August 31, 2010

Max’s Musings

maxBy Max Molleston

As the summer season moves away from us, and schools open even in the heat of the early fall, I am thinking about some beauty here – and
gone as seasons show themselves. Some of you had plenty of water for the floral displays you plant and supervise. Some of our friends and neighbors, town and farm, have endured more than they wanted with flooding and general water troubles in the news most of the days we know as summer.

I am thinking this month about the floral displays that repeat though too much water has covered their features for a time. The returners, year after year, like honey suckle. Sturdy and dependable with some pleasant blossoms and growing greenery to follow. Moving through The Treasury of American Poetry, anthology edited by Nancy Sullivan in 1978, I stopped at a poem titled “The Wild Honey Suckle” composed by Phillip Freneau when these bush and blossom plants were not hemmed into house settings and larger gardens.

The Wild Honey Suckle

Fair flower, that dost so comely grow,
Hid in his silent, dull retreat,
Untouched thy honied blossoms blow,
Unseen thy little branches greet;
No roving foot shall crush thee here,
No busy hand provoke a tear.

That’s the initial verse of this four stanza poem, which moves on to praise the plant and its blossoms. Freneau was an earlier American, passed at the age of eighty in 1832. I don’t know much more about the poet. I do know my concern about plants that take some unintended abuse. I was inspired enough to compose the following.

The Interview
How have you been this season?
If you’re fed, you clothe our lives
and give us pleasure we can talk about.
How are your friends? Your enemies?
Did you enjoy the visits?
Were they with you often?
Are you a Daisy or a Buttercup?
Did you have the caution and joy
of young company this season?
Did you get some baby drool
on your petals, or get pinched and mangled?

As I observed some toddlers, or stroller-bound tots I created the vision of the interview. It is not the best form for poetry, I imagine, but it is for interviews. I pursued the scene as it might have happened and could have.
A quarter-century ago I was relaxing in my backyard in Davenport. I became inspired looking at a potted plant I had purchased. It was doing quite well in the sunshine. I never titled this poem.

Look at the flower,
view its beauty,
see its growth fascinate.
So it is with us.
We are on view
and yet people
do not see all of us.
We must wait, like the flower
our growth revealing
more and more, so those
who care can see us as we are
and behold our beauty.

Both of my poems were created in the 1980s, maybe two-hundred years after Phillip Freneau obaserved and scribed his poem about The Wild Honey Suckle. Poem themes are creatures of human endeavor, whether it is thousands or just hundreds of years in the past. Events we live through, the exposure to nature and to urban or small town life happenings shape these viewpoints. We finish with another stanza, the second of his “honey suckle” poem.

By Nature’s self in white arrayed,
She bade thee shun the vulgar eye,
And planted here the guardian shade,
and sent soft waters murmuring by;
Thus quietly they summer goes,
Thy days declining to repose.

This column began with summer and has concluded with Freneau’s uncomplicated idea of a part of nature he had seen (been an observer) and was moved to create. As much as poetry brags on its capabilities, launching wide-ranging and befuddling explanations, the most concise poems ring true to most readers, serious or not, about the nature of verse and the way it is constructed. Please join me and my musings here, next month.