I always have trouble with poems, mainly with identifying the speaker and object. Two pivotal things when analyzing a poem. Well, here it goes.
The speaker of the poem is writing about virginal lovers. The first sentence of the poem (line 1 through 6) is about children (“little lovers”) and their playtime with the butterflies (“white wings”). The use of white throughout the poem makes the object seem very virginal and innocent. The time frame of the poem changes when the speaker says “Ah, the Spring time…” in line 7. From this point on, the object has changed from children to young lovers. The young lovers throughout the early spring (line 7 through 13) fantasize about one another, and write to each other, but once May arrives, one forgets the other. The love letters are forgotten, and are lost to the wind (“play things for the winds playtime”). From this point on, the speaker is creating a likeness between the love letters and butterflies (line 15 - 20). When interpreting the poem, between lines 15 and 20, I think the speaker is saying “We dream that all white butterflies who are searching for their own loves, and leave their mothers behind as they search for new beginnings, are just old love letters that are eventually forgotten and become butterflies.” I think the speaker is implying that the love letters are the actual young lovers, who are beginning to fall in love for themselves and leave their home. The “lady mistress in despair” is the mother who regards these innocent creatures (the butterflies) and realizes that one day her own child will “flit to flowers, as kinder and more fair”.
I think butterflies are essential to this work because they imply that these first love letters in April are not the signs of a true relationship, but the beginning of the age of finding a love. The young men and women are innocently experimenting with their hearts. By using a creature that has a brief life, and is very delicate, the love the speaker mentions becomes very virginal. It is not filled with unrequited longing, since the love letters themselves are forgotten and turn into butterflies, creatures that will soon die and be lost. Here, butterflies are used in the most common of ways, for innocence. They are also used to show the metamorphosis between childhood and adulthood, another common theme.