Surpassing Fine

Published:May 8, 2008 by Brendan Wolfe

I was sitting on my front porch the other morning reading Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner. It was a beautiful morning—clear, warm, breezy—and with my coffee and a decent view of the Blue Ridge, I was in heaven. So it seemed appropriate that I stumbled onto this passage, in which a traveling salesman visits Turner’s master and gushes on the beauty of a Virginia spring.

“No, sir, Mr. Turner,” he was saying, “they is no spring like it in this great land of ours. They is nothing what approaches the full springtide when it hits Virginia. And, sir, they is good reason for this. I have traveled all up and down the seaboard, from the furtherest upper ranges of New England to the hottest part of Georgia, and I know whereof I speak. What makes the Virginia spring surpassing fine? Sir, it is simply this. It is simply that, whereas in more southern climes, the temperature is always so humid that spring comes as no surprise, and whereas in more northerly climes the winter becomes so prolonged that they is no spring at all hardly, but runs smack into summer—why, in Virginia, sir, it is unique! It is ideal! Nature has conspired so that spring comes in a sudden warm rush! Alone in the Virginia latitude, sir, is spring like the embrace of a mother’s arms!”

Another ode to Virginia spring can be found in a 1913 recording of “When It’s Springtime in Virginia” by Owen J. McCormack. You can listen here, courtesy of the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (Explore the site; it’s a goldmine of the scratchy and the kitschy.)

There’s nothing on the web about McCormack, but it sure sounds like he’s crooning with a Scottish brogue. The sheet music cover, meanwhile, can be found here.

PREVIOUSLY: “And this is precisely what Styron attempts to do in the book: project himself into the mind of a notorious black preacher and murderer . . .”