Early summer exuberance

In a new occasional series, Dabblers select those poems that manage to hit a very particular spot, and do it better than anything else. First, Gaw gets carried away by a bit of seasonal sunshine.

I find the warm days of early summer can sometimes impart a tremendous feeling of well-being: gentle breezes caress one’s bare, shorts-topped legs; plant-like, one’s hair seems to curl as if fed by sunshine and watered by the occasional shower; the stray perfume of flowers captures and transports one; the harsh is made mellow and the clangorous seems soft and distant. I get quite carried away.

Most things feel better on days like these: hangovers aren’t as bad, for instance. They taste better too: foods that are mostly more or less tolerable take on savours and textures that can seem heroically delicious. Salad, for one.

The best expression I’ve found of this seasonal exuberance is in the poem below. It’s by the chronically unwell and enervated Robert Louis Stevenson and was written during a rare healthy spell he enjoyed when living in balmy Hyères. Although it mentions April, I think we’re only a little behind it as things happen a month or two earlier down there on the Riviera. In any event, the sickly Stevenson’s early summer euphoria seems to have been uncontained when he was writing this.

To A Gardener

Friend, in my mountain-side demesne
My plain-beholding, rosy, green
And linnet-haunted garden-ground,
Let still the esculents abound.
Let first the onion flourish there,
Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,
Wine-scented and poetic soul
Of the capacious salad bowl.
Let thyme the mountaineer (to dress
The tinier birds) and wading cress,
The lover of the shallow brook,
From all my plots and borders look.

Nor crisp and ruddy radish, nor
Pease-cods for the child’s pinafore
Be lacking; nor of salad clan
The last and least that ever ran
About great nature’s garden-beds.
Nor thence be missed the speary heads
Of artichoke; nor thence the bean
That gathered innocent and green
Outsavours the belauded pea.

These tend, I prithee; and for me,
Thy most long-suffering master, bring
In April, when the linnets sing
And the days lengthen more and more
At sundown to the garden door.
And I, being provided thus.
Shall, with superb asparagus,
A book, a taper, and a cup
Of country wine, divinely sup.

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12 thoughts on “Early summer exuberance

  1. Worm
    June 6, 2011 at 13:13

    Thankyou Gaw, I really enjoyed that poem, it so neatly captures that excitement you get from watching all the plants in the garden growing with such fecundity in the early summer. Im about to be swamped with rainbow chard from my own garden.

    clangorous is a great word btw! (unless one was trying to pronounce it in a brummie accent, try it)

    • Gaw
      June 6, 2011 at 13:30

      I find ‘esculent’ a very enjoyable word and one I haven’t seen outside this poem.

      • law@mhbref.com'
        jonathan law
        June 6, 2011 at 14:34

        You obviously missed John Reader’s scholarly and definitive The Propitious Esculent: The Potato in World History, published in 2008 to mark the UN’s International Year of the Potato.

        Google also alerts me to the existence of the Las Vegas-based Esculent Affairs (formerly Candied Yam Affairs) a company of “Bio-Sensualistic Event Planners, Caterers, & Erogenous Chefs”.

        • Gaw
          June 6, 2011 at 20:35

          I’m enjoying the word even more now. What citations: from JLS to bio-sensualistic erogenous chefs. However, would your 19th century Irishman agree wholeheartedly with the potato’s propitiousness?

        • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
          June 6, 2011 at 20:54

          It must have been a wrench giving up a name like ‘Candied Yam Affairs’ but I think they made the right choice.

  2. Worm
    June 6, 2011 at 14:21

    I’d heard esculent before to describe spring onions, but having googled it all I found was a book about potatoes with a fairly enticing title:

    The Propitious Esculent: The Potato in World History

    • Gaw
      June 6, 2011 at 20:39

      Esculent scallions.

  3. Worm
    June 6, 2011 at 14:36

    haha snap jonathan!!!

  4. info@shopcurious.com'
    June 6, 2011 at 15:03

    A very welcome poetic interlude – especially on such a gloomy day. Curiously, I’m now singing ‘My old man said follow the van’ in my head – must be the ‘old cock linnet’. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a linnet, but it’s rather a lovely name for a bird.

    • Gaw
      June 6, 2011 at 20:38

      Yes, having planned this post I suppose it was inevitable that it would rain. I recall an American comedian remarking how the optimistic phrase ‘sunny spells’ reflected the ease with which the British are delighted by any sort of reasonable weather.

  5. Gaw
    June 6, 2011 at 20:56

    This thread is band name gold dust.

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