For the last three weeks or so I’ve been encouraging everyone to get creative and write tree-themed poems to help us celebrate the 150th anniversary of the planning of Benmore Botanic Garden’s Redwood Avenue.
And if you’ve written one and haven’t yet shared it then please do so.
But as I cycled from my accommodation towards the garden this morning (battling maybe a better word than cycling, considering the wind, the rain and the ferocious midges) I was pondering the joy of reading.
Last night, I sat on a bench looking over the Firth of Clyde, out towards Bute and the Isle of Arran. The sun shone and there were no midges, as I read about Frank Kingdon-Ward tramping through Chinese valleys filled with rhododendron, pine and bamboo and being utterly incensed when one of his most precious possessions, his thermos flask, was stolen from his tent.
F K-W was in search of plants but I kept thinking how lucky I was to have found such a peaceful location and of Marvell’s line Fair quiet, have I found thee here.
So today, please consider finding a few moments, to revisit a poem you like; or perhaps one you used to know by heart but can’t remember how line six goes. Or take a few moments to pick up a book by a poet you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t quite got round to.
And so as I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not prepared to do myself I’m going to revisit Andrew Marvell’s poem The Garden. Marvell is a poet, who every time I read him I think, I must do this more often. And then other things get in the way and the book waits unopened on my kitchen shelf.
But not today. Today I am going to read… and restrain from making clichéd puns about marvelling and marvellous.
The Garden, by Andrew Marvell, (1628 – 1671)
How vainlymen themselves amaze
To win the Palm, the Oke, or Bayes;
And their uncessant Labours see
Crown’d from some single Herb or Tree,
Whose short and narrow verged Shade
Does prudently their Toyles upbraid;
While all Flow’rs and all Trees do close
To weave the Garlands of repose.
Fair quiet, have I found thee here,
And Innocence thy Sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busie Companies of Men.
Your sacred Plants, if here below,
Only among the Plants will grow.
Society is all but rude,
To this delicious Solitude:
No white nor red was ever seen
So am’rous as this lovely green.
Fond Lovers, cruel as their Flame,
Cut in these Trees their Mistress name.
Little, Alas, they know or heed,
How far these Beauties Hers exceed!
Fair trees! where s’eer your barkes I wound,
No Name shall but your own be found.
When we have run our Passion’ heat,
Love hither makes his best retreat.
The Gods, that mortal Beauty chase,
Still in a Tree did end their race.
Apollo hunted Daphne so,
Only that She might Laurel grow;
And Pan did after Syrinxspeed,
Not as a Nymph, but for a Reed.
What wond’rous life in this I lead!
Ripe Apples drop about my head;
The Luscious Clusters of the Vine
Upon my Mouth do crush their Wine;
The Nectaren, and curious Peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on Melons, as I pass,
Insnared with Flow’rs, I fall on Grass.
Meanwhilethe Mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness:
The Mind, that Ocean where each kind
Does streight its own resemblance find;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other Worlds, and other Seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green Thoughtin a green Shade.
Here at the Fountains sliding foot,
Or at some Fruit-trees mossy root,
Casting the Bodies Vest aside,
My Soul into the boughs does glide;
There like a Bird it sits, and sings,
Then whets, and combs its silver Wings;
And, till prepar’d for longer flight,
Waves in its Plumes the various Light.
Such was that happy Garden-state,
While Man there walked without a Mate:
After a place, so pure and sweet,
What other Help could yet be meet!
But ’twas beyond a Mortal’s share
To wander solitary there:
Two Paradises ’twere in one
To live in Paradise alone
How well the skilful Gardner drew
Of flow’rs and herbs this dial new;
Where from above the milder Sun
Does through a fragrant Zodiack run;
And, as it works, th’ industrious Bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholsome Hours
Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs