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Sunday, May 29, 2011

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,

And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west, 
And thought of him I love.

O powerful, western, fallen star!
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!

In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard, 
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.
---Verses 1-4, from "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" by Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.

My new lilac bush, planted last year, has rewarded me with a number of perfumy, lovely blooms this spring. Our spring has been cold, windy and rainy, but I managed to catch a day where the sun was shining to take a couple of pictures. The weather has really put our growing season behind!
The poem above, oddly enough, was actually written as an elegy to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, even though it never mentions him by name. Walt Whitman, like most Americans at the time, were deeply affected by his death. The poem appears in Leaves of Grass, a large collection of Whitman's poems that first appeared in 1855, but was revised, added to, and re-printed in several editions until his death in 1892.
I first read Walt Whitman in high school, and this poem was one of my favorites, despite the fact that it was written as a dramatization of Whitman's feeling of loss, and was, in fact, about mourning. Like most elegies, he uses imagery (in this case, the lilac bush) and other forms of nature to convey his feelings.
It's quite a beautiful poem and has always stuck with me. I always think of it when the lilacs bloom.

Elsewhere in my garden:

We had to get more trellis for our other climbing rose. Now I have to prune it a little and tie up some more of it to the trellis. I have no doubts it will reach the top of the new pieces within 2 years!

Thanks for stopping by!
I'll be joining The Tablescaper for Seasonal Sundays!



Richard Cottrell said...

Love them, love the smell. Thanks for sharing. Richard at my Old Historic House. PS. happy memorial Day!

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

What a lovely poem, Katie, and what a pretty lilac bush! I'm with Richard, I can smell it, too! I also love your cute garden sign. :-) Have a great Memorial Day!


Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

Great poem and your flowers are beautiful! I did post about adding blue food coloring to the peony last week, it was fun! Thanks for mentioning it:@)

Carol said...

Beautiful poem, gorgeous garden shots!

The Tablescaper said...

Such glorious blooms, with the perfect poem.

Looking forward to having you join "Where do you keep it all? - Part 2"

- The Tablescaper