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How Spring Came In New England
by [?]

That is the law. Without revolution there is nothing. What is
revolution? It is turning society over, and putting the best underground
for a fertilizer. Thus only will things grow. What has this to do
with New England? In the language of that flash of social lightning,
Beranger, “May the Devil fly away with me if I can see!”

Let us speak of the period in the year in New England when winter
appears to hesitate. Except in the calendar, the action is ironical;
but it is still deceptive. The sun mounts high: it is above the horizon
twelve hours at a time. The snow gradually sneaks away in liquid
repentance. One morning it is gone, except in shaded spots and close by
the fences. From about the trunks of the trees it has long departed:
the tree is a living thing, and its growth repels it. The fence is dead,
driven into the earth in a rigid line by man: the fence, in short, is
dogma: icy prejudice lingers near it. The snow has disappeared; but the
landscape is a ghastly sight,–bleached, dead. The trees are stakes; the
grass is of no color; and the bare soil is not brown with a healthful
brown; life has gone out of it. Take up a piece of turf: it is a clod,
without warmth, inanimate. Pull it in pieces: there is no hope in it:
it is a part of the past; it is the refuse of last year. This is the
condition to which winter has reduced the landscape. When the snow,
which was a pall, is removed, you see how ghastly it is. The face of the
country is sodden. It needs now only the south wind to sweep over it,
full of the damp breath of death; and that begins to blow. No prospect
would be more dreary.

And yet the south wind fills credulous man with joy. He opens the
window. He goes out, and catches cold. He is stirred by the mysterious
coming of something. If there is sign of change nowhere else, we detect
it in the newspaper. In sheltered corners of that truculent instrument
for the diffusion of the prejudices of the few among the many begin to
grow the violets of tender sentiment, the early greens of yearning. The
poet feels the sap of the new year before the marsh-willow. He blossoms
in advance of the catkins. Man is greater than Nature. The poet is
greater than man: he is nature on two legs,–ambulatory.

At first there is no appearance of conflict. The winter garrison seems
to have withdrawn. The invading hosts of the South are entering without
opposition. The hard ground softens; the sun lies warm upon the southern
bank, and water oozes from its base. If you examine the buds of the
lilac and the flowering shrubs, you cannot say that they are swelling;
but the varnish with which they were coated in the fall to keep out
the frost seems to be cracking. If the sugar-maple is hacked, it will
bleed,–the pure white blood of Nature.

At the close of a sunny day the western sky has a softened aspect: its
color, we say, has warmth in it On such a day you may meet a caterpillar
on the footpath, and turn out for him. The house-fly thaws out; a
company of cheerful wasps take possession of a chamber-window. It
is oppressive indoors at night, and the window is raised. A flock of
millers, born out of time, flutter in. It is most unusual weather for
the season: it is so every year. The delusion is complete, when, on a
mild evening, the tree-toads open their brittle-brattle chorus on the
edge of the pond. The citizen asks his neighbor, “Did you hear the
frogs last night?” That seems to open the new world. One thinks of his
childhood and its innocence, and of his first loves. It fills one with
sentiment and a tender longing, this voice of the tree-toad. Man is
a strange being. Deaf to the prayers of friends, to the sermons and
warnings of the church, to the calls of duty, to the pleadings of his
better nature, he is touched by the tree-toad. The signs of the spring
multiply. The passer in the street in the evening sees the maid-servant
leaning on the area-gate in sweet converse with some one leaning on the
other side; or in the park, which is still too damp for anything but
true affection, he sees her seated by the side of one who is able to
protect her from the policeman, and hears her sigh, “How sweet it is to
be with those we love to be with!”