Sunday, December 23, 2012

`Their Laded Branches Bow'

“Those cleeves whose craggy sides are clad
With trees of sundry suits,
Which make continual summer glad,
Even bending with their fruits. 

“Some ripening, ready some to fall,
Some blossom’d, some to bloom,
Like gorgeous hangings on the wall
Of some reach princely room.”

“Pomegranates, lemons, citrons so
Their laded branches bow,
Their leaves in number that outgo
Nor roomth will them allow.”

This celebration of pomology is from “Description of Elysium,” the opening section of Michael Drayton’s The Muses’ Elysium (1630). How pleased the Elizabethans must have been to hold a lemon or orange, to smell and taste them and make the Northern winter “continual summer glad” for a moment. They remind me of the Christmas story my maternal grandmother, born in upstate New York in 1888, told us. Each sibling in December was given an orange, a precious gift from far away, and a lesson in living. Some ate the fruit quickly and knew the despair of satiety. Others savored the color and scent, savored it like gold, but risked the fruit rotting. Which sort are you? 

From a nursery I bought a potted lemon tree and a potted lime on Saturday, and smuggled them into the garden shed without my wife noticing. The pots are plastic. Today I’ll transplant them into terra cotta and prune the brown leaves. The lime has one fruit on it, the lemon a pinkish blossom. “Some blossom’d, some to bloom." Drayton was born one year before Shakespeare and died on this date, Dec. 23, in 1631, fifteen years after the playwright.

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