Where the road cuts through the belt of sandy soil near Ezra’s place are clumps of gorse, filled with rabbit runs which his little terriers love to explore. The first week of the year, and the gorse is in flower. This always brings a smile to my lips, remembering Edward Thomas.
‘If I should ever by chance grow rich’, he wrote, he would buy local beauty spots and let them all to his elder daughter for a rent of the year’s first white violets, primroses and orchids, if she should find them before he did. I don’t know what these flowers were doing a century ago, but on January 1st last year the violets by our door were blooming – look under the leaves – primroses were out next door, and, though this is cheating, Mrs Turnstone’s Christmas orchid is flowering next to the crib.
When his poem was first published, some readers saw a touch of cruelty in Thomas’s poem, not understanding his next thought:
‘ But if she find a blossom on furze
Without rent they shall all forever be hers.’
The joke was on them, had they but realised it, for gorse, or furze, can be found in flower every day of the year. Thomas was giving his child all this beauty without condition. It is given to us too, had we but eyes to see it. Not Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. (Matthew 6: 28, 29) Was Jesus perhaps cracking a joke when he preached this parable, to show us that we don’t know as much as we think we do?
If I Should Ever by Chance by Edward Thomas
If I should ever by chance grow rich
I’ll buy Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch,
Roses, Pyrgo, and Lapwater,
And let them all to my elder daughter.
The rent I shall ask of her will be only
Each year’s first violets, white and lonely,
The first primroses and orchises–
She must find them before I do, that is.
But if she finds a blossom on furze
Without rent they shall all for ever be hers,
Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch,
Roses, Pyrgo and Lapwater,–
I shall give them all to my elder daughter.