Had we but world enough, and time . . .
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow . . .
But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
from the poem
To His Coy Mistress
by English Metaphysical Poet
~ Andrew Marvell ~
(1621 - 1678)
Back in the days of the earliest Roman calendar, March was the first month, the beginning of the New Year, making it the perfect annual marker for nature's rebirth, new life and new love, a fresh cycle of growth.
The day holds so much symbolism. It takes its names from Mars, the god of war, who was born with the New Year. It arrives like a lion, departs like a lamb (or vice versa); and it is St. David's Day. As the Patron Saint of Wales, St. David is associated with dragons, daffodils, leeks, and -- did you know this? -- Brussels sprouts! Yet another reason to love March First!
St. David (500 -589) and all the monks in his monasteries have the honorable position of going down in history as the earliest known vegans, eating only bread, herbs, and vegetables; and drinking only water.
Among all the rather silly poems written about Brussels sprouts, there is one that stands out as particularly lovely. So for St. David's Day, here is a lush, luscious poem in honor of vegetable love, and vegans everywhere:
In drag-foot March, and fastening my coat
against a churlish wind, as I arrive
at the greengrocer's stall I have in mind
Bermuda onions, chard, asparagus,
red peppers, corn -- a salad for the eye
and long-stemmed hothouse marvels hastening
the spring in every hue; but daffodils
to mark St. David's Day have frumpy blooms,
carnations wither, and the tulip buds
are February's orphans. As for fruit
and vegetables, the apples look as hard
as wood, and flavorless; my leafy thought
of salads dies. But broccoli is out
in florets, with the kindred cabbages
and Brussels sprouts. Such lowly ancestry
they have, these sprouts, so plain! They could be beads
or dresser knobs, or marbles for a game
with winter, and at thirty-seven pence
a pound are not patrician. Yet their sweet
and minimal design, their modesty,
repeating an idea of round desire
and touched with Cezanne blue, invite conceits
with painted tables, sunshine in the shape
of fruit, a bowl, a porcelain carafe,
or curtains at a window by Matisse
as if in all things green there were a grace
awaiting hand or eye to contemplate
the world transcended in its common ways.
by Contemporary American Poet
Catharine Savage Brosman
*Intellectual property of LSU Press
For more vegetable poems by Brosman,
see my Fortnightly post: "Hungry Heart"