All that’s beautiful …

Every autumn, I look forward to seeing the gorgeous seedheads of the Clematis tangutica vineOldmen1. They are a wonderful sight through the winter and into the early spring. Whenever I look at them, I am reminded of a poem by William Butler Yeats entitled, 'The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water'.

Ever since I first came across this poem, these words have stayed with me.

I heard the old, old men say,
'Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away.'

They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
By the waters.

I heard the old, old men say,
'All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters.'

Have a good weekend to everyone who stops by!

25 thoughts on “All that’s beautiful …

  1. PG says:

    That is a rather pessimistic view by Mr Yeats – after all, beauty IS fleeting, but it returns every spring…maybe he wasn’t a gardener.
    It is a rather stark view, but one I can’t help but feel watching my garden dying off. Thankfully, it will come back again, but I have my moments of sadness.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your photo and poem goes together well Kate. I hope you have a good weekend too.
    Thanks, Lisa. I thought they went together well. I love these seedheads!

  3. Nicole says:

    That’s a lovely seedhead, Kate. I do intend to order some of those clematis seeds
    I can only imagine how this Clematis would grow in a warmer climate. It grows by leaps and bounds during our summers … it would probably take over a garden when planted in the Caribbean!

  4. our friend Ben says:

    Mercy, Kate! Yeats is my favorite poet (if you don’t count Homer), but I was not aware of this poem. Thank you so much for quoting it! It seems to me that Yeats was of two minds on the topic. The first, captured in “Sailing to Byzantium”: “Caught in that sensual music all neglect/Monuments of unageing intellect…. Once out of nature I shall never take/My bodily form from any natural thing,/But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make/Of hammered gold and gold enamelling…” When I read this poem, gorgeous as it is, I think oh no, oh no, how sterile to desire to be a mechanical device simply because it never dies. I know that I’ll be “caught in that sensual music” ’til I die. But when he was older, Yeats wrote another of my favorite poems, “Crazy Jane and Jack the Journeyman,” where he says “I—love’s skein upon the ground,/My body in the tomb—/Shall leap into the light lost/In my mother’s womb.” Perhaps by then he was at peace with death, with growing older and then old and finally growing beyond life altogether. (And, of course, perhaps he’d also realized that by that time he’d created a body of work that would live long after he had gone on, a “monument of unageing intellect.”) Thanks again for a thought-provoking post!
    I think Yeats was in a despairing mode when he wrote this. It is the stark, haunting quality of the poem that has remained with me. I love ‘Sailing to Byzanthium’ – well, I love Yeats’ poetry in general. I hadn’t thought of ‘Byzanthium’ for ages, until you mentioned it. Thanks for that!!

  5. Shady Gardener says:

    That is a gorgeous seedhead. Not to interrupt the wonderful flow of the poem and its appropriateness, does it also look a little like a subject of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss?
    “Catch!” calls the Once-ler.
    He lets something fall.
    “It’s a Truffula Seed.
    It’s the last one of all!
    You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
    And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
    Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
    Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
    Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
    Then the Lorax and all of his friends
    may come back.”
    I love it, Shady! I’ll forever think of Dr. Seuss and Truffala seeds – and await the arrival of Lorax and his friends!!

  6. eliz says:

    That is amazing! A must-have clematis indeed.
    It is an incredibly hardy Clematis – the little yellow nodding flowers are beautiful!

  7. Andrea says:

    hi Kate, thanks for visiting. I have been missing you and hope all is well. We are enjoying a beautifall fall season over here in Germany, much better than the summer which was accompanied by much rain. Take care, Andrea
    That sounds like our summer as well. Good to hear from you Andrea!

  8. Weeping Sore says:

    What a melancholy poem, but what a perfect fit with the picture. The minimalist seed heads invoke a similar picture of how we all get gnarly with age.
    As for me, I’m not ready to drift away beautifully. I’m planning on leaping into the sky and living in the clouds. I’ll be the one with my feet dangling over the edge and a martini glass in my hand.
    It is melancholy – a feeling I often have as the garden withers away. I love the way you aren’t planning to wither away. I can’t imagine that!

  9. Chloe M. says:

    Kate,
    Poetry and gardens, what could be more beautiful together.
    The seedheads are lovely, I imagine they look particularly wonderful agains the snow.
    Chloe M.
    Chloe, they do look beautiful, especially when the snow sticks in them!

