I commented last week that there are very few flowers in the garden at the moment, but it would be wrong to say there were none at all.
Each morning, I dutifully water the patch of ornamental gourds I planted in an attempt to cover some of the chain link fence between us and the neighbours. And each day I am amazed at the size and colour of the flowers.
Since the flowers first appeared a couple of weeks ago, a line of poetry has been running through my head. I’m not sure whether it’s triggered by the suspicion that gourds and melons must be related, by the brightness of the flowers or by the similarity of the sounds of gourd and gaudy…
Although it’s a very familiar poem, it took me a while to place the line, as, even here in Spain, the image of melon flowers is one I associate with high summer, not early spring. I’m wondering, then, where the poet Robert Browning saw melon flowers in April:
Home-thoughts, from abroad
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!