Putting in the Seed. Collection – Mountain Interval. 1916.

You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

A pastoral poem extolling the beauty of procreation. A lyrical poem about the simple pleasures of country life, a life lived close to the land. Of practical tasks that bring one closer to life and nature. Where the simple farm chores assume ‘impassioned’ significance and inexplicable fervor.  Nature reveals itself in many-splendored facets.

The poem begins with a suggestion of fond domesticity as the farmer waits for his wife to come for him when dinner is ready. He wonders if he’ll be able to ‘leave off’ the sowing of peas and beans (along with the fallen petals of apple). He wonders if the wife would also forget what she came for and like him become:

Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.

Every farmer can be expected to experience a feeling of love while sowing and seeing the seeds sprout and grow. But the poet’s love for Nature is so overwhelming, so intense, that nothing less that ‘burning’ seems to describe this love. The love that he experiences in sowing seeds and seeing them sprout is so intense that he exclaims, almost groans,

How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth

The poet farmer needs not the returns of his produce but the very process – of simple farming tasks that yield all the gratification he desires to fulfill his purpose in life.

Imagery

The poet-farmer is aware of burying the ‘soft, white petals of apple tree’ along with the ‘smooth bean’ and ‘wrinkled pea’. Eager to see his seeds sprout, he becomes aware of it when it ‘just as the soil tarnishes with weed’. The last lines are picturesque:

The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

Springtime – love is in the air!

The putting of seed is seen as a metaphor for making love. Springtime is also a time when humans feel the need for love – emotionally and physically. ‘Slave to springtime passion’ can very well stand for the physical passion the poet feels for his partner. It is quite overt in:

How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed

The remaining lines capture the result of the lovemaking – the seed sprouting – ‘arched body’, ‘shouldering its way’ – is a metaphor for childbirth.

On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.



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