Friday, February 1, 2008

Winter Violets

And now for a poem that speaks of winter and of one of my favorite little wildflowers. Do flowers take your mind to beautiful places like the gift of a few violets did for the author of this poem?

Winter Violets
by Edith Nesbit, 1858 - 1924

Author of "The Railway Children"


Death-white
azaleas watched beside my bed,
And tried to tell me tales of Southern lands;
But they in hothouse air were born and bred,

And they were gathered by a stranger's hands:

They were not sweet, they never had been free,

And all their pallid beauty had no voice for me.


And all I longed for was one common flower

Fed by soft mists and rainy English air,

A flower that knew the woods, the leafless bower,

The wet, green moss, the hedges sharp and bare—

A flower that spoke my language, and could tell
Of all the woods and ways my heart remembers well.


Then came your violets—and at once I heard

The sparrows chatter on the dripping eaves,

The full stream's babbling inarticulate word,

The plash of rain on big wet ivy-leaves;

I saw the woods where thick the dead leaves lie,

And smelt the fresh earth's scent—the scent of memory.


The unleafed trees—the lichens green and gray,

The wide sad-coloured meadows, and the brown
Fields that sleep now, and dream of harvest day,

Hiding their seeds like hopes in hearts pent down—
A thousand dreams, a thousand memories

Your violets' voices breathed in unheard melodies—


Unheard by all but me. I heard, I blessed

The little English, English-speaking things

For their sweet selves that laid my wish to rest,

For their sweet help that lent my dreaming wings;

And, most of all, for all the thoughts of you

Which make them smell more sweet than other violets do.

4 bouquets of wildflowers (Comment here):

Dirty Knees said...

Elizabeth Joy,
I love violets too. I let them grow in my lawn, much to the horror of a few friends who consider them invasive. True, violets DO try to invade my gardens...but I dig them out of the beds, allowing them to spread as they will in the "lawn" where in late April or early May they are a spectacular sight.

Elizabeth Joy said...

I'd love to have a lawn full of violets! They make it a much more special place. Don't you just love to walk through your lawn when the violets bloom.

Shady Gardener said...

Violets are so sweet and pretty. Do you get the variegated ones? I know they get invasive, but they're also pretty controllable. :-)

mjd said...

I must have missed this literary tribute. Violets are wonderful flowers. We may have more violets in our lawn than danadelions. I think that is a good thing. They ahve such a sweet delicate fragrance.