February hasn’t inspired a great many poems, not being, in general, a very inspiring month, but it did inspire this one – In February, by Alice Meynell.
Alice Meynell grew up chiefly in Italy, born to bohemian parents, and converted to Roman Catholicism at an early age. This is one of her earlier poems, part of an intense sonnet-sequence thought to have been inspired by an unrequited – or at least unconsummated – attachment to a Roman Catholic priest (who is presumably the “friend” in the last three lines). The sense of latent fertility is rather wonderful.
Frustrated in this respect, she found other outlets for her energies, moving to England, marrying the publisher Wilfred Meynell, editing various journals, having eight children, rescuing and publishing Francis Thompson, being pursued by Coventry Patmore and later in life becoming a prominent Suffragist. She clearly had a lot of energy. Her later poems were more purely devotional than this, and perhaps less interesting as a result.
- Rich meanings of the prophet-Spring adorn,
- Unseen, this colourless sky of folded showers,
- And folded winds; no blossom in the bowers;
- A poet’s face asleep in this grey morn.
- Now in the midst of the old world forlorn
- A mystic child is set in these still hours.
- I keep this time, even before the flowers,
- Sacred to all the young and the unborn.
- To all the miles and miles of unsprung wheat,
- And to the Spring waiting beyond the portal,
- And to the future of my own young art,
- And, among all these things, to you, my sweet,
- My friend, to your calm face and the immortal
- Child tarrying all your life-time in your heart.
She also found the time to sit for a portrait by John Singer Sargent, like so: