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the fern in spring

They didn't age gracefully, this collection of ferns in the Buffalo National River. I took this photo in spring 2002, in their season of glory, and in early fall I revisited the spot where they grew on the stone bank of a tumbling little cascade and found that, no surprise, the intervening seasons had not been kind. The fronds that were still green were a faded green, and the ones that weren't were brown, dessicated, and shrunken back. I myself am well into the withering phase of my own life, although I can't say that I've done much shrinking lately. So to see them in such a shabby state as they neared the end of their journey of a hundred days struck a little close to home.

Well, we all were green once, weren't we? I remember that in my green time there was a stage in which I was quite taken with the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Fortunately it didn't last long, and as quick as you could say "daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn" I was tossed some other way by some other barmy breeze.

Patience, I feel a poem coming on, not a long one, and maybe the man's best one, or at least it's the one I remember after thirty years. "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child", by G.M. Hopkins:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.