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updated: 01/19/11 

Poetry and quotes about gentians
Back to ethnobotany overview


Gentians have figured in both prose and poetry worldwide since 1000 AD, and some of these texts have become quite popular and well-known. The gentians beauty, color, and fragility has inspired many novelists and writers, especially in the 19th and 20th century.  See also the literature web page.


Here are some selections:

"To The Fringed Gentian" by William Cullen Bryant, 1832, American
(about Gentianopsis, images)

Thou blossom bright with autumn dew,
And colored with the heaven's own blue,
That openest when the quiet light
Succeeds the keen and frosty night.

Thou comest not when violets lean
O'er wandering brooks and springs unseen,
Or columbines, in purple dressed,
Nod o'er the ground-bird's hidden nest.

Thou waitest late and com'st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.

Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue--blue--as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.

I would that thus, when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me,
Hope, blossoming within my heart,
May look to heaven as I depart.

'Fringed Gentian' by Emily Dickinson

God made a little gentian;

It tried to be a rose

And failed, and all the summer laughed.

But just before the snows

There came a purple creature

That ravished all the hill;

And summer hid her forehead,

And mockery was still.

The frosts were her condition;

The Tyrian would not come

Until the North evoked it.

"Creator! shall I bloom?"

"November" by William Cullen Bryant, American

 Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
 One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
 Ere, o'er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
 Or snows are sifted o'er the meadows bare.
 One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
 And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
 And the blue gentian-flower, that, in the breeze,
 Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
 Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
 Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
 The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
 And man delight to linger in thy ray.
 Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
 The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.

part of "To Ellen, At the South" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fairest! choose the fairest members
Of our lithe society;
June's glories and September's
Show our love and piety.

Thou shalt command us all,
April's cowslip, summer's clover
To the gentian in the fall,
Blue-eyed pet of blue-eyed lover.

O come, then, quickly come,
We are budding, we are blowing,
And the wind which we perfume
Sings a tune that's worth thy knowing."

'Harvest Home' by Arthur Guiterman

The maples flare among the spruces,
The bursting foxgrape spill its juices,
The gentians lift their sapphire fringes
On roadways rich with golden tinges,
The waddling woodchucks fill their hampers,
The deer mouse runs, the chipmunk scampers.
The squirrels scurry, never stopping,
For all they hear is apples dropping
And walnuts plumping fast and faster;
The bee weighs down the purple aster-
Yes, hive your honey, little hummer,
The woods are wavering, 'Farewell Summer.'

D. H. Lawrence

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
With their blaze of darkness spread blue,
blown flat into points by the heavy white draught of the day

Quote by D. H. Lawrence

"Oh, what in you can answer to this blueness?"

'The Gentianella' by James Montgomery

Blue thou art, intensely blue;
Flower, whence came thy dazzling hue?

part of 'A Still Day in Autumn' by Sarah Helen Power Whitman

Beside the brook and on the umbered meadow,
Where yellow fern-tufts fleck the faded ground,
With folded lids beneath their palmy shadow
The gentian nods in dewy slumbers bound.

Quote by H. D. Thoreau, American (about Gentianopsis)

"It came very near not being an inhabitant of our latitude, perhaps our globe, at all."

Quote by Halda (1996:7)

“Gentians, the real aristocrats in the plant empire”


In the Mushroom Summer by David Mason

Colorado turns Kyoto in a shower,
mist in the pines so thick the crows delight
(or seem to), winging in obscurity.
The ineffectual panic of a squirrel
who chattered at my passing gave me pause
to watch his Ponderosa come and go--
long needles scratching cloud. I'd summited
but knew it only by the wildflower meadow,
the muted harebells, paintbrush, gentian,
scattered among the locoweed and sage.
Today my grief abated like water soaking
underground, its scar a little path
of twigs and needles winding ahead of me
downhill to the next bend. Today I let
the rain soak through my shirt and was unharmed.
Reprinted by permission from "The Hudson Review," Vol. LIX, No. 2 (Summer 2006) and from the author. Copyright (c) 2006 by David Mason. Also featured in American Life in Poetry: Column 074 by TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006; this weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.




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