In the high woods that crest our hills,
Upon a steep, rough slope of forest ground,
Where few flowers grow, sweet blooms today I found
Of the Autumn Crocus, blowing pale and fair.
Dim falls the sunlight there;
And a mild fragrance the lone thicket fills.
Languidly curved, the long white stems
Their purple flowers’ gold treasure scarce display:
Lost were their leaves since in the distant spring,
Their February sisters showed so gay.
Roses of June, ye too have followed fleet!
Forsaken now, and shaded as by thought,
As by the human shade of thought and dreams,
They bloom ‘mid the dark wood, whose air has wrought
With what soft nights and mornings of still dew!
Into their slender petals that clear hue,
Like paleness in fresh cheeks; a thing
On earth, I vowed, ne’er grew
More delicately pure, more shyly sweet.
Child of the pensive autumn woods!
So lovely, though thou dwell obscure and lone,
And though thy flush and gaiety be gone;
Say, among flowers of the sad, human mind,
Where shall I ever find
So rare a grace? in what shy solitudes?
~Robert Laurence Binyon “Autumn Crocus”
The early September emergence
of autumn crocus is always unexpected,
surprising even when I know where they hide
in the shade of spent peony bushes.
They are bound in waning summer dreams beneath the surface,
their incubation triggered by retreating light from above,
unlike their springtime cousins who emerge to the sun through snow.
The autumn crocus waits with thoughtful temerity,
summoned forth from earthly grime
to remind us the end of summer is not the end of them or us.
A luminous gift of hope and beauty
borne from a humble bulb;
plain and only soil-adorned.
Slowly unfurling on a pale leggy stem,
the tender lavender petals peel back to reveal golden crowns of saffron,
brazenly blooming when all else is dying back.
In the end, they too painfully wilt, deeply bruised and purple –
under the Sun’s reflection made manifest;
returning defeated, inglorious, fallen, to dust.
Yet we know – they remind us – they (and we) will rise again.
…we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. . . It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
C.S. Lewis from God in the Dock
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