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Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Bluebell

Writing on Robert Frost’s notebooks in Poetry, Kay Ryan notes with surprise ‘the utter absence of nature notes – no birches, no birds, no weather, no interest in rock wall construction.’

It reminds me of a poem on a plaque I saw by a living Irish poet in Glenveagh national park in Donegal, in which the writer praised the elaborate fauna while apologising for not knowing any of their names. So go and learn them then, you lazy so-and-so, I thought.

Or, in a similar vein, a T.S. Eliot anecdote I read recently (can’t remember where, and don’t know where to look, lazy so-and-so that I am), in which he had crossed out a would-be Faber poet's line about ‘birds’ singing and written in the margin ‘Wrong word, tell us what kind.’

Writers who can’t be arsed, don’tcha hate ’em. It's enough to make a man reach for his Hopkins. Here's GMH writing in his journals about bluebells:

One day when the bluebells were in bloom I wrote the following. I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it. It[s inscape] is [mixed of] strength and grace, like an ash [tree]. The head is strongly drawn over [backwards] and arched down like a cutwater [drawing itself back from the line of the keel]. The lines of the bell strike and overlie this, rayed but not symmetrically, some lie parallel. They look steely against [the] paper, the shades lying between the bells and behind the cockled petal-ends themselves being delicately lit. Then there is the straightness of the trumpets in the bells softened by the slight entasis and [by] the square splay of the mouth. One bell, the lowest, some way detached and carried on a longer footstalk, touched out with the tips of the petals an oval/ not like the rest in a plane perpendicular to the axis of the bell but a little atilt, and so with [the] square-in-rounding turns of the petals…

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