Monday Morning Poem: Hortulus, by Walahfrid Strabo

Then come the showers of Spring, from time to time
Watering our tiny crop, and in its turn
The gentle moon caresses the delicate leaves.
Should a dry spell rob the plants of the moisture they need,
My gardening zeal and the fear that the slender shoots
May die of thirst make me scurry to bring fresh water
In brimming buckets. With my own hands I pour it
Drop by drop, taking care not to shift the seeds
By too sudden or lavish a soaking. Sure enough,
In a little while the garden is carpeted over
With tiny young shoots. True, that part there
Below the high roof is dry and rough from the lack
Of rain and the heaven’s benison; true, this
Part here is always in shade, for the high wall’s
Solid rampart forbids the sun to enter.
Yet of all that was lately entrusted to it, the garden
Has held nothing enclosed in its sluggish soil
Without hope of growth. What is more, those plants that were moved,
More dead than alive, to the newly dug furrows are now
Green again; our garden has brought them back
To life, making them good with abundant growth.

—From Hortulus by Walahfrid Strabo.  9th century. Translated from the Latin by Raef Payne. The Hunt Botanical Library, 1966.

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7 thoughts on “Monday Morning Poem: Hortulus, by Walahfrid Strabo

  1. TomWS says:

    Thanks for the quick reply, Katknit. However, when I click on the link titled “complete article”, I get a full-page screen of the review by C. H. Talbot (page 113 in Cambridge Journals Medical History). Am I missing something? When I check Amazon for Hortulus, I find only two copies available, both used, one at $50 and one at $210; otherwise, it’s listed as unavailable and out of print. It seems very hard to find.

  2. Robyn says:

    A different excerpt from Hortulus containing Walafrid’s peppy advice for the gardener also appears on p.5 in Tania Bayard’s Sweet Herbs and Sundry Flowers: Medieval Gardens and the Gardens of the Cloisters, which is a lovely publication in itself. [New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985, 1997.]

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