Every spring, as April saunters in, I remember the line, “April is the cruelest month,” recalling the first time I studied T.S. Eliot as a sophomore English major at UCLA. The line comes from Eliot’s poem The Wasteland.
Like many writers of his time, Eliot related to spring’s sense of renewal and regeneration as a bringer of pain, awakening us to life’s eventual disappointing realities. William Butler Yeats, too, referred to the “Second Coming” not as cause for rejoicing but as something to fear and apprehend in a world where “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
Both writers reflected the mood post-World War I, when the world had shocked itself by the devastation and horror it could inflict upon itself. A generation later, Sylvia Plath would echo the theme of painful awakening in her poem Tulips, where she blames the red tulips for bringing her back to life from a peaceful, anesthetic semi-existence in the antiseptic hospital of white corridors and nurses’ uniforms.
Why is this all part of a garden blog? Because while I identify with these writers, I also want to celebrate the era we are in, where hope is—hopefully—not quite so painful.
So, I have rewritten the first few lines of T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland in my interpretation, reflecting on my garden and experience of the seasons. You can find the full text of The Wasteland here if you’re unfamiliar with the original poem.
It’s a masterpiece (the original), and I hope no one takes offense as I offer my re-interpretation of the beginning of this classic.
April is the coolest month, breeding
Lilacs from the warming land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
New roots and spring shoots after our best year of rain.
Winter kept us eager, covering
Coffee tables in seed catalogs, feeding
A little yearning with garden plans to come.
Summer surprised us, coming over the hills of
With a blanket of fog; we stopped at
And ordered warm beverages, sipping
in the car,
And went home, and tried not to buy more plants.
Watashi wa nihonjindesuga, jitsuwa
And when we were children, in the garden
with my mother
My friend, she said Let’s go to the shed,
And pretend it is a time machine,
And I was nervous, but she said Christine Marie,
Hold on tight, And off we went.
In the garden, there you feel free.
We ate nectarines, and made gymnastics routines
in the pool.
May this April bring you all of the delights of the season, spark memories of the garden, shower you with the blessings of anticipation and desire and feast your senses on the beauty of the garden in growth and bloom.