Robert Bly, “A Late Spring Day in my Life”

A Late Spring Day in my Life (from Poetry)
Robert Bly

A silence hovers over the earth:
The grass lifts lightly in the heat
Like the ancient wing of a bird.
A horse gazes steadily at me.


“A silence hovers over the earth” – all is still, for a moment. No speaking, no noise, but if a sound erupts it will be everything. Silence is as if one has to listen.

“The grass lifts lightly in the heat” – there is silence because something else has made itself present. The slight lifting of the grass, the slight warmth: hinting at ruah, the breath of God at Creation? It seems too large a claim at this point (though: “hovers over the earth”), but…

“like the ancient wing of a bird” – in Greek depictions, the Sphinx has wings (constant in other depictions: lion body, man’s head). The odd word out is “ancient:” why was this detail added? It suggests the whole poem is about origins. The Sphinx leaves with “What is man,” leaving the answer to a riddle a riddle.

“A horse gazes steadily at me” – oh, what a strange creature is man! What has been out of place the whole time is the speaker himself.

So is this poem convincing? Does wondering where you are late in life really have overtones of Oedipus? Or does that horse happen to stare a lot? This seems less tragic, less pathetic, more comic. Not that the reflection isn’t serious – it is, and it has important consequences, as the speaker is wondering who he is in the world, what his existence means. But maybe, just maybe, the most important things don’t need the most serious approach.