are cheap, and the turnips reach maturity in just a few in-game days. One early batch of turnips can get the farm rolling and put the player on the path to prosperity as the weeks and months go by.

It is for this reason that I associate spring with turnips, even though turnips seem to be more autumnal and wintery to me in a culinary sense. That is just me, however, perhaps some of our readers have beloved turnip recipes for the spring.

I played enough Harvest Moon: Back To Nature back in the day that I can hear the game’s spring song in my head as I write this article. That song, I also associate with spring. You can listen to the song and see a few gameplay clips on YouTube in a short video.

A remastered version of Back To Nature was recently released for Nintendo Switch and Steam. I will certainly play, but for me, the memories of working on my farm and watering turnip seeds with the spring song playing in the background are perennially virid.

Springing Into Spring

With that, I leave you to enjoy some very nice springtime weather here in Brooklyn, New York. I hope that spring is also coming in nicely wherever you are. If you have your own spring thoughts, please feel free to post them in our Guestbook.