May, by Sara Teasdale

"May" is not a simple ode to a month on the calendar. It is a commentary on the state of mind of a woman who feels she has been treated unkindly by a man.

The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May.

The contrast between the sunny, bright, and breezy month of May nestled deep in the season of spring is stark in this poem. We are shown the lovely purple lilacs. (Lilacs also bloomed in Walt Whitman's dooryard as he reflected on the death of Lincoln. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of the second stanza.) They are not particularly associated with death. Here they paint a cheerful picture. They are also a very fragrant flower. So this line reaches up and tickles the nose.

In line two, laughing leaves and sunshine accentuate the gay and colorful image. The petals that fall on the orchard wall are likely to be apples and cherries. Like lilacs they exude a fragrant odor. It is the habit of some families to snip a small sprig of apple blossoms from a tree and make a place setting of them. But they inevitably fall from the twig. The falling white and pink petals cover the orchard wall and look like snow falling. For the narrator, it leads in to an emotional winter. Beneath those blossoms is not only the wall, but her heart. She goes a wintry way. Cold, some might dare say frigid.

The last two lines give us the reason for this emotional winter. She has not merely lost the love she had found in April, but worse, far worse, she has found him to be untrue - and very likely sent him packing.

< La Belle Dame Sans Merci, by Keats | An Autumn Evening by Lucy Maud Montgomery >

Interesting Fact:

Sara Teasdale was born in 1884 in St. Louis Missouri. Sara had a frail constitution and most of her life had a nurse to attend her.


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