Sunday, April 20, 2014

"A blossom of returning light,

  An April flower of sun and dew;
The earth and sky, the day and night
  Are melted in her depth of blue!
                 Dora Read Goodale—Blue Violets.
April is National Poetry Month, and it seems appropriate as spring blossoms inspire stanzas of poetry.

I saw that my violets are starting to bloom.  Violet also means flower in French, Italian and Latin.  In Old English, violet means "purple color." It was first used in the 1830s, making it one of the first of many popular flower names in the nineteenth century. Other forms, such as viola, had been used previously.

Violets are a perennial flower from Europe.  In Greek, the word Io means violet. Greek mythology spins a tale of Zeus falling in love with Io, the daughter of King Argos, but because he feared discovery by his consort Hera, Zeus transformed Io into a heifer. He created violets for her to eat while in her heifer form.  You have to wonder who created these tales...turned her into a cow!  Really!
The lines above come from an American poet who lived from 1866-1953.  She and her older sister, Elaine, published poetry when they were children.  Research uncovered some interesting details about the sisters.
Elaine Goodale taught at the Indian Department of Hampton Institute, started a day school on a Dakota reservation in 1886, and was appointed as Superintendent of Indian Education for the Two Dakotas by 1890. She married Dr. Charles Eastman (also known as Ohiyesa), a Santee Sioux who was the first Native American to graduate from medical school and become a physician. They lived with their growing family in the West for several years. Goodale collaborated with him extensively in writing about his childhood and Sioux culture; his nine books were popular and made him a featured speaker on a public lecture circuit. She also continued her own writing, publishing her last book of poetry in 1930, and a biography and last novel in 1935.
Dora Read Goodale published a book of poetry at age 21 and continued to write. She became a teacher of art and English in Connecticut. Later she was a teacher and director of the Uplands Sanatorium in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee.  She attracted positive reviews when she published her last book of poetry at age 75 in 1941, in which she combined modernist free verse with the use of Appalachian dialect to express her neighbors' traditional lives.

So, next time you see violets, think of Io...and cows..and spring!  Winter is gone!  Get grazing!

And as Downton Abbey's Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, remarked:
          "Don't be defeatist, dear.  It's very middle class."

No comments: