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“The Flower” is a metaphorical poem by Alfred lord Tennyson that delves into the concept of art and how it is often looked down upon by society. It also reflects the struggles of an artist to display their art out in public, and the risk of losing authority over one’s own creation.
About the Poet
Alfred Lord Tennyson was a Victorian poet and is considered as one of the best poets in the field of English Literature. His poems often revolve around themes like madness, murder, etc.
“The Flower” is a lyrical poem written in the first person perspective. The poem has six quatrains each of four lines.
Summary and Analysis
Once in a golden hour I cast to earth a seed. Up there came a flower, The people said, a weed.
The speaker of the poem casts a seed into the earth during a golden hour. And there comes a flower, but people call it a weed.
The poem begins as the speaker of the poem observes the golden hour. During this golden hour, the speaker casted a seed into the soil. The seed later turned into a beautiful flower. This is the basic process of planting a seed.
To grow a flower, one has to plant the seed into the soil, water the soil everyday, make sure that it gets enough sunlight but not excess of it. Then finally, the flower blooms.
But in the last line, the poet says that the people said it is a weed. The people named the flower as a weed, completely ignoring its beauty and tenderness. This resonates with artists, when they spend most of their time on their art, to polish it and maintain it, people do not appreciate it and call it trash.
Here, the poet is trying to make the same point by using the flower as a metaphor for art.
To and fro they went Thro' my garden bower, And muttering discontent Cursed me and my flower.
The people disliked the flower so much that they went to and fro through the speaker’s garden just to display their discontent while they cursed at the flower and the speaker.
In these next lines, the speaker describes how society disregarded his art by marching to and fro through his garden. They muttered with discontent and cursed the speaker and his flower.
Here, the poet describes how people express their views on everything with no regard to the creator. If one dislikes a particular thing, they should not look at it again and move on with their lives. But here, the speaker says that not only do these people dislike his creation, they march down his garden to let him know how much they dislike it.
They keep muttering with discontent and even curse at the speaker, that is the artist, and his creation, that is the flower. This shows the jealousy and judgementality of people when someone actually tries to put out their work in public. It also reflects the lack of knowledge that the people carry and their ignorance to the value of his creation.
Then it grew so tall It wore a crown of light, But thieves from o'er the wall Stole the seed by night.
Despite this hate, the flower grew so tall that it reached great heights and wore a crown of light. But people couldn’t stand this and some thieves stole the seed overnight by climbing over the wall.
In this next quatrain the speaker states that despite the hate his art received, it still grew so tall and raised so high above the ground that it wore a crown of light. Here, the speaker wants to tell that despite people’s disfavour, his art was recognised and appreciated by the right people.
His art was even crowned for its beauty which showed how valuable his work is. But in the later lines the speaker reveals that some thieves came from over the wall and stole the seed at night.
This reflects the society today, when someone is getting appreciated and recognised, there are some people who always want to bring them down out of jealousy. Similarly, here the seed was stolen, that means the blooming flower’s secret was stolen.
Sow'd it far and wide By every town and tower, Till all the people cried, "Splendid is the flower!"
These thieves sowed the stolen seeds everywhere far and wide, a;; through the town and tower. The flowers bloomed everywhere, and all the people appreciated its beauty.
These thieves that stole the seed, went on to sow it everywhere, all across the town and tower. The secret of the beauty of the flower was out, it was everywhere. The importance of the flower decreased as it was widely available.
These lines say how art is being replicated or copied. This certainly devalues the art and the artist. All the people that had the seed now, had the flower and they cried after its beauty, appreciated the flower.
Read my little fable: He that runs may read. Most can raise the flowers now, For all have got the seed.
Through line 17, Tennyson breaks the fourth wall and addresses the readers to read this little fable tale. The poet says that because of this event, anyone can now raise flowers because all of them have the seed.
The poet’s hard work will never be appreciated now, because since the seed is so easily available, it is too easy to grow a beautiful flower now. The loss of originality and authenticity of art is reflected.
And some are pretty enough, And some are poor indeed; And now again the people Call it but a weed.
Although the seed was now accessible to everyone, some of the flowers were pretty and some were poor. Because the flower now lost its novelty, the people again called it a weed.
Some of these people were able to rip off the flower with accuracy. Therefore the speaker says some are pretty enough, and some are poor indeed, meaning some couldn’t do it at all.
Here the speaker suggests that although they try to replicate it, they cannot fully copy it. They get close by, pretty enough. But they can never create what he did because he put his heart in it.
And because they cannot do it as he did, or rather because they do not like the results of their experiment with the seed, they again call it a weed. Because the people were trying to recreate it numerous times, the flower lost its charm and value and therefore for them, it is a weed again.