Monday, March 30, 2009

proclamation, fork, dragonfly

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The spring is sprung.

Last Autumn, I broke the shaft of my old garden fork. Seeing some builders having a natter beside a skip, I asked their permission, and threw the useless pieces into the skip with a satisfying clatter. Today I buy a new fork and, using it as a cross between a zimmer frame and a walking stick, make my way home with it. I need it because the earth in the flower beds here has become compacted and needs to be loosened and aerated, and plants, that have proved themselves too greedy for space, need to be dug up and broken into more modest units.
In contrast with the Autumn, when the spade is used to turn over the soil in the vegetable garden , the fork is now wanted to break it up , and dig in compost in preparation for sowing. But there is another largely aesthetic reason for a fork. I like to leave it standing upright in a bed, supported by its tines. Sooner or later a bird, a blackbird or a robin, will use it as a perch, as pretty a sight as you ever did see.

Sometimes it is hard to fall for a word in a foreign language. Libellule, the French for dragonfly, which I come across this morning, is a case in point. The French, papillon for butterfly is less enchanting, and is certainly improved on by the Spanish mariposa, and even by the German Schmetterling.


The Crow said...

In the southern United States, from which I hail, we referred to dragonflies as mosquito hawks.


Lucy said...

Very Georgic musings on forks and spades!

I always muddle libellules up with nenuphars...

Roderick Robinson said...

Oh how tough we are on the Germans and their Lego-brick language. But try singing it to something by Schubert.

A belated apology to Alain de Botton. I over-reacted to the extract you posted. I have since read a longer piece from the same book in New Statesman and I realise that, technologically, he is on the side of the angels. A future Works Well post will involve some mild self-flagellation.

Unknown said...

Crow: I suppose it's because they hover like hawks.

I've never read the Georgics, but sometimes feel that if Vergil hadn't written it, I would have wanted to. Memo to myself. Drop down to Halls's bookshop and see if you can find a copy in the Classical section at the back of the shop.

L: I have just been researching the origins of the word libellule, and find that it comes from the Latin, libella, which according to Petit Larouse, is "par allusion au vol plané de l'insecte". It surfaces in English books on insects and in Wikipedia as a genus of dragonfly in the family libelludiae.

If I could sing in tune I would try. Made more familiar with the language than I used to be by Heidi and her friends, I am beginning to appreciate its great merits.

I thought that Alain de Botton's book,The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work sounded pretty good. I certainly like the idea of it, as I like the idea of the Georgics. I also thought that it would appeal to you and fitted in well with your concept of Works Well.