Saturday, June 23, 2012

Butterflies and Thistles: the Science of Poetry


Well, I certainly got my comeuppance.

In responding to a comment on my last post, I did some complaining about thistles, which I first noticed last summer in a low-lying area of the meadow, and now, seeds being seeds, a few of them have found their way onto the lawn, surprising my bare feet a time or two. I decided to just dig them out in order to make walking around more pleasant, allowing for a little just-ification. And then, yesterday, I got this in the mail, email that is, from the Writer's Almanac, as though in response to my complaint, like the thistles themselves were listening and wanted to let me know the perfect place they have in the Big Picture, and they sent it in a language I could understand: poetry.

"A Pasture Poem"

This upstart thistle
Is young and touchy; it is
All barb and bristle,

Threatening to wield
Its green, jagged armament
Against the whole field.

Butterflies will dare
Nonetheless to lay their eggs
In that angle where

The leaf meets the stem,
So that ants or browsing cows
Cannot trouble them.

Summer will grow old
As will the thistle, letting
A clenched bloom unfold

To which the small hum
Of bee wings and the flash of
Goldfinch wings will come,

Till its purple crown
Blanches, and the breezes strew
The whole field with down.

~Richard Wilbur




Look at that thing. King of the Thistles, pre-purple crown.  It's taller than I am. Yeah, those sons of guns knew I couldn't resist a butterfly story.



26 comments:

  1. LOL! I'm sure there will be plenty enough thistles to run wild outside of your patch of lawn, though. ;)

    What a lovely poem. Everything has its purpose. :)

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  2. Nevertheless, every time I see roadside thistles, I have a strong urge to cut them down!
    I'm ruthless that way.

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  3. Teresa -- Don't worry about your thistle -- they are probably the immigrants from Europe kind. They love it here and have adapted well as you surely realize by now. I would give them a talking to -- you stay out of my pathways so I can walk barefoot and I'll put my shovel away. Did enjoy the poem! -- barbara

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    1. That's sort of been my thought, too. I think they'll listen to reason.

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  4. Sorry...I tend to agree with Ms Sparrow, I want to cut them down. Everything has it's purpose, just not in my yard... :(

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  5. Perfect poem. I too love thistles when they are in the wilderness, not so much when they're in my yard! :-)

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  6. *Sigh* I struggle with the thought of everything having a beauty and a purpose, especially when a centipede bolts across the bathroom floor when I switch on the light. I know that they eat other pesky bugs, but...shudder.

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  7. I guess everything has its place. And I would do just about anything for the wee butterflies, so I guess the thistles will stay.

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  8. Dear Teresa, son of a gun! this posting left me smiling broadly. And the poem! Oh, poets find the essence don't they. Peace.

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  9. beauty in their blooms, but a hard one to get rid of especially when you like walking barefoot

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  10. I heard the whole thing in Keillor's voice. Does he still do that gig?

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    1. Oh, yes. Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul is "home," but he takes his show on the road regularly, too. It's looking like this thing could catch on. :)

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  11. Sad commentary, when you can't even bitch about a thistle without getting poemed at. Oh well. 'Twas beautiful. As is the thistle.

    No one ever wrote a ditty about field bindweed.

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  12. How fun was this?? Good stuff.

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  13. He who has never stepped on a thistle writes poetry about them. (There is that thing about butterflies, though.)

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  14. Who can blame a plant for defending itself? And that is so beneficial to so many species makes it all that more interesting!

    Liked your discoveries in this piece of writing.

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  15. When you mentioned receiving a poem about thistle the other day, I was so hoping that you would post it Teresa. I am so glad you did. Thank you. I love it in the fall when I see the goldfinch hanging on the thistle, storing up seeds. Of course, I love it better when the thistle isn't in my own garden.

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  16. Thank You to everyone for your comments.

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  17. I've never been a thistle lover either. I believe the Canadian Thistle is considered to be an obnoxious weed. I agree. A funny post none the less. How have you been? I have missed you.

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    1. Well, I left a reply last night and now it's disappeared! Anyway, it's so nice to hear from you. I had different settings for awhile due to some rather unkind anonymous remarks, but then I thought, 'Steven might not be able to leave comments.' I don't know if that's true, but I changed them again. And here you are! :)

      I'm doing fine. Remember when we were kids and every letter started with, 'How are you? I am fine.'? I hope you are, too, and that you're having a good summer thus far.

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  18. Did you know that there is a bit in the middle of the thistle kernel that you can eat, Teresa?.I'm Scottish so I know what I'm talking about. It tastes a bit like turnip but to be honest there isn't much eating in it and it's hardly worth the trouble. Or the physical danger!

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    1. Hi Tony! I didn't know that! I'm so glad you've mentioned it. It makes me feel a bit better towards this much-maligned plant. I won't go foraging for them any time soon, however. :) And, hopefully, I won't be forced to any time soon. Thanks for visiting.

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  19. Everything's connected. We don't always see the reason for some weeds or insects(like flies). I try very hard to understand why some things exist in the natural world. But I like to think that Mother Nature doesn't make its efforts for nothing.
    Those stickery thistles are a bane to my garden and I do pull them out. Maybe weeds are a metaphor for something. I suspect they are.

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    1. I suspect so, too. :) These are some wonderful lessons I'm learning through gardening and living on this little patch of land.

      Yes, everything's connected. Thank you, Connie.

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