To a Child
Written in Her Album
Small service is true service while it lasts:
Of humblest Friends, bright Creature! scorn not one:
The Daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dew-drop from the Sun.
William Wordsworth, Poems (1845).
In commenting on the poem, Wordsworth stated: "This quatrain was extempore on observing this image, as I had often done, on the lawn of Rydal Mount."
Stanley Spencer, "Lilac and Clematis at Englefield" (1954)
Wordsworth's poem is instructive: we all ought to be on the look-out for dew-drops in the shadows of daisies. Ivor Gurney offers similar advice.
I believe in the increasing of life whatever
Leads to the seeing of small trifles . . . . .
Real, beautiful, is good, and an act never
Is worthier than in freeing spirit that stifles
Under ingratitude's weight; nor is anything done
Wiselier than the moving or breaking to sight
Of a thing hidden under by custom; revealed
Fulfilled, used, (sound-fashioned) any way out to delight.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Trefoil . . . . hedge sparrow . . . the stars on the edge of night.
Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (J. M. Dent 1996). The ellipses in lines 2 and 9, and between lines 8 and 9, are in the original.
It is difficult to be as attentive to the world around us as William Wordsworth and Ivor Gurney were. But Gurney is right: we must be careful not to find ourselves "under ingratitude's weight," lest we miss a great deal. Trefoil. Hedge sparrow. The stars on the edge of night.
Stanley Spencer, "Landscape, Cookham Dean" (c. 1939)