Monday, July 10, 2006

The extract selected for July's nature notes comes from THE JULY GRASS first published on 24 July 1886 in the Pall Mall Gazette and later in Field and Hedgerow - a collection of Jefferies' essays published after his death.

You need to know that the "July fly" described by Jefferies is the pretty six-spotted burnett moth [a day-flying moth] and the birdsfoot "lotus" is birdsfoot trefoil that he would have seen in the meadows at Coate.


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The July Grass

A July fly went sideways over the long grass. His wings made a burr about him like a net, beating so fast they wrapped him round with a cloud. Every now and then, as he flew over the trees of grass, a taller one than common stopped him, and there he clung, and the eye had time to see the scarlet spots - the loveliest colour - on his wings. The wind swung the bennet and loosened his hold, and away he went again over the grasses. I wonder whether it is a joy to have bright scarlet spots, and to be clad in the purple and gold of life; is the colour felt by the creature that wears it?

The scarlet-dotted fly knows nothing of the names of the grasses that grow here, and thinking of him I have decided not to learn any more of their names either. I have picked a handful this morning of which I know nothing. I will sit here on the turf and the scarlet-dotted flies shall pass over me, as if I too were but a grass.

Here by me is a praying-rug, just wide enough to kneel on, of the richest gold interwoven with crimson. It is indeed too beautiful to kneel on, for the life in these golden flowers must not be broken down even for that purpose. It is so common, the bird's-foot lotus, it grows everywhere; yet if I had purposely searched for days I should not have found a plot like this, so rich, so golden, so glowing with sunshine.

You might pass it by in one stride, yet it is worthy to be thought of for a week and remembered for a year. Slender grasses, branched round about with slenderer boughs, each tipped with pollen and rising in tiers cone-shaped - too delicate to grow tall -cluster at the base of the mound. They dare not grow tall or the wind would snap them. A great grass, stout and thick, rises three feet by the hedge, with a head another foot nearly, very green and strong and bold, lifting itself right up to you; you must say, 'What a fine grass!'

Grasses whose awns succeed each other alternately; grasses whose tops seem flattened; others drooping over the shorter blades beneath; some that you can only find by parting the heavier growth around them; thousands and thousands. I wish I could do something more than gaze at all this scarlet and gold and crimson and green, something more than see it, not exactly to drink it or inhale it, but in some way to make it part of me that I might live it.