Tea, Poetry and Little Perplexities

Mother’s Little Helper, today’s tea election for day 18, has us confused on several levels. It manages to taste both of nothing and everything at once, to start with. In fact, it tasted so thoroughly of nothing that we went hunting for the ingredients. It’s supposed to feature camomile, hibiscus, valerian, lemongrass and several other soporifics, but the hibiscus is dominating. And it’s mostly dominating the colour of the tea, which is beetroot pink. It doesn’t say, but we suspect cornflowers of featuring too; the little blue flowers are particularly distinctive.

Atypically, not even the camomile comes through with its dusty, dry-hay taste. We brewed it in a mug, which is also atypical for us, so it may be that we misjudged the brewing time on this one.  The other point of confusion stems from the kosher declaration on the tea. We understand what makes kosher salt distinctive – but tea? We thought we knew our Levitical law, but we’ve obviously forgotten the pertinent verse. If anyone wants to write in with an explanation, please do.

Tea aside though, we’ve always loved the light-play of winter, if not the cold that comes with it. Scotland used to give us what we called ‘three o’clock light’ – a particular shade as the sun was setting early. But there are other variations too; the waning of it across stained glass as it grows ever more opaque, the gold of it coming up late in the morning and blossoming across the sky. Here’s a poem on a similar theme. And to add to our ever-growing list that things we don’t understand, you’ll find an accented ‘all trade’ at the end of the first stanza. Normally we can talk metrical stresses with the best of them, but this one has us baffled. How do you lengthen the vowel on a short word? Or even on an already long A? We welcome insights.

Pied Beauty 

Gerrard Manly Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

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