October 10, 2011

Cranch: one living spirit blending all

"The Evening Primrose," a poem by writer/artist Christopher Pearse Cranch, is dated October 10, 1872. The poem refers to the oenothera, a yellow flowering plant which opens nearly instantaneously in the evening. Certainly, the poem is influenced by the poet's Transcendentalist leanings but, further, it reminds the reader to find beauty where he/she can:

"What are you looking at?" the farmer said;
   "That's nothing but a yellow flowering weed."
We turned, and saw our neighbor's grizzled head
   Above the fence, but took of him no heed.

There stood the simple man, and wondered much
   At us, who wondered at the twilight flowers
Bursting to life, as if a spirit's touch
   Awoke their slumbering souls to answer ours.

"It grows all o'er the island, wild," said he;
   "There are plenty in my field: I root 'em out.
But, for my life, it puzzles me to see
   What you make such a wonderment about."

The good man turned and to his supper went;
   While, kneeling on the grass with mute delight
Or whispered words, around the plant we bent,
   To watch the opening buds that love the night.

Slowly the rosy dusk of eve departed,
   And one by one the pale stars bloomed on high;
And one by one each folded calyx started,
   And bared its golden petals to the sky.

One throb from star to flower seemed pulsing through
   The night, — one living spirit blending all
In beauty and in mystery ever new, —
   One harmony divine through great and small.

E'en our plain neighbor, as he sips his tea,
   I doubt not, through his window feels the sky
Of evening bring a sweet and tender plea
   That links him even to dreamers such as I.

So through the symbol-alphabet that glows
   Through all creation, higher still and higher
The spirit builds its faith, and ever grows
   Beyond the rude form of its first desire.

O boundless Beauty and Beneficence!
   O deathless Soul that breathest in the weeds
And in a starlit sky! — e'en through the rents
   Of accident thou serv'st all human needs;

Nor stoopest idly to our petty cares;
   Nor knowest great or small, since folded in
By universal Love, all being shares
   The life that ever shall be or hath been.

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