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John Henry Gray (1866-1934)

To Arthur Edmonds


              1Geranium, houseleek, laid in oblong beds
              2On the trim grass. The daisies' leprous stain
              3Is fresh. Each night the daisies burst again,
              4Though every day the gardener crops their heads.

              5A wistful child, in foul unwholesome shreds,
              6Recalls some legend of a daisy chain
              7That makes a pretty necklace. She would fain
              8Make one, and wear it, if she had some threads.

              9Sun, leprous flowers, foul child. The asphalt burns.
            10The garrulous sparrows perch on metal Burns.
            11Sing! Sing! they say, and flutter with their wings.
            12He does not sing, he only wonders why
            13He is sitting there. The sparrows sing. And I
            14Yield to the strait allure of simple things.

Notes

1] Arthur Edmonds: a co-worker with Gray in the Confidential Enquiry Branch, British civil service in 1883-84.

3] burst: possibly recalling the yellow “flowers” of smallpox. Daisies were once used to treat smallpox.

10] metal Burns: presumably a bronze statue of the poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). One by John Steele (1884) stands in the Victoria Embankment Gardens in London.


Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Poems of John Gray, ed. Ian Fletcher (Greenboro, N.C.: ELT Press, 1988): 30. PR 6013 R367A17 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1893
Publication date note: Silverpoints (London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/5/19

Form: Sonnet
Rhyme: abbaabbaccdeed


Other poems by John Henry Gray