A Cold Spring by Elizabeth Bishop

May 16, 2009 at 11:27 pm (Farming, God, Gorgeous Writing)

for Jane Dewey, Maryland

Nothing is so beautiful as spring. -Hopkins

violets-rsA cold spring:
the violet was flawed on the lawn.
For two weeks or more the trees hesitated;
the little leaves waited,
carefully indicating their characteristics.
Finally a grave green dust
settled over your big and aimless hills.
One day, in a chill white blast of sunshine,
on the side of one a calf was born.
The mother stopped lowing
and took a long time eating the after-birth,
a wretched flag,
but the calf got up promptly
and seemed inclined to feel gay.

dogwood1The next day
was much warmer.
Greenish-white dogwood infiltrated the wood,
each petal burned, apparently, by a cigarette-butt;
and the blurred redbud stood
beside it, motionless, but almost more
like movement than any placeable color.
Four deer practiced leaping over your fences.
The infant oak-leaves swung through the sober oak.
Song-sparrows were wound up for the summer,
and in the maple the complementary cardinal
cracked a whip, and the sleeper awoke,
stretching miles of green limbs from the south.
white_lilacIn his cap the lilacs whitened,
then one day they fell like snow.
Now, in the evening,
a new moon comes.
The hills grow softer. Tufts of long grass show
where each cow-flop lies.
The bull-frogs are sounding,
slack strings plucked by heavy thumbs.
Beneath the light, against your white front door,
the smallest moths, like Chinese fans,
flatten themselves, silver and silver-gilt
over pale yellow, orange, or gray.
Now, from the thick grass, the fireflies
begin to rise:
up, then down, then up again:
lit on the ascending flight,
drifting simultaneously to the same height,
–exactly like the bubbles in champagne.
–Later on they rise much higher.
And your shadowy pastures will be able to offer
these particular glowing tributes
every evening now throughout the summer.



  1. Alex Knisely said,

    Thank you for letting me read this again — twenty minutes before three, a lonely night, and I needed to hear that soft tremble between the two so close, so different vowels of flawed and lawn.

    I had forgotten the champagne-bubble fireflies, foaming above the fields.

  2. Elvet Velvis said,

    There you go. “Exactly like the bubbles in Champagne” is what brought me back to this. Can’t help it.

  3. Nina Manston said,

    The loveliness of the poem –?another ‘Spring’ we can take around within us, and remember those moments which this poem so beautifully touches upon,with the lightest brush of the poet’s imagination, casting our ‘inner eye’ over her evocative and visual landscape–meeting felt inner ‘sensibilities’ –I shall share this with my daughter and grand-daughter.

    Nina Manston.

  4. Nicholas said,

    I read this twice. It is indeed a very beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing.

  5. The Elizabeth Bishop Tournament « Soft Sift said,

    […] A Cold Spring […]

  6. And I love the rain « GrongarBlog said,

    […] Butlin April 21 ~ Pied Beauty ~ Gerard Manley Hopkins April 22 ~ Earth Day ~ Jane Yolen April 23 ~ A Cold Spring ~ Elizabeth […]

  7. a cold spring | seeking spirit said,

    […] a cold spring by elizabeth bishop […]

  8. cold spring: a reposting | seeking spirit said,

    […] a cold spring by elizabeth bishop […]

  9. CH 21: Aislinn, Fireflies Rising, and a wander in Paris | Curious Handmade said,

    […] The name is a reference to a lovely poem called A Cold Spring by Elizabeth Bishop. […]

  10. Louis Pate said,


  11. Cold Spring | Richard Nugent's Blog said,

    […] A Cold Spring by Elizabeth Bishop  May 16, 2009 at 11:27 pm                                   for Jane Dewey, Maryland […]

  12. A Light exists in Spring | AGONYMUD said,

    […] books with no rules. Eliot’s Wasteland (though not very spring-y), and Bishop’s A Cold Spring (similar vibe but with a plot twist) are great ways to keep the light misery of winter flowing […]

  13. ‘A cold Spring’ by Elizabeth Bishop | Poetry in Surrey Libraries said,

    […] Read the full poem here. […]

  14. #NationalPoetryMonth’16 Round-up (Day 22) | Bonespark~ said,

    […] “Utopian” Kathryn Simmonds “April” R.A. Villanueva “When Doves” Elizabeth Bishop “A Cold Spring” Langston Hughes “The Weary Blues” Jeffrey McDaniel “The First […]

  15. saad said,

    where is the analysis

  16. Coming – Poetry Prof said,

    […] A Cold Spring by Elizabeth Bishop […]

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