I’ve just been talking to one of the gardeners at Benmore about what they do with all the timber they must get here (trees that need to be felled, storm damage etc.) and it got me thinking, not for the first time today, about William Cullen Bryant who was born in 1794, in a log cabin near Cummington, Massachusetts.
The person who introduced me to Bryant’s poetry, told me, He often gets a bad press, but if you listen carefully you’ll hear solitude and the kind of dark-shade silence that you only encounter in woods.
And that does seem to be the case, because even when Cullen is talking about the heat of midsummer, I can, if I listen really carefully, just about hear, that dark-shade silence.
But don’t take my word for it, have a read and a listen for yourself.
Midsummer by William Cullen Bryant
A power is on the earth and in the air,
From which the vital spirit shrinks afraid,
And shelters him in nooks of deepest shade,
From the hot steam and from the fiery glare.
Look forth upon the earth—her thousand plants
Are smitten; even the dark sun-loving maize
Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze;
The herd beside the shaded fountain pants;
For life is driven from all the landscape brown;
The bird hath sought his tree, the snake his den,
The trout floats dead in the hot stream, and men
Drop by the sunstroke in the populous town:
As if the Day of Fire had dawned, and sent
Its deadly breath into the firmament.
Cullen is also known for his line, Truth crushed to earth will rise again, which Martin Luther King quoted in his ‘Give Us The Ballot’ speech.
It’s a line that came to mind much earlier on today when someone at Benmore was showing me pictures of how fire burns through a Redwood forest and although it kills or damages many of the more mature trees, it triggers the germination of seeds that have been lying dormant.
And in terms of poetry, this Midsummer Day has seen the germination of many dormant seeds. Thanks to everyone I have walked and chatted and written with today. (Sorry there were so many midges.)
I hope much has been planted that will grow and grow.