A Rush of Petals

The Weather-Cock Points South
Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

I put your leaves aside,
One by one:
The stiff, broad outer leaves;
The smaller ones,
Pleasant to touch, veined with purple;
The glazed inner leaves.
One by one
I parted you from your leaves,
Until you stood up like a white flower
Swaying slightly in the evening wind.

White flower,
Flower of wax, of jade, of unstreaked agate;
Flower with surfaces of ice,
With shadows faintly crimson.
Where in all the garden is there such a flower?
The stars crowd through like lilac leaves
To look at you.
The low moon brightens you with silver.

The bud is more than the calyx.
There is nothing to equal a white bud,
Of no colour, and of all,
Burnished by moonlight,
Thrust upon by a softly-swinging wind.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

Dearest, we are like two flowers
Blooming in the garden,
A purple aster flower and a red one
Standing alone in a withered desolation.

The garden plants are shattered and seeded,
One brittle leaf scrapes against another,
Fiddling echoes of a rush of petals.
Now only you and I nodding together.

Many were with us; they have all faded.
Only we are purple and crimson,
Only we in the dew-clear mornings,
Smarten into color as the sun rises.

When I scarcely see you in the flat moonlight,
And later when my cold roots tighten,
I am anxious for morning,
I cannot rest in fear of what may happen.

You or I—and I am a coward.
Surely frost should take the crimson.
Purple is a finer color,
Very splendid in isolation.

So we nod above the broken
Stems of flowers almost rotted.
Many mornings there cannot be now
For us both. Ah, Dear, I love you!

Before Light
Alice Meynell (1847-1922)

Among the first to wake. What wakes with me?
A blind wind, and a few birds, and a star.
With tremor of darkened flowers and whisper of birds,
—Oh with a tremor, with a tremor of heart—
Begins the day i’ the dark. I, newly waked,
Grope backwards for my dreams, thinking to slide
Back, unawares, to dreams, in vain—in vain.
There is a sorrow for me in this day;
It watched me from afar the livelong night,
And now draws near, but has not touched me yet.
In from my garden flits the secret wind,—
My garden. This wild day, with all its hours
(Its hours, my soul!) will be like other days,
Among my flowers. The morning will awake,
Like to the lonely waking of a child
Who grows uneasily to a sense of tears,
Because his mother had come, and wept, and gone;
The morning grass and lilies will be wet,
In all their happiness, with mysterious dews.
And I shall leave the high noon in my garden,
The sun enthroned, and all his court my flowers,
And go my journey, as I live, alone.
Then, in the ripe rays of the later day,
All the small blades of thin grass, one by one,
Looked through with sun, will make each a long shade,
And daisies’ heads will bend with butterflies.
And one will come with secrets at her heart,
Evening, whose darkening eyes hide all her heart,
And poppy-crowned move ‘mid my lonely flowers.

Four-Leaf Clover
Ella Higginson (1861-1940)

I know a place where the sun is like gold,
       And the cherry blooms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
       Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
       And one is for love, you know,
And God put another in for luck—
       If you search, you will find where they grow.

But you must have hope, and you must have faith,
       You must love and be strong — and so—
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
       Where the four-leaf clovers grow

Blue Squills
Sara Teasdale (1884–1933)

How many million Aprils came
       Before I ever knew
How white a cherry bough could be,
       A bed of squills how blue!

And many a light-foot April,
       When life is done with me,
Will lift the blue flame of the flower
       And the white flame of the tree.

Oh, burn me with your beauty then,
       Oh, hurt me, tree and flower,
Lest in the end death try to take
       Even this glistening hour.

O shaken flowers, O shimmering trees,
        O sunlit white and blue,
Wound me, that I through endless sleep
       May bear the scar of you!

Emily Dickinson (1830 -1886)

I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your Vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me -
Almost a loneliness.

This one-stanza poem is one of the many that ED wrote to accompany the gift of a flower. (Thomas H. Johnson)

Lucy Larcom (1824-1893)

Face and figure of a maiden,
      Set in memory’s antique gold:
In the eyelids’ droop, thought-laden,
      In the dark hair’s shining fold
Over the wide, blue-veined brow,
One I love is with me now.

Side by side we work together,
     ‘Mid the whirring of the wheels;
Side by side we wonder whether
      Each the other’s longing feels
To throw open her heart’s door,
With a “Welcome, evermore!”

Suddenly the seals are broken:
      How it came, we cannot tell,—
Eyes have met, and lips have spoken:
      We have known each other well,
Ages since, in some fair earth,
Playmates ere our mortal birth.

Noisy wheels break into singing,
     Bird-like thoughts with thoughts ascend,
Into the free air upspringing:
     Oh, the sweetness of a friend!
What if earth is cold and wide?
Here we two are, side by side.

Out into the summer gazing
     From the windows of the mill,—
Running river, cattle grazing,
      White clouds on the dark-blue hill:—
Did we murmur then, shut in
With a hundred girls, to spin?

No: for discontent were treason,
      When the breath of all the flowers,
And the soul of the bright season
      Entering, made their gladness ours.
Of the summer we were part;
Nature gave us her whole heart.

When the slow day dragged, we chanted,
      Each to each, some holy hymn,
Till the sunset toward us slanted
      As in old cathedrals dim,
Or a cloistered forest-aisle,
Wakening in us smile for smile.

Daily bread our hands were winning,—
      Winning more than bread alone;
Unseen finger, with us spinning,
      Twined all life into our own,
Knit our being’s fibres fast
Into unknown futures vast.

And we touched the flying spindles,
     As if so we struck a note
Unto which the whole world kindles;
      Tidal harmonies, that float
Into chords on earth unheard—
Mystic chant of Work and Word.

Work! it thrilled new meanings through us
     From creation’s undersong;
Unto all great souls it drew us,
     Men heroic, angels strong:
Firm our little thread spun we
For the web of Destiny.

Time has led us onward slowly,
     Oh, my low-browed maiden dear,
Into duties new and holy,
     Widening labors, year by year:
Good it is for us, in sooth,
That we bore the yoke in youth.

Good it is in the beginning
      Toil for our true friend to know,
Place in God’s grand purpose winning,
     Deep into His life to grow;
Saying by our work, as He,
Unto light and order, “Be!”

Good and sweet the friendship given
     To our girlish working-days,
Bond that death must leave unriven:
     While we walk in parted ways,
Close the thought of you I hold,
Set in memory’s antique gold.

“His heart was in his garden..."
Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821-1873)

His heart was in his garden; but his brain
Wandered at will among the fiery stars:
Bards, heroes, prophets, Homers, Hamilcars,
With many angels, stood, his eye to gain;
The devils, too, were his familiars.
And yet the cunning florist held his eyes
Close to the ground,—a tulip-bulb his prize,—
And talked of tan and bone-dust, cutworms, grubs,
As though all Nature held no higher strain;
Or, if he spoke of Art, he made the theme
Flow through box-borders, turf, and flower-tubs;
Or, like a garden-engine's, steered the stream,—
Now spouted rainbows to the silent skies;
Now kept it flat, and raked the walks and shrubs.

from Sing-Song, A Nursery Rhyme Book
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

A rose has thorns as well as honey,
I'll not have her for love or money;
An iris grows so straight and fine,
That she shall be no friend of mine;
Snowdrops like the snow would chill me;
Nightshade would caress and kill me;
Crocus like a spear would fright me;
Dragon's-mouth might bark or bite me;
Convolvulus but blooms to die;
A wind-flower suggests a sigh;
Love-lies-bleeding makes me sad;
And poppy-juice would drive me mad:—
But give me holly, bold and jolly,
Honest, prickly, shining holly;
Pluck me holly leaf and berry
For the day when I make merry.

After Embroidering
Hazel Hall (1886-1924)

I can take mercerized cotton
And make a never-flower beautiful
By thinking of tulips growing in window-boxes;
I can work into cloth
A certain hushed softness
From an imagined scrutiny
Of a lily’s skin,
And embroider conventional designs the better
For thinking of brick garden paths.

But if I go farther,
If I follow the path,
Fling out the gate,
Plunge one breathless thought over an horizon…
My hands lose their cunning.