Impermanence

Flowers are symbols that reinforce our joys and mitigate our sorrows.

anne bronte's grave

Photo: Stuart Grout (flickr)

The grave of Anne Bronte lies in St Mary's churchyard in Scarborough, England.

There have been many literary references to the fleeting lives of flowers because, of course, they bud and bloom and then are gone. No matter how breathtakingly beautiful they are, their beauty never lasts. And while paintings and photographs of them are lovely, they can never be quite the same as seeing, touching and smelling real flowers.

Anne Bronte (1820-1849), wrote a poem that tries to make the best of the transient nature of existence. She wrote:

“Though I cannot see thee more
Tis still a comfort to have seen,
And though thy transient life is o’er
Tis sweet to think that thou hast been.”

It may be true that we remember forever the feelings associated with the flowers in our prom corsage and those red roses that arrived unexpectedly one St. Valentine’s Day years ago. Flowers are symbols that reinforce our joys and mitigate our sorrows.

Anne Bronte, though, was not writing about flowers when she wrote the lines I just read. She was the youngest of six children and her mother died when she was very young. Most of the other members of her immediate family also died before she did at the age of 29. In the nineteenth century writers like the Bronte sisters knew first-hand about the impermanence of life. Because of ineffective medical treatments, many human lives in those days were almost as short lived as the blossoms in our gardens today.

[Note: Anne Bronte was the youngest child in her family and only her older sister Charlotte outlived her. Yet Anne was a very prolific writer during her short life. Some scholars believe that she may have loved her father’s young curate who died of consumption about 18 months after taking up his post.]

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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