Monday, November 02, 2015

Clerodendron, and a calendar poem.

Clerodendron trichotomum, was in front of me while I was sitting out yesterday.

I've never troubled to find out anything about it before, simply enjoyed it for the fact that it is attractive and unusual in several ways at different stages, with bright pretty leaves in spring and autumn, dainty flowers with a heady jasmine perfume in the summer, and then these extraordinary bracts and berries in autumn, the latter a shade of blue rarely found in nature, and quite metallic in their lustre. I also learn from the wiki article, though, that it is sometimes known as the peanut butter tree, because its leaves smell of peanut butter when crushed, which I have never noticed but shall seek to confirm when I next go past it.

The person who gave it to us, as a sucker from his own garden, I do not recall with great affection, and sometimes when Tom refers to it, since the Latin will elude him, he does so as 'that thing what's-his-name gave us' in a tone of mixed embarrassment and contempt. However, it would be unfair to hold that against the shrub, and since in the histoire* of the estrangement I felt myself, for once, more sinned against than sinning, it is really not too much of a bad association at all. Indignation is really much less uncomfortable and persistent than remorse.

Jeff looked in last post, which was nice. Now his is a blog I've only discovered in the last couple of years, I think, which shows there are still unexpected treasures to be found in this sphere. He's a very erudite and talented American mediaevalist, which is a delight in itself, and a friendly, interesting all-round good egg, I reckon. He's just started posting monthly instalments of a long poem, inspired by his move from city to country and by mediaeval calendar poems. It's gorgeous: dense and mysterious but vivid and inviting at the same time, full of alliteration and figures and images calling up Anglo-Saxon verse and books of hours, but also telling of his own inner journey, memories and transformations. The latest has skies full of constellations and the figures that inhabit them, 'windows ... wicked with life', spiders and a salutary dialogue with a mantis, and this, which I hope might be true:

Whatever you’re certain won’t sing to you now
Waits to be witness to one formal act:
Recite the things you see and hear
Freely, even if others brand it
Daft enchantment or a children’s song,
And start simple. The sense can wait:
“She swept the ash from the iron grate…”
“Sage and parsley in pots left behind…”
“Three white horses on a hillside farm…”

A great friend suggested recently that if now is a time when the writing of poems has deserted me, it might be a good one to read some, and indeed, blogs are still where they may be found, I find.

* I use franglais carefully and for a reason, as I like to think I usually do; I am leery and rather disdainful of it otherwise. Histoire is story and history, but also a business, a matter, a fuss... covers quite a lot, and fits the bill.


Nimble said...

A shrub and some indignation is a curious legacy to leave behind. I have just planted some spearmint I rooted and it's making me feel cheerful. Here's to rewarding reading and careful observation.

marja-leena said...

What a lovely flower, new to me! I once had a house plant by that name, a hanging one with white and pink flowers, that I'd grown from a cutting from my mother's plant. It was lovely for some years then I lost it and have nto come across it again. So, you have touched on a lovely memory, thanks, Lucy! (Better than the memory of the original owner of your plant!)

Now must go visit that unusual sounding blog you mention. I do love to find new ones to replace ones that have given up. (I know I've been lazy but I promise not to give it up!)

Zhoen said...

Out of great bad, some good may well come. Pretty thing, not sure if I'd like the jasmine scent, even if it could grow here.

Jeff said...

Thanks so much, Lucy! For what it's worth, I've found that when I can't write, when I worry I'll never write another word again, it's time for me to find a book or a poem and give life to someone else's writing. In the meantime...if that plant truly does smell like peanut butter when you crush its leaves, the world most definitely needs to know.

Interestingly, I recognize the name "marja-leena" from the comments section at Marly Youmans' blog. What a small online world it is sometimes, but it sure is full of wonderful writers and readers.

Lucy said...

Thank you people.

Nimble - I don't feel indignant any more really, but I like the shrub! Spearmint is nice, though limited in its uses, I find, as it tends to remind me of toothpaste. Thanks for reading.

ML - When I looked up clerodendron I saw there were many varieties, including some house plants. Long term blog fatigue is of course a problem for many of us, but there are still things going on. Glad you'll visit 'Quid plura'.

Z - I dislike any artificial jasmine scent, but the real thing from flowers is good, though I sometimes find stargazer lilies too much in an enclosed space.

Jeff - you're very welcome, I always enjoy your work. Yes Marja-Leena and Marly know each other, and there are doubtless some other mutual friends about!

London Accountants Lady said...

I've never seen this flower before, it's lovely! And beautifully coupled with that poem, you're right about the wonderful, intricate imagery.