  10. Aiyana says:

    For some reason, your photo and poem remind me of this verse…
    Aiyana
    They’re gone now, the old days,
    And they will never return,
    Like water down the river
    And wind through the fern.
    Everything comes back sometime,
    Except ourselves alone,
    And the times that were happy
    And the friends that we’ve known.
    So the days go onward
    And the glory fails,
    There’s nothing much left now
    Except my tales,
    Just what I remember,
    I and the wind,
    Stronger now, and sharper,
    Since the woods are thinned.
    ~Louis Morgan
    What a hauntingly-beautiful poem, Aiyana. I love it!

  11. Annie in Austin says:

    You made me miss the Clematis tangutica that was left behind in Illinois, Kate – guess that’s a little melancholy! But you made me smile, too – because after I read the title of the poem, the clematis head reminded me of seeing Carl Sandburg on television when I was a kid. He sometimes read his poetry with head bent so his face was barely visible under that shock of whitened hair.
    Annie at the Transplantable Rose
    I’m glad the sense of melancholy was replaced with a smile – Carl Sandburg had amazing hair …

  12. Selma says:

    I think the poem is perfect. It is one of those poems that when you read it, you just have to pause and breathe afterwards because it is so wonderful. I love hearing about your garden!
    I have always loved this poem … I’m glad you liked it. My garden continues to send up some blooms even though it has been frozen many nights so far this autumn.

  13. Linda O'Neill says:

    Your photo is beautiful, Kate…and I loved that poem. Hard not to write an eloquent poem about Fall…the most spectacular season!
    What is Lytton going to be for Halloween?:)
    Alas, Lytton refused to wear a costume. His favourite thing is greeting the children by the door and hoping that he can catch a few treats. I wish fall was more spectacular here. It happens so fast –

  14. gardenauthor says:

    A perfect fit, Kate! For whatever reason, Clematis tangutica is not commonly encountered in this area. Thank you for both the lovely photo and expressive poetry… Deb
    It isn’t very common here either … I don’t know why because it is so hardy.

  15. Sandy says:

    They are most unusual, aren’t they? If I would have thought is was some sort of grass if I hadn’t read your post. That poem is new to me, too.
    They are unusual – and stay so pretty all winter long. I’ll take a photo of them covered in snow. They look lovely!

  16. Yolanda Elizabet says:

    Seedheads can be very beautiful. Love the poem, it sums up very nicely what I feel when the garden winds down. Every year I find it hard to believe that most will flower again.
    Have a great weekend!
    I’m with you, Yolanda Elizabet – I find it hard to believe too. It doesn’t seem to matter how often I’m proved wrong either. The feeling is the same every year.

  17. joey says:

    Delighted to visit and again hear your fine voice, Kate. Enjoy waning autumn singing its bittersweet song.
    It is a bittersweet song that autumn sings, Joey… so true!

  18. Kate says:

    I have some very interesting seed heads on my clematis too- I’ve never seen them before so they are a nice treat.
    I planted ornamental grasses in the spring and am loving the seed heads on these as well. I made a big dry bouquet to display with all sorts of them that I found on my walks along our trail system. It’s really becoming.
    I love Clematis seedheads – well, I love all seedheads … they get me through winter.

  19. Willow says:

    Hi Kate,
    Have you had snow yet?
    I know you miss the garden days.
    Have a happy weekend!
    Willow, we had snow a few weeks ago and then some cold days. We’ve also had some very warm days and so it will be a shock when the snow predicted for the end of this week falls!

  20. Jon says:

    Kate, such a treat for me to sneak back online for a while to post a few things and then to pop over to your lovely blog to feast my sick eye(s)on your wonderful photos. I have been so bored while being off on medical leave this past couple of months, I have decided to disobey my doctor’s orders to stay offline and cheat a little bit. (Don’t report me!) Will return soon to catch up on all your posts that I have missed reading. Best regards, Jon at Mississippi Garden on 11-1-08
    Jon, I am so happy to hear from you – I was over at your blog earlier this night. I’m glad that your eyes are recovering!!

  21. Anne says:

    Oh, Yeats! Your comparison of the plant and the poem is lovely!
    Very glad that I found your blog through your comment on Garden Grit…!

  22. Jon says:

    Like you I also enjoy seedheads and seedpods of clematis and other plants. My castor bean plants have seedpods that I find fascinating even though they have deadly poisonous contents!
    Jon at Mississippi Garden

  23. lettuce says:

    i had a tangutica for some years, it was lovely – and then just disappeared.
    Now in its place I have a clematis ballearica – which is also very lovely, but at the moment is still holding all its buds tight shut

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