Last week’s offering by Frances Horovitz led me to remember this other fine flower-and-death-themed poem by Edith Scovell (1907-1999). If you are going to stake a whole poem on one image it had better be a good one and it had better be original, but I think Edith’s beautifully observed tulip certainly does the job in this elegiac yet life-affirming piece. And take a moment to appreciate the precision of that ‘flamboyant’ in the penultimate line, and how fittingly the word’s modern sense of ‘showy’ is underpinned by an awareness of its etymology, coming as it does from the French flamboyer, to flame or blaze.
Deaths Of Flowers
I would if I could choose
Age and die outwards as a tulip does;
Not as this iris drawing in, in-coiling
Its complex strange taut inflorescence, willing
Itself a bud again – though all achieved is
No more than a clenched sadness,
The tears of gum not flowing.
I would choose the tulip’s reckless way of going;
Whose petals answer light, altering by fractions
From closed to wide, from one through many perfections,
Till wrecked, flamboyant, strayed beyond recall,
Like flakes of fire they piecemeal fall.
E. J. Scovell