Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fleeting Flora

Earth laughs in flowers is an oft quoted phrase plucked from a line of the poem Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Removed from the context of the poem, the phrase evokes a magnificently poetic personification of Earth's flora.

Within the context of the poem, earth laughs in flowers assumes a different meaning.

Emerson chides the long-deceased settlers of Concord for their braggadocio and for having a sense of ownership over the flora and fauna.
Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds:
And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough.
Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
He mocks the boastful boys with the image of flowers laughing at their hubris.

Keenly aware life is fleeting as compared to the longevity of Earth, Emerson asks,
Where are these men?
Emerson foreshadows the Earth-Song poem within this poem. In the Earth-Song part of the poem, Emerson places humankind in the fitting perspective of an Earth that endures and Stars that abide.

   "Mine and yours;
    Mine, not yours.
    Earth endures;
    Stars abide—

The personification of Earth's flora is curious particularly upon close inspection of a flower. A flower is, foremost, an intricately specialized reproductive system.
The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.Jean Giraudoux
A flowering plant is aptly called an angiosperm. We assign the constituent parts of a flower with female ♀ and male ♂ gendered functions. Perhaps one purpose of labeling the constituent parts as such is to understand plant reproduction in a similar context to human reproduction.

Lillium Stamens by JJ Harrison

The gendered constituents of a flower, labeled 1-5 (image above), are:
  1. Stigma is the tip of a style adapted to trap and receive pollen. The stigma germinates the pollen grain containing male reproductive cells.
  2. Style is a tube on top of the ovary where ovules are produced. Ovules eventually develop into the fruit and seeds.
  3. Stamens are the pollen-producing reproductive organs. A stamen has an anther that produces pollen and a filament that supports it. The pollen consists of the male reproductive cells that fertilize ovules.
  4. ♂Filament is the slender stalk of a stamen that supports the anther (where the pollen develops).
  5. Tepal is the outer part (petals).

Emerson's Concord settlers seemed enchanted by material possessions. Perhaps the settlers failed to appreciate the irony that death would turn them into "a lump of mould". Emerson's Concord settlers became part of the land they possessed.