Tuesday, November 08, 2011

`And Now in Age I Bud Again'

I had just walked out of the library with two books in my bag – The English Poems of George Herbert (edited by Helen Wilcox, Cambridge University Press, 2007) and The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor (1969) – when I noticed a spring-like spray of white flowers on the lawn outside the entrance to the Fondren Library. They grow in sparse irregular patches in the northwest corner of the quadrangle, and I knelt on the grass to get a closer look.

Each blossom has four white petals and is about the diameter of an 18-point “O.” The leaves are ovate and green, though some are tinged reddish-purple on their undersides. The plant grows close to the soil and forms a dense spidery mat in the surrounding grass. The roots are shallow and I easily pulled one from the dry ground. I wasn’t able to identify it online, and suspect it may have been cultivated as ground-cover. It could be indigenous to anywhere in the world, though I’m hoping it’s a native species.

I’m still floored by plants flowering in the second week of November. When we lived in Houston the first time, we bought a house from a lady who had lived in it since she and her husband had it built in 1955. She had landscaped the yard so at least two or three species were flowering every day of the year.

Wilcox, an English professor at Bangor University in North Wales, quotes with approval a critic who describes the sixth stanza of George Herbert’s “The Flower” as “the most perfect and most vivid stanza in the whole of Herbert’s work”:

“And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my onely light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.”

I picked two blossoms from the flower I brought back to my office and marked “The Flower” (pages 566-567) with them. If you find these nameless pressed beauties, please let me know.

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