Later Poems

by Bliss Carman


 

Peony


 

“Pionia virtutem habet occultam.”
 
  Arnoldus Villanova.—1235-1313.
 
ARNOLDUS Villanova
Six hundred years ago
Said Peonies have magic,
And I believe it so.
There stands his learned dictum

5
Which any boy may read,
But he who learns the secret
Will be made wise indeed.

Astrologer and doctor
In the science of his day,

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Have we so far outstripped him?
What more is there to say?
His medieval Latin
Records the truth for us,
Which I translate—virtutem

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Habet occultam—thus:

She hath a deep-hid virtue
No other flower hath.
Whten summer comes rejoicing
A-down my garden path,

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In opulence of color,
In robe of satin sheen,
She casts o’er all the hours
Her sorcery serene.

A subtile, heartening fragrance

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Comes piercing the warm hush,
And from the greening woodland
I hear the first wild thrush.
They move my heart to pity
For all the vanished years,
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With ecstasy of longing
And tenderness of tears.

By many names we call her,—
Pale exquisite Aurore,
Luxuriant Gismonda

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Or sunny Couronne D’Or.
What matter,—Grandiflora,
A queen in some proud book,
Or sweet familiar Piny
With her old-fashioned look?
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The crowding Apple blossoms
Above the orchard wall;
The moonflower in August
When eerie nights befall;
Chrysanthemum in autumn,
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Whose pageantries appear
With mystery and silence
To deck the dying year;

And many a mystic flower
Of the wildwood I have known,

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But Pionia Arnoldi
Hath a transport all her own.
For Peony, my Peony,
Hath strength to make me whole,—
She gives her heart of beauty
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For the healing of my soul.

Arnoldus Villanova,
Though earth is growing old,
As long as life has longing
Your guess at truth will hold.

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Still works the hidden power
After a thousand springs,—
The medicine for heartache
That lurks in lovely things.