Unseen Poetry Response
Initial idea/Global idea – not necessarily the beginning of the poem.
Resolution or not?
L/F/S – Alternative interpretations as well.
Nesbit presents the effects of war with a devastatingly forlorn regret for a presumed lost love. The title is simplistic enough: “spring in wartime”. Spring is associated with renewal and youth and fecundity, all ideas that frame the presented love interest to which the voice affectionately refers to throughout the poem. Wartime’’ is a rather neutral term through which to describe this desperate experience, and this remarkably understated tone seems to continue through the poem. The voice presents their love for another amidst repeated references to nature, most notably in the first stanza with the delightful image of ‘sprinked blackthorn snow’. The delicate verb ‘sprinkled’ implicates a deliberate action on the part of the snow, perhaps suggesting a creator. This is a reading that a Christian in wartime Britain would certainly want to be experience. The presence of snow connotes a sense of innocence and wonder that contrasts with the devastation and danger that war can bring. The connotation of ‘blackthorn’ provide a further juxtaposition to the beauty of snow as thorns can be physically dangerous and certainly painful, similar to the effects of war.
This reference to the love interest among the environment continues throughout the poem with depictions of the growth of flowers (namely ‘violets’). The gentle personification of them ‘peek[ing]’ at the voice in the poem is reminiscent of perhaps the previous coupled experiences that were shared in this environment. The regular rhythm of seven syllables and matched couplet rhyme that continues throughout the entirety of the poem (save the painful last line) perhaps emphasises the idea of nature continuing, and continuing regardless of the effects of war. That they have no ‘scent’ suggests that even though nature physically exists separate to man, the effects of war render any pleasant experiential aspects of nature redundant. Alternatively, perhaps nature is not being experienced by the voice in the poem because without the lost partner (indicated by the final line), nature – and by implication life in general – simply cannot be appreciated if they cannot be shared. This notion is further developed by the uneasy metaphor of the voice having ‘heart to sing’. Heart in this instance evokes a sense of romance and passion, both destroyed in the aftermath of war. That this is linked to robin ‘warm[ing]’ the nest with its breast makes the domesticity of this image so much more galling, and therefore would be particularly striking to the reader who has themselves already made a home.
The resolution of the feelings of regret with the voice’s partner presumably dead in the çlay’ is problematized at the end of the poem. Whilst the final line is delivered in only three syllables, breaking the established pattern of seven and underscoring the premature ending of the voice’s partner, it also develops an uneasy image from the ‘daisies’ growing from the grave. Normally associated with childhood fun and trivial, carefree days (again connotations we can link and expect from ‘springtime’), the daisies here continue the idea that nature will continue regardless of human loss and emotion. This stark, and somewhat nihilistic, reading could be further manufactured by the use of the unusual choice of the verb ‘make’ – perhaps the effects of war have destroyed the childish joy of appreciating nature, and instead they are more aware of the need to construct pleasure and perhaps therefore consolation from the aftermath of death in war. I am left with the final word hanging from the end of the first line of the last stanza – the explosive, open voweled verb ‘blown’. Like flowers that are delicate and blown by the wind (by necessity to fertilise), young men are physically blown apart in war; young women’s minds and lives are similarly, and unspokenly blown apart too. This is perhaps the most disturbing message from the poem, and its most upsetting reading.