Saving Mama Earth — and Her Poetry
Beautiful Daffs and a Famous Poem by William Wordsworth
FRIENDS, old man winter has blown himself out, hasn’t he? And what a fierce fellow he was this year!
In my back yard, the daffodils are pushing up along the fence. I know you have more serious matters on your mind, but the March winds are rising and the daffs will soon be blowing all over town, so let’s take a small time-out to enjoy a few fine verses of the past about Planet Earth.
William Wordsworth grew up in the alluring Lake District of England. He wrote many of the nature poems we still read today. Wordsworth liked to take long walks all over Britain, and he hiked the Alps and other mountain troves. Today I expect he’d be out with the Sierra Club, and even our little Wildflower Society, and perhaps he and I could find little budlets in the grass together, and he could tell me exactly what they are! Here is a much loved poem of his.
I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Mr. Wordsworth, I believe, would not be okay with our plundering of Mama Earth today. I don’t believe he’d want us fracking her in the great plains of North Dakota. “You’re raping your own Mama,” I bet he’d say, “and if you’re not fracking her, you’re developing her out of her very skin!”
Daffodils will not push up, after all, through the concrete of new estates and parking lots. Trees, as canny as they are in their own defense, may grieve and slowly wither trying to drink our pollution, and they’re flat-out murdered by the clear-cutting of lands and forests.
Well, it’s March, anyway, and we rejoice that there’s a little something left to savor of the seasons of old. On certain days now, warm flushes of spring air move us to take our jackets off. I go out in an old beat-up sweater and cut back the honeysuckle — so the spring sun can break through and I can mound up a row of dark wormy soil for my radish and mustard greens.
I’D LIKE TO SHARE, for your March delectation, a delicate, little-known verse by an old pal of mine named Emily Dickinson.
Dear March, Come in How glad I am I hoped for you before Put down your Hat You must have walked How out of Breath you are Dear March, how are you, and the Rest Did you leave Nature well? Oh March, Come right upstairs with me I have so much to tell.
You may recall that Dickinson lived all her life in Amherst, Massachusetts, and became something of a recluse, seemed almost afraid of people and did not even attend her own father’s memorial service. What she liked was letters, and she wrote many thousands of them. (She’d love our email, wouldn’t she?)
Okay — here’s a girl poet when there weren’t many girl poets known. I believe women had written poetry as well or better than the men for ages, but not much of their work was published, and that was the case with Miss Emily.
Emily wrote short and sweet — on the backs of envelopes, I expect, and any other little scrap. What she liked was to share her verses with friends on her greeting cards. After her death, her sister found a treasure of over 1800 poems, not all in a finished state. You may be sure I have left it to others to read them all, but certain of her best-known verses seem wonderful to me every time I happen to think of them. Look at this: “Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me; the carriage held but just ourselves — and Immortality.” I heard a fly buzz when I died, she once wrote in another gripping death-verse.
Here’s a work that’s tiny and terribly odd, just a smidgin of verse. (The old-fashioned word revery, by the way, refers to a state of musing dreaminess.)
To make a prairie, it takes a clover and one bee.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few!
How Strange Is This? The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
Friends, I’m not a religious person exactly (just a plain godless Unitarian), yet I find that I often like religious people, and I revere the poems of a Jesuit priest in Britain named Gerard Manley Hopkins. (I figure he couldn’t help it if he believed in God.)
Is it God who “fathers-forth” the dappled wonders of the earth? If so, we need to congratulate him for our daffodils, our worms and trees and mountains, and all of nature that is kind. (It is not always kind, as I’m sure you know.)
You will agree, no doubt, that Hopkins is not an easy read. His way of expression is a broken, warped, and disjointed way, and yet it’s intriguing — for me, at least, in the poems I can actually navigate.
Here’s one I like. See if you can make it out.
Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal, chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim,
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Greenpeace in Cincinnati
Hey, I’m definitely out of space. Is anybody still reading? Just a note, then, about Greenpeace — more, perhaps, in a post to come. A few months ago I met a Greenpeace girl down at Findlay Market, and I can prove it — see my photo with Tyler Sanville.
I was thrilled — I’d always wanted to meet some Greenpeace guys. They take awesome risks trying to help us save the Earth. This young woman had climbed the towers of P&G to spread out a huge banner about the rainforest of Indonesia, which is being damaged by P&G’s extraction of palm oil. When I met her, Tyler was back in town for a day in court, to see if she and her comrades were going to jail, and I’ll tell you the outcome next time we meet, okay?
Reader, do you care for any of these verses? What do you make of them? Share something of your own if you wish. To Reply you need not identify yourself, if you’d rather not, or leave an email address.
UPDATE April 21 2015
Friends, a reader named Don Rucknagel has inserted a wonderful and famous poem by Robert Frost which is also a nature poem . . . sort of.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Thank you, Don!