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Spring and All

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We had an absolutely gorgeous weekend here in West Michigan–and that’s not simply because of the Festival of Faith and Writing! No, the weather–in contrast to the snow we’d had only a little while before–shouted “spring” at every turn.

In literature, spring is supposed to be all new life and bounding baby animals. But of course, the best poets complicate that notion.  T.S. Eliot with his “cruelest month” of April, for example. And as I’ve been planning for next term (in their great wisdom, Congress has decided that professors need to order textbooks incredibly early) and the class I’m going to teach in the British Romantics, I was reminded of William Wordsworth’s thoughtful “Lines Written in Early Spring.” If we can overlook his use of “man” for “humanity,” we find a poem that encourages us to weigh the joy of spring–particularly the pleasures of God’s good creation–against our own actions and the “grie[f]” that brings. Perhaps worth a read this morning.


Lines Written in Early Spring

By William Wordsworth
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sat reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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