Friday, December 14, 2007

The lowest trees have tops — a Poetry Friday post

Today's post is short, but hopefully sweet as well. At least I believe the poem is sweet, in a slightly melancholy way.

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall
by Sir Edward Dyer

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,
The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat:
The slender hairs cast shadows, though but small,
And bees have stings, although they be not great;
  Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs;
  And love is love, in beggars and in kings.

Where waters smoothest run, there deepest are the fords,
The dial stirs, yet none perceives it move;
The firmest faith is found in fewest words,
The turtles do not sing, and yet they love;
  True hearts have ears and eyes, no tongues to speak;
  They hear and see, and sigh, and then they break.

Edward Dyer was a courtier poet during the time of Elizabeth I. He was a contemporary of some poets I've mentioned in past posts, including his friend, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh, Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, and more. He is believed to have been a Rosicrucian based on his study of alchemy. (One of the leading Rosicrucians of the day was Francis Bacon.) Dyer's best-known poem is "My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is. You can read that poem at or elsewhere online.

For my part, I prefer "The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall." There is a musical setting of this poem by John Dowland, which can be found on Sting's album, "Songs from the Labyrinth", recorded with lutenist Edin Karamazov. Once you get used to the notion of Sting singing Elizabethan songs accompanied by a lute, it's quite lovely (even if his diction is a bit blurry from time to time). You can listen to short bits of it at Barnes and,, or at the Deutschegrammphon site for the album.

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