He was born in 1707 at 1:00 a.m. on May 23rd,
When spring was in beautiful bloom, and cuckoo
had just announced the coming of summer
From Linnaeus’ s biography
Green young leaves. A cuckoo. Echo.
To get up at four in the morning, to run to the river
Which steams, smooth under the rising sun.
A gate is open, horses are running,
Swallows dart, fish splash. And did we not begin with an
Of glitterings and calls, pursuits and trills?
We lived every day in hymn, in rapture,
Not finding words, just feeling it is too much.
He was one of us, happy in our childhood.
He would set out with his botanic box
To gather and to name, like Adam in the garden
Who did not finish his task, expelled too early.
Nature has been waiting for names ever since:
On the meadows near Uppsala, whit, at dusk
Platanthera is fragrant, he called it biofolia.
Turdus sings in a spruce thicket, but is it musicus?
That must remain the subject of dispute.
And the botanist laughed at a little perky bird
For ever Troglodytes troglodytes L.
He arranged three kingdoms into a system.
Animale. Vegetale. Minerale.
He divided: classes, orders, genuses, species.
“How manifold are Thy works, O Jehovah!”
He would sing with the psamlist. Rank, number, symmetry
Are everywhere, praised with a clavecin
And violin, scanned in Latin Hexameter.
We have since had the language of marvel: atlases
A tulip with its dark, mysterious inside,
Anemones of Lapland, a water lily, an iris
Faithfully portrayed by a scrupulous brush.
And a bird in foliage, russet and dark blue,
Never flies off, retained
One the page with an ornate double inscription.
We were grateful to him. In the evenings at home
We contemplated colors under a kerosene lamp
With green shade. And what there, on earth,
Was unattainable, over much, passing away, perishing,
Here we could love, safe from loss.
May his household, orangery, the garden
In which he grew plants from overseas
Be blessed with peace and well-being.
To China and Japan. America, Australia,
Sailing-ships carried his disciples;
They would bring back gifts: seeds and drawings.
And I, who in this bitter age deprived of harmony
An a wanderer and a gatherer of visible forms,
Envying them, bring to him my tribute-
A verse imitating the classical ode.