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O, how this spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory of an April's day

Spring sunshine is stunning, if unreliable.
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

“O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!”
— Proteus, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1, scene 3

After the long, cold dark of winter, a sunny April day can seem warmer and brighter than all the simmering, glaring days of August. It may only be 65 degrees, but the difference between 55 and 65 is the difference between hiding under the covers and going running, between two cups of coffee and strawberries for breakfast, between bare branches on the trees and a carpet of daffodils at our feet. It’s no coincidence that Easter comes at this time of year – in its affirmation of life, it intuitively belongs to the season of new birth and youth and plenty.

But for all its exuberance and vibrancy, April is far from reliable. The picnicker who revels in the sun as she leaves her house may be holding an umbrella over her watermelon and lemonade half an hour later, and the parents who dress their children in matching t-shirts for a trip to the zoo may cut the visit short when the temperature drops three degrees and suddenly demands sweaters. The height of spring may be beautiful, but predictable it is not.

The early days of a love affair are similarly treacherous. The participants don’t yet know each other well enough to read subtle signals and may not trust that they’re on the same page. If he doesn’t call for three days, is he attempting to play by culture’s rules or not actually that interested? If she goes from chatty to nervous, did he say the wrong thing or is she just shy? New romance can shift from intoxicating to baffling to miserable and back with little warning or explanation, making it exhausting for both participants.

Shakespeare explores this mess inherent to new love in more than one of his plays—Orlando and Rosalind practically wallow in it in As You Like It, and Romeo and Juliet are another obvious example—but this quote from the more obscure Two Gentlemen of Verona encapsulates it beautifully. (In context, the “cloud” stealing Proteus’s sunshine is actually external to the relationship, but that doesn’t lessen the universality of the quote.)

The tempestuous emotions that come part and parcel with that first flush don’t last, of course—at least, not for most couples who would be considered stable. Before long, the violence and ecstasy of new love give way to the relative steadiness of a long-term relationship, and the couple settles into a different, much deeper level of comfort with one another. The agony of the early days is forgotten as both partners adjust to functioning as a pair.

Summer has its advantages—a trip to the beach isn’t likely to be marred by a sudden cold front, and barbecue hosts can forgo hot drinks entirely in favor of more table space for ice cream. Stable or not, though, the heat of summer just doesn’t have the glory of spring.

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