The first is a wonderful poem cleverly symbolizing a geranium in an act of love between a man and woman. It was written in the 18th century by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a famous writer and playwright. His most famous play is the School for Scandal. I strongly recommend that you read this poem more than once for its subtleties and richness grow with every read.
The second poem came to me as an out-of-the-blue surprise. When I told G that I would post the Sheridan poem, he laughed out loudly, and he told me he knew of that poem and, also, wrote his version of it about a decade ago dedicating it to his cabin girls.
by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
In the close covert of a grove
By nature formed for scenes of love,
Said Susan in a lucky hour:
‘Observe yon sweet geranium flower.
How straight upon its stalk it stands,
And tempts our violating hands,
Whilst the soft bud, as yet unspread,
Hangs down its pale declining head.
Yet soon as it is ripe to blow,
The stems shall rise, the head shall glow.’
‘Nature,’ said I, ‘my lovely Sue,
To all her followers lends a clue.
Her simple laws themselves explain
As links of one continued chain;
For her the mysteries of creation
Are but the works of generation.
Yon blushing, strong, triumphant flower
Is in the crisis of its power:
But short, alas, its vigorous reign;
He sheds his seed, and drops again.
The bud that hangs in pale decay
Feels not, as yet, the plastic ray.
Tomorrow’s sun shall bid him rise,
Then, too, he sheds his seed, and dies.
But words, my love, are vain and weak;
For proof, let bright example speak.’
Then straight before the wondering maid
The tree of life I gently laid.
‘Observe, sweet Sue, his drooping head,
How pale, how languid, and how dead.
Yet let the sun of thy bright eyes
Shine but a moment, it shall rise.
Let but the dew of thy soft hand
Refresh the stem, it straight shall stand.
Already, see, it swells, it grows,
Its head is redder than the rose,
Its shriveled fruit, of dusky hue,
Now glows—a present fit for Sue.
The balm of life each artery fills,
And in o’erflowing drops distils.’
‘Oh, me!’ cried Susan, ‘When is this?
What strange tumultuous throbs of bliss!
Sure, never mortal till this hour
Felt such emotion at a flower!
Oh, serpent, cunning to deceive,
Sure ’tis this tree that tempted Eve.
The crimson apples hang so fair
Alas! what woman could forbear?’
‘Well hast thou guessed, my love,’ I cried,
‘It is the tree by which she died –
The tree which could alone content her.
All nature, Susan, seeks the centre.
Yet let us still poor Eve forgive,
It’s the tree by which we live.
For lovely women still it grows,
And in the centre only blows.
But chief for thee it spreads its charms,
For paradise is in thy arms …’
I ceased, for nature kindly here
Began to whisper in her ear,
And lovely Sue lay softly panting
While the geranium tree was planting,
’Til in the heat of amorous strife
She burst the mellow tree of life.
‘Oh, heaven!’ cried Susan with a sigh,
‘The hour we taste – we surely die.
Strange raptures seize my fainting frame,
And all my body glows with flame.
Yet let me snatch one parting kiss
To tell my love I die with bliss –
That pleased thy Susan yields her breath;
Oh, who would live, if this be death?’
I HAVE A GERANIUM
To the Cabin Girls to Read in Bed While Supine
I have a geranium with a stalk and a head.
It sometimes bubbles and sometimes is dead.
Which it is depends on the elements that surround it
Whether it be frost or sunlight that caresses it.
Alas, with the passing years the sunlight has diminished.
The frost now dominates and my geranium seems finished.
But flowers, like people, do often survive moments depressed
And fine new hope in pure nature, life’s moments undressed.
So too, at this moment, my geranium stands tall.
The stem is erect and the head in full ball.
But this miracle is now fleeting, not what it used to be
As when a male lobster responds hormonally to his lady’s pee.
For the moments are occasional, regardless of the season
And I asked myself, “Is there a reason?”
I now desperately seek your advice to cure my sad malady
And bring back my geranium to what it used to be.
So, cabin girls, after you’re wined and fed and supine in bed,
Respond to me in an eight line poem, for I need to be fed
The wisdom of your words bring back this geranium as it once was
And seek the advice of wise Lady Santa Claus!
Your humble servant,
October 1, 2004