Category Archives: Maurice Denis

So from the mould

Landscape with Green Trees, 1883, Maurice Denis
Background Image: Landscape with Green Trees, 1883, Maurice Denis

Every resource I’ve read on this poem suggests adding in a footnote clarifying that Emily is saying we too shall transform. Yet I think that is unfair to the poem because she does not say that here, even though in most of her other poems she does suggest we will transform to another existence. Taken as it is, without additional knowledge, the poem expresses our “perplexedly” at how nature transforms which I believe is worth considering.

This is one of those poems that a good scientist could have pinned to their laboratory pinboard because it suggests that the mysteries of nature are perplexing but that our “sagacious” eyes continue to “gaze” regardless of how “cunningly” the “Bulb” and the “Worm” are “hidden” as they undergo their transformation. We are curious creatures who yearn for knowledge, but we are like simple “peasants” who struggle to understand the mysterious universe because so much of it is “hidden” from our view and our (current) understanding.

What I find most remarkable about this poem, however, is that it is so joyful, as if the secrets of nature are really just a child’s game where the kids hide “cunningly” and “Leap so Highland gay”. There is an explosion of joy, creativity, and energy in these lines that if there is a transformation for us “peasants” it is in the simple recognition and participation with that joy. Nature explodes with life all around us yet we toil and labor all day without taking part in these wonders. Yet imagine how beautiful life could be if it were possible to put down our peasants’ burdens and “Leap so Highland gay”. Imagine seeing a “Worm” bursting out of the “Cocoon” and leaping into the air! And we can because this image exists in the poem, and thus we are, in a way, transformed because the poem guides our imagination with these playful images and helps us see a world possible not with “sagacious eyes” but with the eyes of our imagination.

In the real world worms do not “Leap” nor are flower “Bulbs” cunning, but in poetry they can be and this is not perplexing, but it is wonderful. If we look to hard at the processes of nature, we miss the life that is constant in nature. There is a great joy here and we should not be perplexed by it, we should participate in it. In that way we would be transformed.