Poem of the Day: ‘Fides, Spes’

The poem depicts springtime’s chancy, brief beauty in a climate of perilous weathers, and hints as well at the brevity of human joy.

The New York Sun
Willa Cather. Wikimedia Commons

Known for such novels as “My Ántonia,” “O Pioneers,” and “The Song of the Lark,” with their lyric but unsparing depictions of life on the Great Plains, Willa Cather (1873–1947) was a poet as well as a writer of fiction. Her novels, with their concern for place, examine the details of a landscape in both its matter and its moods. Her poetry also dwells in such details. “Fides, Spes” (Latin for Faith, Hope), with its undulant rhythms, trimeter and tetrameter lines alternating with dimeter in rhyming abab quatrains, depicts springtime’s chancy, brief beauty in a climate of perilous weathers, and hints as well at the brevity of human joy.  

Fides, Spes 
by Willa Cather 

Joy is come to the little 
Pink to the peach and pink to the apple, 
          White to the pear. 
Stars are come to the dogwood, 
          Astral, pale; 
Mists are pink on the red-bud, 
          Veil after veil. 
Flutes for the feathery locusts, 
          Soft as spray; 
Tongues of the lovers for chestnuts, poplars, 
          Babbling May. 
Yellow plumes for the willows’ 
          Wind-blown hair; 
Oak trees and sycamores only 
          Comfortless bare. 
Sore from steel and the watching, 
          Somber and old,— 
Wooing robes for the beeches, larches, 
          Splashed with gold; 
Breath o’ love to the lilac, 
          Warm with noon.— 
Great hearts cold when the little 
          Beat mad so soon. 
What is their faith to bear it 
          Till it come, 
Waiting with rain-cloud and swallow, 
          Frozen, dumb? 


With “Poem of the Day,” The New York Sun offers a daily portion of verse selected by the Sun’s poetry editor, Joseph Bottum of Dakota State University, with the help of the North Carolina poet, Sally Thomas. Tied to the day, or the season, or just individual taste, the poems will be typically drawn from the lesser-known portion of the history of English verse. In the coming months we will be reaching out to contemporary poets for examples of current, primarily formalist work, to show that poetry can still serve as a delight to the ear, an instruction to the mind, and a tonic for the soul.

The New York Sun

© 2023 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  Create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use