“Some Other Spring” is one of the most enigmatic poems in the Countdown. There’s an astonishing amount we don’t know about the lyric, even though it’s listed at the site linked above as the 631st-greatest jazz standard of all time (jazz has its countdowns, too).
We don’t know much about the author of the lyric aside from her name. Seriously, if you try Googling “Irene Kitchings,” you enter a sort of twilight world of information where the usual Internet authorities are improbably confused. Irene Kitchings may or may not have been married to pianist Teddy Wilson, she may or may not have had other marriages and other surnames. She may or may not have written “Some Other Spring,” for that matter, and she’s associated with only one other jazz lyric, the Billie Holiday song “I’m Pulling Through,” which has a similar ethereal beauty. But what I can tell you for sure about Irene Kitchings and her relation to this lyric approaches zero.
I also can’t tell you the exact words of the lyric. I can do a little better than the Internet, though that’s not saying a lot. The version I have on my class handout reads:
Some other spring I’ll try to love,
Now I still cling to faded blossoms.
Fresh when worn, left crushed and torn
Like the love affair I mourn.
Some other spring, when twilight falls,
Will the nights bring another to me?
Not your kind – but let me find
It’s not true that love is blind.
Sun shines around me,
But deep in my heart, it’s cold as ice.
Love, once you found me,
But can that story be told twice?
Some other spring will my heart wake,
Stirring to sing love’s magic music?
Then forget the old duet,
And love in some other spring.
I think I’ve improved here on some versions that you can find on lyrics websites, like “Fresh from worn / Left chrushed and torn” or “Fresh when one left crushed and torn. / Like the love affair I’m on.” I have introduced the phrase “And love in some other spring” in the final line, but Billie Holiday sings “In love with some other spring,” which is also good. I’ve heard it sung both ways, and I prefer “and love in” – slightly. And after all, Billie Holiday shouldn’t be the expert here. On one and the same canonical recording, she sings “But can that story unfold twice?” the first time through the middle eight, and “But can that story be told twice?” the second time.
What is the text? And in the case of a song where we’re not even very sure of the author, and a musical genre where the singers are notorious improvisers, how can we ever be sure?
In the case of great modern song lyric, we are back in a situation that reminds me of medieval poetry: uncertain transmission, strong connection to music, semi-anonymous authors.
And potent, timeless themes. The connection of love to a faded blossom appears in many songs and lyrics. Wilhelm Müller’s “Trockne Blumen,” which was set to music by Schubert as one of his most famous “Lieder,” evokes the possibility that the flowers the speaker has received from a lover will fade, but still outlive him after he dies of a broken heart. Edmund Waller, in a famous English lyric from before our period, tells a rose sent to a lover to
die, that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee:
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair.
The theme is old, but the idea that spring will offer renewals even after we as individuals can no longer share in them is inescapable, and is perfectly captured in Kitching’s lyric. It may be not with the lover she so longed for, but she can’t but hope for “some other spring.” As Müller’s speaker, even beyond the grave, can’t help but answer:
Dann, Blümlein alle,
Der Mai ist kommen,
Der Winter ist aus.
Then, all you blossoms,
Come out, come out!
May has come in,
And winter is over.