Long Live the Weeds


“Some people are flower lovers. / I’m a weed lover.” So said Norman Nicholson in his poem ‘Weeds’ and I’m with him:

Weeds don’t need planting in well-drained soil;
They don’t ask for fertilizer or bits of rag to scare away birds.
They come without invitation;
And they don’t take the hint when you want them to go.
Weeds are nobody’s guests;
More like squatters.

He then writes about coltsfoot, pearlwort, dandelions, docks, plantain, rosebay willowherb, fat hen, rat’s tail, cat’s ear, old men’s baccy, and Stinking Billy, contrasting them with mere flowers:

Flowers are for wrapping in cellophane to present as a bouquet;
Flowers are for prize-arrangements in vases and silver tea-pots;
Flowers are for plaiting into funeral wreaths.
You can keep your flowers.
Give me weeds!

A friend told me about a time she attended a poetry recital given by Norman Nicholson during which he read this poem. Unfortunately the organisers had arranged a gift to be presented to him at the end of the evening: a bunch of cellophane-wrapped flowers. I don’t know if they hesitated or not, but they still presented them. I wonder what Nicholson did with them on the way home?

Another great poet and weed-lover was Gerard Manley Hopkins who wrote this wonderful poem after a trip to Scotland:


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

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