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The Flowers -- Rudyard Kipling

Guest poem sent in by Mallika Chellappa
(Poem #1332) The Flowers
        To our private taste, there is always something a little exotic,
        almost artificial, in songs which, under an English aspect and
        dress, are yet so manifestly the product of other skies. They affect
        us like translations; the very fauna and flora are alien, remote;
        the dog's-tooth violet is but an ill substitute for the rathe
        primrose, nor can we ever believe that the wood-robin sings as
        sweetly in April as the English thrush. — THE ATHENÆUM.

 Buy my English posies!
 Kent and Surrey may —
 Violets of the Undercliff
 Wet with Channel spray;
 Cowslips from a Devon combe —
 Midland furze afire —
 Buy my English posies
 And I'll sell your heart's desire!

          Buy my English posies!
            You that scorn the May,
          Won't you greet a friend from home
            Half the world away?
          Green against the draggled drift,
            Faint and frail and first —
          Buy my Northern blood-root
            And I'll know where you were nursed:
 Robin down the logging-road whistles, "Come to me!"
 Spring has found the maple-grove, the sap is running free;
 All the winds of Canada call the ploughing-rain.
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            Here's to match your need —
          Buy a tuft of royal heath,
            Buy a bunch of weed
          White as sand of Muysenberg
            Spun before the gale —
          Buy my heath and lilies
            And I'll tell you whence you hail!
 Under hot Constantia broad the vineyards lie —
 Throned and thorned the aching berg props the speckless sky —
 Slow below the Wynberg firs trails the tilted wain —
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            You that will not turn —
          Buy my hot-wood clematis,
            Buy a frond o' fern
          Gathered where the Erskine leaps
            Down the road to Lorne —
          Buy my Christmas creeper
            And I'll say where you were born!
 West away from Melbourne dust holidays begin —
 They that mock at Paradise woo at Cora Lynn —
 Through the great South Otway gums sings the great South Main —
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            Here's your choice unsold!
          Buy a blood-red myrtle-bloom,
            Buy the kowhai's gold
          Flung for gift on Taupo's face,
            Sign that spring is come —
          Buy my clinging myrtle
            And I'll give you back your home!
 Broom behind the windy town; pollen o' the pine —
 Bell-bird in the leafy deep where the ratas twine —
 Fern above the saddle-bow, flax upon the plain —
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            Ye that have your own
          Buy them for a brother's sake
            Overseas, alone.
          Weed ye trample underfoot
            Floods his heart abrim —
          Bird ye never heeded,
            Oh, she calls his dead to him!
 Far and far our homes are set round the Seven Seas;
 Woe for us if we forget, we that hold by these!
 Unto each his mother-beach, bloom and bird and land —
 Masters of the Seven Seas, oh, love and understand.
-- Rudyard Kipling
           (1895)

Although manifestly a song (not a poem) for English patriots
there is something in this for everyone. (as the last
stanza underlines)

I can never read this without smelling the scents of parijath,
jasmine, champak, kewda (Thazhampu), sandal and the myriad
other scents of India, the mynah and the sparrow

This too is a gem from the "Anthology of Modern verse" again
committed to memory in early childhood, and recalled now
thanks to this forum.

Mallika

43 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Acynta said...

This illustrates an interesting aspect of British imperialism, I think. The
way in which the yearning for all things English coexists quite easily with a
distinct ambivalence; for all their love of England, the British did not let
the door hit them on the way out to more "exotic" climes, so that the cult of
"England" was spread by people who really didn't at all want to live there.
I've always thought that was a fascinating bit of sociology. Very different
from American imperialism, which is full of self-loathing, and yet, oddly enough,
Americans by and large want to live in the US.

carlynn

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