Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Small Things

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "The Woodspurge" prompted me to pay closer attention to the soil as I weeded the garden yesterday.  As I recently noted in connection with the annual awakening of the ant world, there is a great deal going on at ground level, much of which escapes our notice.

Eliot Hodgkin, "The Haberdashers' Hall, 8 May 1945" (1945)

             In the Fallow Field

I went down on my hands and knees
Looking for trees,
Twin leaves that, sprung from seeds,
Were now too big
For stems much thinner than a twig.
These soon with chamomile and clover
And other fallow weeds
Would be turned over;
And I was thinking how
It was a pity someone should not know
That a great forest fell before the plough.

Andrew Young, Collected Poems (Rupert Hart-Davis 1960).

Whenever I read Andrew Young's poetry, I cannot help but feel that I have paid insufficient attention to the world around me.  The following poem provides another instance of Young teaching us how to be on the lookout for things that we might otherwise miss.

                        The Fairy Ring

Here the horse-mushrooms make a fairy ring,
     Some standing upright and some overthrown,
A small Stonehenge, where heavy black snails cling
     And bite away, like Time, the tender stone.

Andrew Young, Ibid.

Eliot Hodgkin, "Undergrowth" (1941)


John Ashton said...

Mr Pentz, how wonderful to see two delightful pieces by the wonderful and unjustly forgotten Andrew Young.
It reminded me of having similar thoughts when I've been down on hands and knees weeding and thought that these weeds; large and small leaved, huge-stemmed,tall and short,may seem to the many creatures dwelling in the soil; centipedes, ants, small beetles etc, as jungles to us, and we fell them so easily, so heedlessly.Of course I'm not saying we should not weed, but perhaps take time to pause and think that there are many perceptions of the world other than our own.

Bovey Belle said...

I think he must have shared Edward Thomas's acute eye for detail. Lovely poems. I shall never look at Stonehenge in quite the same way again!

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Ashton: I agree that Andrew Young is not as well-known as he deserves to be. In addition to his poetry, his prose books A Prospect of Flowers, A Retrospect of Flowers, and The Poet and the Landscape (which I'm sure you're familiar with) have taught me a great deal.

As ever, thank you for your thoughts.

Stephen Pentz said...

Bovey Belle: yes, I think that Young and Thomas are very similar in that regard. I agree: the Stonehenge image is very nice, unexpected, and memorable, isn't it?

As I mentioned in my response to Mr Ashton's comment, Young also wrote a few fine prose books on the flora and fauna of the UK. You may already be aware of them.

Thank you for visiting again. It is always good to hear from you.