I'd like to stay with butterflies a moment longer in order to consider a poem by Robert Frost. I recently posted a haiku by Moritake (1472-1549) in which a butterfly was mistaken for a falling flower:
A fallen flower
Returning to the branch?
It was a butterfly.
Moritake (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 1: Eastern Culture (Hokuseido Press 1949), page 24.
The image is a beautiful one. In the following poem, Frost speaks of "flowers that fly," thus echoing (unconsciously, I presume) Moritake. But there is more: Frost's opening image may perhaps be even lovelier. (Not that this is a competition.)
"Englefield House, Cookham" (1951)
It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.
But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.
Robert Frost, New Hampshire (1923).
It is fitting that a great poet of snow would think of blue-butterflies as "sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry." And, as one might expect from Frost, there is a twist at the end. Mud and sky.
Perhaps not surprisingly, "Blue-Butterfly Day" is followed in New Hampshire by "The Onset," which is about the first snow of winter. It begins: "Always the same, when on a fated night/At last the gathered snow lets down as white/As may be in dark woods." Nor is it surprising that "The Onset" is in turn followed by "To Earthward." With Frost (save when he is pontificating), one is usually asked to look at all sides of things.
"Cookham from Englefield" (1948)