I. SPRING WEDDING
I went to a wedding where snowdrops line
The cold stone steps — but it was not mine;
I went to a wedding in wild, mild May,
Long after the snowdrops had faded away.
They gave the snowdrop’s helmet and lance
Never a thought and never a glance;
They said their vows to flowers of silk
That shook in the wind, as weak as milk.
Give me a wedding in bowers of snow
Where the laggard sun sees snowdrops grow;
Let me rise with a clear, proud head,
Like spring’s battle-spears from their garden bed.
II. MISS CHARLOTTE
At long last loved, the parish heroine
Was ushered to the church in bridal white;
At long last loved, but harried and worn thin
By fame and passion, brutal to requite.
In white, with green of ivy at her brow,
“Quite like a snowdrop,” as the townsmen said;
In white with green bouquet, a hopeful vow
To joy — so soon a mother, and soon dead.
Creator of Jane Eyre, this churchyard mouse
A mirror of the snowdrop, fatal maid,
Brought Death unto the hearth of her own house,
And met him bravely, never once afraid
To dance with him, for love of all he gave:
Enough to melt the snow above a grave.
III. BELLS OF PASSAGE
Each week I wait to make the pilgrimage
To where the first shy snowdrops must appear
Beneath the maple, at the garden’s edge
To herald the return of someone dear.
A leaf, a stem, a bud above the snow —
At last, they have come back, and you must make
The journey home from sunny Mexico
And into realms of cold— for duty’s sake.
But then, instead, one February came,
And you were dead. The bells beside the tree
Rang stars as high as Heaven with your name.
The mystery of why you went from me
Is simply pain the spring can never kill
With rain, and so the mute bells bloom there still.
IV. CIRCE AND COMPANY
Old Ulysses, wily one,
Met Ms. Circe for some fun.
Quite intent on things unholy,
He supplied his men with moly:
Magic herb that we all know
As blossoms tough enough for snow.
Scoffing at their magic twigs,
Circe turned them into pigs,
And wolves, and bears— and just to irk us,
Kept them trapped in Circe’s Circus,
Where they still perform her play,
Those shaggy rogues of yesterday.
Scientists with magic tubes
Push their potions on the rubes.
Snowdrop culled from frosty plot
(They say) can clear a head that’s fraught:
And duly pilled,
It acts as a forget-me-not.
I have tried to learn, by bits,
How Ulysses kept his wits;
What you kept upon your shelf
That let you keep me for yourself;
And how the well of memory
Might just be tapped selectively,
So I remember you and me.
The rest, it’s plain,
Was mud and rain,
Yet each has grown
Some sweet and bitter flowers of its own.