A POEM: “Patience Taught by Nature”

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Photo by Michelle Payette-Daoust


I woke up yesterday, April 4th (!!!) and saw this through the kitchen window and let out an exasperated groan in the direction of the sky, a groan which was meant for all of nature, really, because, well, I’ve had it with this winter that has entered its sixth month.

I would like to renegociate the terms of our seasons with Mother Nature, and remind her that twelve divides itself nicely by four, producing seasons that (in theory) don’t outlast their welcome. I’d like her to know that we enjoy the change and the variety of her displays and that, though white in all its hues: cream, chalk and even pearl grey, is indeed one of her best effects, sometimes calming and meditative and sometimes brightening, we are eager for a burst of colour, and mostly, for the sun’s warmth.

It’s time to leave behind polar vortices and frost heave and icicles hanging from the gutters and air that hurts the skin and chases small creatures into their holes and nests.

Isn’t it?

Perhaps it isn’t for us to decide. In the following poem, I was reminded that Nature’s lesson is one of patience. Maybe I can try to be as patient as a blade of grass, or, more fittingly in Pointe-Claire on this Easter morning, a snow-drop.

browning_elizabeth by Gordigiani
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, oil on canvas by Michele Gordigiani, 1858. The Granger Collection, New York


By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by, contented through the heat and cold.

 About This Poem

“Patience Taught by Nature” was published in Browning’s book A Drama of Exile: and other poems (H. G. Langley, 1845).

(It is in the public domain).

Snowdrop. Photo by Gail Richardson, frequent contributor to the Online Book Club.

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