There is a flower, the lesser celandine,
That shrinks like many more from cold and rain,
And the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!
When hailstones have been falling, swarm on swarm,
Or blasts the green field and the trees distrest,
Oft have I seen it muffled up from harm
In close self-shelter, like a thing at rest.
But lately, one rough day, this flower I pass’d,
And recognized it, though an alter’d form,
Now standing forth an offering to the blast,
And buffeted at will by rain and storm.
I stopp’d and said, with inly-mutter’d voice,
“It doth not love the shower, nor seek the cold;
This neither is its courage nor its choice,
But its necessity in being old.
“The sunshine may not cheer it, nor the dew;
It cannot help itself in its decay;
Stiff in its members, wither’d, changed of hue,”—
And, in my spleen, I smiled that it was gray.
To be a prodigal’s favourite—then, worse truth,
A miser’s pensioner—behold our lot!
O man! that from thy fair and shining youth
Age might but take the things youth needed not!