Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Idle Flowers by Robert Bridges

The following poem lists many of the wild flowers you would have found in the countryside at the beginning of the 20th century when Robert Bridges was writing. Well I've either grown or found most of them, tucked away in places the fertilisers and weed killers can't get at. Sometimes I have mourned their loss, the field pansies by the hedgerow that used to be on the way to West Kennet Longbarrow, the dainty palest blue hare-bells on the racecourse at Lansdown. But in other places they thrive banks of sweet smelling ladies bedstraw up at Old Sodbury Hillfort or crowning the Stoney Littleton Longbarrow. Two seem to have escaped me - Pale Chlora and Sinjunwort; starwort must be stitchwort; and today in the hedgerow as we collected holly I found the coral pink of the spindle tree fruit, and some not mentioned, the vetches for a start, and yellow rattle which can be quite striking.

I have sown upon the fields
Eyebright and Pimpernel,
And pansy and poppy seed
Ripen'd and scatter'd well.

And Silver lady-smock
The meads with light to fill,
Cowslips and buttercup,
Daisy and daffodil;

King-cup and fleur-de-lys
Upon the marsh to meet
With Comfrey, watermint,
Loosestrife and meadowsweet;

And all along the stream
My care hath not forgot
Crowfoot's white galaxy
And Love's forget-me-not;

And where high grasses wave
Shall great moon-daisies blink,
With rattle and sorrel sharp
And Robin's ragged pink.

Thick on the woodland floor,
Gay company shall be,
Primrose and hyacinth
And frail anemone.

Perennial strawberry-bloom,
Woodsorrel's pencilled veil,
Dishevel'd Willow-weed
And Orchis purple and pale,

Bugle, that blushes blue,
And woodruff's snowy gem,
Proud foxglove's finger-bells
And spurge with milky stem.

High on the downs so bare,
Where thou dost love to climb,
Pink thrift and Milkwort are,
Lotus and scented Thyme;

And in the shady lanes
Bold-arum's hood of green,
Herb robert, violet,
Starwort and celandine;

And by the dusty road
Bedstraw and mullien tall,
With red valerian
And toadflax on the wall,

Yarrow and chicory,
That hath for hue no like,
Silene and mallow mild
And agrimony'd spike,

Blue-eyed veronicas
And gray faced scabious
And downy silverweed
And striped convolvus;

Harebell shall haunt the banks,
And thro the hedgerow peer
With wind and snapdragon
And nightshade's flower of fear.

And where men never sow,
Have I my thistles set,
Ragwort and stiff wormwood
And straggling mignonette,

Bugloss and burdock rank
And prickly teasel high,
With umbels yellow and white,
That comes to kexes dry.

Pale chlora shalt thou find,
Sun loving centaury
Cranesbill and sinjunwort,
Cinquefoil and betony;

Shock-headed dandelion,
That drank the fire of the sun;
Hawkweed and marigold,
Cornflower and campion

Let oak and ash grow strong,
Let beech her branches spread;
Let grass and barley throng
And waving wheat for bread;

Be share and sickle bright
To labour atall hours;
For thee and thy delight
I have made the idle flowers.

But now 'tis Winter, child,
And bitter north winds blow,
The ways are wet and wild,
The land is laid in snow.

The fruit of the spindle tree

An Essex Lane

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