E.e. cummings’ odd and memorable poem about spring imagines a world of joy, color, and traditional games taken up after having been put away for the winter. In the “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful” season the world awakens into the light and plays. Children express the joy of spring with balloons, marbles, hopscotch, and dancing, and grownups would do well to do likewise, remembering that “Nature’s first green is gold,” as Robert Frost teaches, and precious, and fleeting, and grace-filled, like childhood itself.
The Spirit of Youth
At Gregory the Great Academy we have the privilege of preserving and participating in the innocence of childhood alongside our adolescent students. Our boys climb trees, hike through our woods and fields, sing around campfires they have built with flint and steel. They make up crazy games that involve a lot of running and shouting, they tackle each other, put together a juggling show to dazzle local children. In short, they participate in the energy of life when they feel the energy of spring, “when proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim / Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,” as “Sonnet 98” has it.
Not only the students, but teachers feel it, too. What a privilege it is to laugh with these young men as they pretend to be Merry Men, to strive with them in spirit as they struggle in a rugby scrum, to share a quiet moment watching a bird’s clumsy attempt to begin a nest in a new-leafed tree. Gregory the Great Academy is a place where innocence and simple pleasures are treasured, where nature or a good poem can draw us closer to God and His sacred mysteries. We try to heed this advice from “Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. –Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
Beauty and Virtue
On our 193 acres of woods and fields, we can help our boys get all this and help keep their hearts unclouded. We can foster in these good boys a love for goodness, truth, and beauty, the kind of beauty that dwells in the heart as nursery rhymes do. Wholesome recreation, studies informed by the Church, and revels with unfettered nature form habits of lifelong virtue. When they emerge from their youthful spring, may they keep these habits, these loves. May our Lord keep them safe and temperate through any winter weather that may come into their lives, until they enter the eternal spring of Heaven.