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17 September 2011

Whose are the little beds, I asked

Whose are the little beds, I asked
Which in the valleys lie?
Some shook their heads, and others smiled—
And no one made reply.

Perhaps they did not hear, I said,
I will inquire again—
Whose are the beds—the tiny beds
So thick upon the plain?

'Tis Daisy, in the shortest—
A little further on—
Nearest the door—to wake the Ist—
Little Leontoden.

'Tis Iris, Sir, and Aster—
Anemone, and Bell—
Bartsia, in the blanket red—
And chubby Daffodil.

Meanwhile, at many cradles
Her busy foot she plied—
Humming the quaintest lullaby
That ever rocked a child.

Hush! Epigea wakens!
The Crocus stirs her lids—
Rhodora's cheek is crimson,
She's dreaming of the woods!

Then turning from them reverent—
Their bedtime 'tis, she said—
The Bumble bees will wake them
When April woods are red.
                                                                     - F85 (1859)  142

Red Bartsia, John Johnston
This lovely poem takes us to the slumbering winter garden and woods. Who knows which flowers lie in which bed? Who remembers where the anemone is, or the daffodil? (I love the ‘chubby Daffodil’.)  The poet, strolling about the woods and town, meets only with coy demurrals when asking this question. But, persistent, she asks again and this time Mother Nature herself speaks up. She is portrayed as a Mother indeed: she is rocking the many cradles of the baby and slumbering plants and humming lullabies for them. She admonishes the poet to be quiet but indulges her by giving her a tour: look, Daisy is closest, there is Leontoden (dandelion), etc.  And finally, she tells the poet that this is the flowers’ bedtime until Spring when the “Bumble bees will wake them”.
Epigaea (arbutus)
            The poem is quite regular in structure and meter and rhyme. And perhaps it isn’t the deepest poem in the world; nonetheless, it brings a smile to my face!

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