Nothing says new beginnings and second chances quite like spring. Spring, that season of warmer weather, flowers blooming, birds returning, and longer days (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). The new season brings a revival of the body and spirit and proof that Mother Nature has this four seasons schtick on lock. Writers have long waxed poetic about the bountiful nature of spring, and how its arrival signals everything from new life (think: baby chicks and bunnies for Easter) to the dutiful purging of our personal belongings (see: spring cleaning). Shakespeare has paid homage to the season, as have Virginia Woolf, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, and others.
Our positive associations with the season might seem obvious — more daylight, a reprieve from the long winter months, an embarrassment of holidays — but humans’ long love affair with spring actually has roots in a number of different cultures and belief systems. The English name itself is believed to have replaced the word “Lent,” an Old English way to describe the season prior to the 14th century. “Lent” is derived from “lencten,” or “lengthen”; the season’s original name referred to how days begin to lengthen with the arrival of spring.
In Iranian and Chinese cultures, spring marks the real beginning of the new year, according to their respective calendars, and is commemorated with a thorough home cleansing to get rid of negativity and lingering spirits. Hence, some believe, the advent of spring cleaning. (Other historians believe spring cleaning is tied to the soot left in 19th-century houses at the end of a winter of kerosene lamps and coal fireplaces.) In the Jewish tradition, spring marks the annual celebration of Passover, the occasion when persecuted Jews were liberated from slavery in Egypt. It is therefore a time of rebirth and a chance at new ways of being. In the Bible, spring symbolizes a time for growth and renewal; there is an undercurrent of awakening and revival that is tied to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There’s also the philosophical take on spring as a metaphor for life on a grander scale — spring is when new life emerges from the cold of winter, when new ideas and projects begin to take root, when we’re allowed to stretch our limbs and turn our faces toward the sun. The seasons have been used to describe the stage of growing older: Summer is a time of youth and movement and languishing in sensual delights; autumn turns folks inward as a symbol of maturity and transition; and winter is of course a time for reflection and dormancy, of preparing for deep sleep. As a result, then, quotes about spring — as opposed to the other three seasons — are largely upbeat, hopeful, and bursting with the language of possibility and vivacity. Philosophers have heralded the return of spring as proof that there really is light at the end of even the darkest tunnel, and that there is much to learn from nature’s unwavering adherence to the four seasons.
Here, we’ve rounded up some particularly resonant quotes about spring, gathered from a wide range of cultural and generational sources — proving that our obsession with clean slates and new beginnings, while universal and deeply felt, is definitely nothing new.
Earth laughs in flowers.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya”
When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people, and if you keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.
– Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"
Nobody can keep spring out of Harlem. I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face. Sunshine patted me all over the head.
– Langston Hughes, "The Early Simple Stories"
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
– Poet Anne Bradstreet
Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.
– Poet Rainer Maria Rilke
Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.
– Jim Carrey
Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s alright.
– George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”
If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.
– Victor Hugo, "Les Miserables"
The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.
– Author Harriet Ann Jacobs, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.
– Poet Pablo Neruda
In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
– Margaret Atwood, "Bluebeard’s Egg"
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
– Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu
Where flowers bloom so does hope.
– Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson
What a strange thing! / to be alive / beneath cherry blossoms.
– Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa
I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.
– Virginia Woolf, "Jacob’s Room"
Photo credit: Alysa Bajenaru/ Unsplash