April is National Poetry Month in the US and I’d like to try to post a new poem every day, preferably one I have never heard of before. Because I’m a day late, I will include two poems in this post. I’d like today’s poetry to be about nature, given the subject matter of the Google Doodle, which is a celebration of the 366th birthday of Maria Sibylla Merian. She was a naturalist illustrator from the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and the daughter of a famous engraver. She and her daughters, according to the Christian Science Monitor and the J. Paul Getty Museum “were not just extremely talented artists. They were also pioneers who raised the artistic standards of natural history illustration and helped transform the field of entomology [the study of insects].” She studied caterpillars at an early age and drew their stages of development, and eventually published a book entitled Caterpillars: Their Wondrous Transformation and Peculiar Nourishment from Flowers, which helped in particular to further the study of entomology. Her other incredibly famous work is her three-volume set of the New Book of Flowers, which “became model books for artists, embroiderers on silk, and cabinetmakers, and the copies that have survived today are heavily used because of that influence.” She was also famous for creating another insect book while she and her youngest daughter were living in the Dutch colony of Suriname, in South America. Below are two examples of her work.
Maria Sibylla Merian, Parrot Tulip, c. 1680
Maria Sibylla Merian, Pomegranate with blue morpho butterflies and Banded Sphinx Moth caterpillar, c. 1665
Song of Nature
Mine are the night and morning, The pits of air, the gulf of space, The sportive sun, the gibbous moon, The innumerable days. I hid in the solar glory, I am dumb in the pealing song, I rest on the pitch of the torrent, In slumber I am strong. No numbers have counted my tallies, No tribes my house can fill, I sit by the shining Fount of Life, And pour the deluge still; And ever by delicate powers Gathering along the centuries From race on race the rarest flowers, My wreath shall nothing miss. And many a thousand summers My apples ripened well, And light from meliorating stars With firmer glory fell. I wrote the past in characters Of rock and fire the scroll, The building in the coral sea, The planting of the coal. And thefts from satellites and rings And broken stars I drew, And out of spent and aged things I formed the world anew; What time the gods kept carnival, Tricked out in star and flower, And in cramp elf and saurian forms They swathed their too much power. Time and Thought were my surveyors, They laid their courses well, They boiled the sea, and baked the layers Or granite, marl, and shell. But he, the man-child glorious,-- Where tarries he the while? The rainbow shines his harbinger, The sunset gleams his smile. My boreal lights leap upward, Forthright my planets roll, And still the man-child is not born, The summit of the whole. Must time and tide forever run? Will never my winds go sleep in the west? Will never my wheels which whirl the sun And satellites have rest? Too much of donning and doffing, Too slow the rainbow fades, I weary of my robe of snow, My leaves and my cascades; I tire of globes and races, Too long the game is played; What without him is summer's pomp, Or winter's frozen shade? I travail in pain for him, My creatures travail and wait; His couriers come by squadrons, He comes not to the gate. Twice I have moulded an image, And thrice outstretched my hand, Made one of day, and one of night, And one of the salt sea-sand. One in a Judaean manger, And one by Avon stream, One over against the mouths of Nile, And one in the Academe. I moulded kings and saviours, And bards o'er kings to rule;-- But fell the starry influence short, The cup was never full. Yet whirl the glowing wheels once more, And mix the bowl again; Seethe, fate! the ancient elements, Heat, cold, wet, dry, and peace, and pain. Let war and trade and creeds and song Blend, ripen race on race, The sunburnt world a man shall breed Of all the zones, and countless days. No ray is dimmed, no atom worn, My oldest force is good as new, And the fresh rose on yonder thorn Gives back the bending heavens in dew.
February: The Boy Breughel
by Norman Dubie
The birches stand in their beggar's row: Each poor tree Has had its wrists nearly Torn from the clear sleeves of bone, These icy trees Are hanging by their thumbs Under a sun That will begin to heal them soon, Each will climb out Of its own blue, oval mouth; The river groans, Two birds call out from the woods And a fox crosses through snow Down a hill; then, he runs, He has overcome something white Beside a white bush, he shakes It twice, and as he turns For the woods, the blood in the snow Looks like the red fox, At a distance, running down the hill: A white rabbit in his mouth killed By the fox in snow Is killed over and over as just Two colors, now, on a winter hill: Two colors! Red and white. A barber's bowl! Two colors like the peppers In the windows Of the town below the hill. Smoke comes From the chimneys. Everything is still. Ice in the river begins to move, And a boy in a red shirt who woke A moment ago Watches from his window The street where an ox Who's broken out of his hut Stands in the fresh snow Staring cross-eyed at the boy Who smiles and looks out Across the roof to the hill; And the sun is reaching down Into the woods Where the smoky red fox still Eats his kill. Two colors. Just two colors! A sunrise. The snow.