Hay’s Daze: Simple poetry captures the wonder of spring

“It’s about darn time!”

This is a phrase I’ve heard bandied about, on account of the fact this week marked the first day of spring.

Also, it marked the rare use of the word “bandied,” which is a word people don’t seem to use that often. It’s possible “bandied” is not even a word anymore, but, hey, now it’s spring, anything seems possible. Even summer.

For some reason though, possibly due to faulty brain cells, every time spring rolls around and the gutter riverlets flow along carrying twig boats, and the sun beats down the lawn snow-mountains, and rubber boots come out of the closet, so to speak, I always think of one thing.

And, no, it’s not getting in the car and zooming through puddles and splashing pedestrians with perfect timing.

And it’s not the thought those melting snowbanks are just right for ambushing Wayne, my neighbour, with a barrage of perfect snowballs.

And it isn’t even the fact soon, the streets and roads and yards will be a perfect mess of muck and mud, and the house will be full of perfect little cat tracks.

No, the thing that always comes immediately to my so-called mind is the following: “Spring is sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the birdies is.”

Those words stick in my mostly empty head like an earworm song that you can’t get out of your brain.

You know, like (Everybody sing now:) “Don’t tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, I just don’t think he’d understand …”

Try to get that out of your head for the rest of the day. (Sorry.)

The thing is, I don’t know where the epic poem Spring is Sprung came from, other than I grew up hearing it, and I’ll bet most of you did, too.

I guess with its superior grammatical structure, stunning verb usage and the deep existential questions raised in its metaphorical ode to spring, it should be no surprise that it has stuck with many of us for so long.

And to think, it’s just two brief lines — a rhyming couplet — and yet it remains profoundly unforgettable. Like the most famous limerick, which begins: “There once was a man from Nantucket …”

OK, so you thought I was referring to the X-rated version. Shame on you. It goes like this: “There once was a man from Nantucket, Who kept all his cash in a bucket. But his daughter, named Nan, ran away with a man. And as for the bucket, Nantucket.”

So there.

Studious readers among you may have immediately noticed that the famous Nantucket ditty has way more than two lines. And this got me thinking, which is never a good idea, so I laid down for a nap until it went away.

But later, after a cursory glance out the window to the emerging springtime, it jumped right back into my head like the brain-freeze you suddenly get when you slurp a Slurpee too fast.

“Is Spring is Sprung more than just two incredible lines of pure poetry?” I fretted to myself. “Is there more?”

So of course, I Googled.

You will no doubt be thrilled to learn that it turns out, there is in fact more.

So much more. And so, in honour of the official arrival of spring, here is the impressive elegy in its entirety:

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdies is. They say the birds is on the wing.”

“Ain’t that absurd?

“I always thought the wing was on the bird.”

And you thought poetry was dumb.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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