May is a Pious Fraud

May is a Pious Fraud

 This poem by James Russell Lowell was published in 1869. It explores the unpredictable character of the month of May. What will it be this year is something I always find myself wondering.

May is a pious fraud of the almanac.

A ghastly parody of real Spring

Shaped out of snow and breathed with eastern wind;

Or if, o’er-confident, she trust the date,

And, with her handful of anemones,

Herself as shivery, steal into the sun,

The season need but turn his hour-glass round,

And Winter suddenly, like crazy Lear,

Reels back, and brings the dead May in his arms,

Her budding breasts and wan dislustred front

With frosty streaks and drifts of his white beard

All overblown. Then, warmly walled with books,

While my wood-fire supplies the sun’s defect,

Whispering old forest-sagas in its dreams,

I take my May down from the happy shelf

Where perch the world’s rare song-birds in a row,

Waiting my choice to upen with full breast,

And beg an alms of springtime, ne’er denied

Indoors by vernal Chaucer, whose fresh woods

Throb thick with merle and mavis all the years.

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