The Geranium

By Richard Brinsley Sheridan Richard Brinsley Sheridan
In the close covert of a grove
By nature formed for scenes of love,
Said Susan in a lucky hour:
‘Observe yon sweet geranium flower.
How straight upon its stalk it stands,
And tempts our violating hands,
Whilst the soft bud, as yet unspread,
Hangs down its pale declining head.
Yet soon as it is ripe to blow,
The stems shall rise, the head shall glow.’
‘Nature,’ said I, ‘my lovely Sue,
To all her followers lends a clue.
Her simple laws themselves explain
As links of one continued chain;
For her the mysteries of creation
Are but the works of generation.
Yon blushing, strong, triumphant flower
Is in the crisis of its power:
But short, alas, its vigorous reign;
He sheds his seed, and drops again.
The bud that hangs in pale decay
Feels not, as yet, the plastic ray.
Tomorrow’s sun shall bid him rise,
Then, too, he sheds his seed, and dies.
But words, my love, are vain and weak;
For proof, let bright example speak.’
Then straight before the wondering maid
The tree of life I gently laid.
‘Observe, sweet Sue, his drooping head,
How pale, how languid, and how dead.
Yet let the sun of thy bright eyes
Shine but a moment, it shall rise.
Let but the dew of thy soft hand
Refresh the stem, it straight shall stand.
Already, see, it swells, it grows,
Its head is redder than the rose,
Its shriveled fruit, of dusky hue,
Now glows—a present fit for Sue.
The balm of life each artery fills,
And in o’erflowing drops distils.’
‘Oh, me!’ cried Susan, ‘When is this?
What strange tumultuous throbs of bliss!
Sure, never mortal till this hour
Felt such emotion at a flower!
Oh, serpent, cunning to deceive,
Sure ’tis this tree that tempted Eve.
The crimson apples hang so fair
Alas! what woman could forbear?’
‘Well hast thou guessed, my love,’ I cried,
‘It is the tree by which she died –
The tree which could alone content her.
All nature, Susan, seeks the centre.
Yet let us still poor Eve forgive,
It’s the tree by which we live.
For lovely women still it grows,
And in the centre only blows.
But chief for thee it spreads its charms,
For paradise is in thy arms …’
I ceased, for nature kindly here
Began to whisper in her ear,
And lovely Sue lay softly panting
While the geranium tree was planting,
’Til in the heat of amorous strife
She burst the mellow tree of life.
‘Oh, heaven!’ cried Susan with a sigh,
‘The hour we taste – we surely die.
Strange raptures seize my fainting frame,
And all my body glows with flame.
Yet let me snatch one parting kiss
To tell my love I die with bliss –
That pleased thy Susan yields her breath;
Oh, who would live, if this be death?’

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Poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Subjects Love, Desire

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Desire

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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