June 3 Lord Alfred Tennyson: Flower in the Crannied Wall

Here is a pretty poem that compares everything (life, the universe and everything – all of the cosmos, even God) to a tiny flower in a wall. This small, ineffectual thing for the poet captures the essence of the larger picture. It’s like a mathematical fractal whose tiniest bit is exactly the same as the largest patterns – perhaps the entire pattern as a whole if that all could be seen (especially since the pattern repeats into eternity).

He can’t say how the flower does this, perhaps this is why it is not put to the reading audience as a metaphor; he does not know the qualities that God (which adjectives should he chose for the thing that has that has qualities that he cannot comprehend) has and therefore cannot describe the qualities that the flower shares, but knows that they are there. “Little flower – if I could understand/What you are, root and all…/I should know what God and man is.” In other words, he is confounded by the mystery of a flower. What is the essence of this thing? He cannot say. He can only say without abstraction what the thing is, “I hold you here, root and all, in my hand.”

So, here is a poem in the chapter of metaphors that has no metaphor as a contrast to those that do. It’s a poem that uses the concrete to explain the abstract.

Flower in the Crannied Wall

by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower – but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

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About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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