Thursday, October 05, 2006

grass, all these I learnt, warnings

The smell of grass in nearby streets tells you in advance that they they are cutting the grass in the Grove.

Today is National Poetry Day. I wouldn't have known it, if I hadn't heard Prince Charles on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. To celebrate the occasion, he was reading something by the travel writer, Robert Byron, whose book The Road to Oxiana was published before World War 2. It turns out, that it was not, strictly speaking, a poem, but a piece of prose, having no metric pattern, line form or rhyme - a prose poem perhaps. I tracked it down with the help of Google. The Prince chose well, no old chestnut, but something, which will be new to most people as it was to me.
It is a beautifully written list of flowers, butterflies and moths in the English countryside which he would like his son to know, as the writer came to know them in his own childhood.
"....He shall know the tree-flowers, scented lime-tassels, blood-pink larch tufts, white strands of the Spanish chestnut and tattered oak-plumes. He shall know orchids, mauve-winged bees and claret-coloured flies climbing up from mottled leaves. He shall see June red and white with ragged robin and cow parsley and the two campions. He shall tell a dandelion from sow thistle or goat's beard..." . There is more, and the piece ends: "All these I learnt when I was a child and each recalls a place or occasion that might otherwise be lost. They were my own discoveries. They taught me to look at the world with my own eyes."
The piece was quoted by Laurence van de Post in a lecture to the Royal Geographical Society in 1995. Van de Post was of course a friend and advisor to Prince Charles. The BBC will almost certainly be flooded with enquiries about its source, and rightly so. It is a forgotten masterpiece and a truly beautful thing by an observer of beautiful things.

The preposterous warnings by manufacturers, scared witless by the threat of law suites, are highlighted by Simon Carr in today's Independent. They are taken from a list published by the Michigan Law Suite Abuse organisation, and may be verified on should they seem too crazy to believe. Here are some of them:
A label on a new kitchen knife warns: "Never try to catch a falling knife".
A popular scooter for children warns: "This product moves when used."
A label on a hair dryer reads: "Never use hair dryer when sleeping".
A household iron warns: "Nevr iron clothes when they are being worn."

1 comment:

Lucas said...

many thanks for the flower poem. I think it sits nicely with Louis McNeice's "I am not yet born.."