In "The Message of the March Wind," William Morris argues for socialism, a political system in which the government or the people centrally share resources with all other members of society. Morris believed that socialism provided the best way to combat the growing inequality between upper and lower classes. In the 1870s, Morris, who devoted much energy to promoting the socialist cause, wrote poetry to spread his views.

"The Message of the March Wind" opens with two lovers wandering over the land, passing from village to village. The lovers travel contendedly, "no evil is weighing / On they heart or mine, where all sorrow is healed" (lines 7-8). From the first two stanzas of the poem, it seems as though the piece is most interested in the lovers' relationship, especially with the phrase "love mingles with love" (line 7). However, the optimistic tone and focus of the poem changes in the third stanza with the setting of the sun.

With the "vane on the spire-top swinging in doubt," the poem takes on a ominous tone. The March wind blows, bearing tales of two different groups of people: the fortunate wealthy and the suffering poor. Morris draws most attention to the unhappy state of the latter group, and his indignation toward the inequality between both groups is evident. Yet the poem ends optimistically, under a certain condition. In the last three stanzas, Morris writes of the message the wind brings:

So the hope of the people now buddeth and groweth,
Rest fadeth before it, and blindness and fear;
It biddeth us learn all the wisdom it knoweth;
It hath found us and held us, and biddeth us hear:

For it beareth the message: "Rise up on the morrow
And go on your ways toward the doubt and the strife;
Join hope to our hope and blend sorrow with sorrow,
And seek for men's love in the short days of life."

But lo, the old inn, and the lights, and the fire,
And the fiddler's old tune and the shuffling of feet;
Soon for us shall be quiet and rest and desire,
And to-morrow's uprising to deeds shall be sweet.

With these lines, Morris issues a strong call for equality and socialism.

Questions

1. Why does Morris include the two lovers of the poem? Particularly, why does Morris shape the poem around the travels of the lovers and the one sided conversation? Does there seem to be an indication that these nameless lovers, representative of the common people, will bring change to the troubled society?

2. Morris expresses his contempt toward the current government run by the Whigs in "How I Became a Socialist" (1896), "What shall I say concerning its [Whiggery] mastery of and its waste of mechanical power, its commonwealth so poor, its enemies of the commonwealth so rich, its stupendous organisation-for the misery of life! Its contempt of simple pleasures which everyone could enjoy but for its folly?" Looking at this statement as well as the last three stanzas, what do you think Morris' ideal society is?

3. The most expressive and beautiful moments of the poem occur in the numerous descriptions of nature. For example, Morris writes the following exquisite line in the fifteenth stanza, "the autumn-sown wheat 'neath the snow lying green." Why are the most powerful and beautiful images in the poem associated with nature? How does this adoration of nature fit into Morris' notion of the ideal society?

4. Why does Morris mention such images as the old inn and the fiddler's old tune in the last stanza? What mood is created through these elements? How do these images tie into the message Morris is trying to communicate?


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Last modified 7 November 2004