Thursday, May 09, 2013


Smile On, Brave Weed!

Grant Allen (1848-1899), Vignettes from Nature (London: Chatto & Windus, 1881), pp. 13-14:
To my thinking, there are few plants so pretty as all these small insignificant-looking unconsidered weeds, whose flowers need to be examined somewhat minutely before we can fully appreciate the real beauty of their form and arrangement. Anybody can see and admire at once a foxglove or an orchid, but not everybody can see and admire at once the delicate gracefulness of spurges and quakegrasses, of little waving sedges and tufted woodrushes. One feels that the beauty of the larger blossoms is something flaunting and meretricious—an Aphrodite Demosia tricked out in gaudy colours to please the most careless passer-by; whereas the tiny green and brown flowers of the fields and hedgerows appeal to a more esoteric circle—a select few who can sympathise with nature in her more sombre as well as in her brighter moods.
A.C. Benson (1862-1925), "Knapweed," in his Poems (London: John Lane, 1909), pp. 103-104:
By copse and hedgerow, waste and wall,
    He thrusts his cushions red;
O'er burdock rank, o'er thistles tall,
    He rears his hardy head:
Within, without, the strong leaves press;
    He screens the mossy stone,
Lord of a narrow wilderness,
    Self-centred and alone.

He numbers no observant friends,
    He soothes no childish woes,
Yet nature nurtures him, and tends
    As duly as the rose;
He drinks the blessed dew of heaven,
    The wind is in his ears,
To guard his growth the planets seven
    Swing in their airy spheres.

The spirits of the fields and woods
    Throb in his sturdy veins:
He drinks the secret, stealing floods,
    And swills the volleying rains:
And when the bird's note showers and breaks
    The wood's green heart within,
He stirs his plumy brow and wakes
    To draw the sunlight in.

Mute sheep that pull the grasses soft
    Crop close and pass him by,
Until he stands alone, aloft,
    In surly majesty.
No fly so keen, no bee so bold,
    To pierce that knotted zone,
He frowns as though he guarded gold,
    And yet he garners none.

And so when autumn winds blow late,
    And whirl the chilly wave,
He bows before the common fate,
    And drops beside his grave.
None ever owed him thanks, or said
    "A gift of gracious heaven."
Down in the mire he droops his head,
    Forgotten, not forgiven.

Smile on, brave weed! let none inquire
    What made or bade thee rise:
Toss thy tough fingers high and higher
    To flout the drenching skies.
Let others toil for others' good,
    And miss or mar their own;
Thou hast brave health and fortitude
    To live and die alone!

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