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A Contemplation upon flowers

by Henry King

BRAVE flowers, that I could gallant it like you
And be as little vaine,
You come abroad, and make a harmelesse shew,
And to your bedds of Earthe againe;
You are not proud, you know your birth 5
For your Embroiderd garments are from Earth:

You doe obey your moneths, and times, but I
Would have it ever springe,
My fate would know noe winter, never dye
Nor thinke of such a thing; 10
Oh that I could my bedd of Earth but view
And Smile, and looke as Chearefully as you:

Oh teach me to see Death, and not to feare
But rather to take truce;
How often have I seene you at a Beere, 15
And there look fresh and spruce;
You fragrant flowers then teach me that my breath
Like yours may sweeten, and perfume my Death.

contemplate |kntmplt|
verb [ trans. ]
look thoughtfully for a long time at : he sat on the carpet contemplating his image in the

The opening lines are devoted to admiring flowers. The
speaker says that they are 'brave' and 'gallant'. Aren't these
unusual words to be used in describing blooms? Together,
these words convey the ideas of being "able or ready to face
and endure danger and disgrace or pain; splendid,
spectacular, fine, stately". So what we must seek to find out is
his reasons for saying these things. In addition, do notice that
the speaker wishes that he were like the flowers, brave and
gallant and be "as little vain". He continues in this vein
throughout, finding ways and causes to praise flowers.
Now here is what I want you to do:
1. *Read the poem through and think about the following -
brave, gallant, vain, come abroad, harmless show, beds
of earth, birth, embroidered garments, months and
times, ever spring, winter, truce, bier and spruce.

2. *If you have to look up the meanings of any, do so.

3. *Discuss them (the words above) with your friends and
in your study group, trying to explain their role in the
poem. In other words, consider, for example, why the
speaker says that the flowers obey their "months and
times" while he "would have it ever spring". Is he
expressing the view that while human beings worry
about getting old, flowers just enjoy whatever period of
existence they get?

4. *Identify the things that the speaker likes about the

5. *Discover the lessons that he wishes to learn from

6. *Put the final six lines in your own words.

The speaker in 'A Contemplation Upon Flowers' begins by
complimenting the subject: flowers. So great is his admiration,
that he uses the word 'gallant', which is both an adjective and
a noun to describe them. In this way, he emphasises his
appreciation with strength and force. In addition, he remarks
that flowers are not conceited, they do not think too highly of
themselves. He declares that he wishes that he could be like
them on both counts; that is, courageous and not 'stuck-up'!
He explains further that when flowers emerge and attract
attention (with their beauty), they make no problems.
Rather, they quietly return to the earth, from which they
came, after they are seen. There is the suggestion at this point
that the flowers do not feel important because they know that
the earth is the source of their beauty (embroidered garments)
and so the process of growing, blooming, fading, withering and
then becoming a part of the earth once again is taken as
natural and creates no cause for concern.
The speaker now comes to a point that seems very important
to him as he continues to contrast the flowers' attitude, this
time to death (with that of humans). For him, the flowers
follow life's cyclical pattern cheerfully, without any regret while
he - our speaker - yearns to remain youthful, never to grow
old, never to die, and not even to contemplate the fact that
death exists. And so he next appeals for a lesson. He wants to
learn how not to fear death because he realises that he cannot
escape from it; he calls it 'my bed of earth'. His desire is to get
to the position where he can smile at death, where he can
make an agreement with death. Do you see the significance of
that statement? In order to do so, you must know the
meaning of the word 'truce'. Look it up and you will find that it
means a temporary agreement to cease hostilities. This,
therefore, tells us that he feels that he is at war with death
and is uncomfortable with it. Why do you think I say that?
I do so because if he were not, he would not sound so anxious
to be like the flowers and would not be talking about a truce.
In addition, the poem says "to take truce", suggesting that
death wishes to be accepted peacefully and without conflict.
In the last four lines, our speaker brings the flowers, which he
respects, face to face with death, which he fears. The influence
of the flowers is great, for here he sees them as displaying no
fear. They look good; they brighten up the funereal
atmosphere and make the place smell fragrant. As Jamaicans,
we would say, sweet. The flowers are dying but they do fulfil
their purpose, and this is the attitude the speaker wants to
achieve. He wants to be able to approach death as if he is
approaching a friend, sweetly and with confidence. He desires,
too, to use his life "my breath" in such a way that his death
will not be sad and mournful.
Take a close look at the poet's style. Consider the rhyming
pattern, the run-on lines, the use of the colon, the
conversational tone, the couplet with which the poem ends
and the fact that there is only one full stop in the whole poem.
Please notice, too, how the seasons are used as symbols. Is
there any use of personification? Has this lesson assisted in
your understanding of this work? I would really like to think it
has. By the way, does it surprise you that a bishop wrote this?

Stanzaic Structures
Has 3 stanzas, ea having 6 lines
Ea stanza has a pair of alternate rhymes and ends with a
couplet (abab cc).
The title of the poem also gives a good idea of what the poem
is about and u will also c that in all the stanzas, these coupltes
strengthens the idea.
Ea couplet has a truth to offer as the speaker contemplates

Perspective/ pt of view 1
person (Irony)
Identifying themes
Ppl, love, religion

The Apostrophe: is a figure of speech in which the speaker