Sunday, August 7, 2016

Who misgendered Amaryllis?

One has to take care, among
wikipedia's pages on botany.
This great fount of inform-
ing eagerness, a treasure to
us all, faithfully reflects
assumptions kindled by cus-
tom, as much as learning ac-
quired more probingly. Now,
when we're plainly launched
upon a time of heightened
awareness of culture, is no
time to lower our guard for
its ornaments, botanical or
literary. Yes, wikipedia:
Virgil's Eclogues are the
source of the name given to
the flower, Amaryllis, one
of the mobile and repeated-
ly desired shepherd singers.

But, no. There is no basis
for designating Amaryllis,
female. Only misadventure,
sowing discord, against a
provenance of pure poetry:
the precise story of the
1st Eclogue. By chance?


         Here you will seek and find the cool of the shade
         Beside your hallowed springs and the streams you know;
         Often beside the hedge of willows that marks
         This edge of what you own, the humming of bees
         That visit the willow flowers will make you sleepy;
         And over there, at the other edge of your land,
         Under the ledge of that high outcropping of rock,
         The song of a woodman pruning the trees can be heard;
         And always you can hear your pigeons throating
         And the moaning of the doves high in the elm tree.


         Stags will browse in the pastures of the air
         And the sea will cast up its fish on the naked shore,
         The exiled Parthian drink from the river Saône
         And the German drink from the Tigris, before that face,
         The way he looked at me, will fade from my heart.

David Ferry
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999©
op. cit.

Xavier Buestel
Rory Payne, photograph
Belstaff, 2016©

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