Friday, 22 June 2012

Hay Fever

High pollen count alert! I have hay fever nearly every year and I think it is about grass. What literary allusions are there to hay ? 'Hay Fever' is the name of a play by Noel Coward set in the country. 'Ask the Fellows Who Cut The Hay' is a great book about English country lore, why people put hazelnut shells into walls and children's shoes up chimneys or planted rowans by their door. Antic Hay is a novel by Aldous Huxley. Does anyone read Huxley nowadays? The Hay Wain is a famous picture but not a book.  'Making hay' hints at frolics out of doors. During the war, our garden was put down to  grass and I can vividly remember when the grass was cut making 'cars' out of piles of hay and pretending to drive them.  There was a time when I would re-read 'A Hunter's Notebook' by Turgenev every year on holiday - maybe I''ll do that again this year. Turgenev writes incomparably well about being out and about in the countryside. I love thistles ever since I went to an exhibition of Russian landscape art at the National Gallery in London and saw them celebrated on a vast canvas by some 19th century artist. Here's a good poem about thistles by Richard Wilbur (thanks to today's free online The Writer's Alamanac:

A Pasture Poem  by Richard Wilbur

This upstart thistle
Is young and touchy; it is
All barb and bristle,

Threatening to wield
Its green, jagged armament
Against the whole field.

Butterflies will dare
Nonetheless to lay their eggs
In that angle where

The leaf meets the stem,
So that ants or browsing cows
Cannot trouble them.

Summer will grow old
As will the thistle, letting
A clenched bloom unfold

To which the small hum
Of bee wings and the flash of
Goldfinch wings will come,

Till its purple crown
Blanches, and the breezes strew
The whole field with down.

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