I don’t recall the first time I read a poem for a gardener. If I had to guess, I’d say it was in grade school. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who gardens or enjoys poetry, though. It seems there are so many wonderful poems about gardens, gardening, and the beauty of nature.
Are they all written for gardeners? Probably not. Still, I feel like we gardeners get something different from these words than perhaps someone else might. A poem for a gardener is a reminder. We can feel the sun on our face, hear the way the leaves blow in the wind, and smell the heady fragrance of the flowers.
That’s one reason I enjoy this Ralph Waldo Emerson poem so much. The Rhodora is a short poem set in mid-Spring, “when sea-winds pierced our solitudes.” Emerson lived off and on in the Boston, Massachusetts area for a large part of his life. As a fellow New Englander, I can tell you that the May winds coming in from the ocean can be quite invigorating after months of “solitude,” awaiting the warm, dry days of late Spring and Summer.
Of course, there’s much to love about this poem. You don’t have to live near the ocean in New England to appreciate the way Emerson uses words to bring us into his world where “Beauty is its own excuse for being.”
Enjoy an Anecdote, Story, or Poem for a Gardener or Aspiring Gardener
This story comes from our archive spanning over 30 years, and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that imbue the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!
By Ralph Waldo Emerson
On being asked, Whence is the flower?
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there
brought you. ❖
By Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sent in by Janet Parkerson of Asheville, NC., published originally in 2015, in GreenPrints Issue #101. Illustrated by Catherine Straus
Do you have a favorite poem that seems as though it was written just for those who love gardens?