Today’s Sunday Snippet is from the book Papiliones by Jonathan Bradley.
Papiliones by Jonathan Bradley is a collection of poems inspired by butterflies, as well as the stories behind their often unusual and exotic names, and colour photographs. In this charming collection, the poems evoke both the colourful lives of these lovely insects and the emotions that they arouse in us. Each poem is unique, frequently inspired by the unusual scientific names given to them, which are often poetic in themselves. The poems lead the reader on a journey of discovery of these delicate creatures, each poem and each butterfly a new delight. Profit from the sale of this edition of Papiliones will be donated to the Butterfly Conservation charity.
Snippet from Papiliones
This is a collection of poems dedicated to some of the butterflies native to the British Isles. There are thirty-three of mine and one guest poem by my friend Mick Escott. A foreign butterfly has flown in too, perhaps to show that immigration into this country is not restricted only to the human species. I intend to write about the rest of the British butterflies in a further edition.
Each of these butterflies has a brief description and a dedicated poem. Before each poem I have also written a few personal comments. The names of butterflies are almost as colourful as their wings in most languages, and each of them has a scientific name from the Linnaean system written in the Latin style. Many of them are derived from ancient mythologies, usually Greek or Roman, but others are obscure in origin. Where the name seems to have an identifiable meaning I have written something about it. From time to time scientists change the scientific names, and so to avoid confusion I have used the names that appear in The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland, by Jim Asher et al. (2001). These names are themselves poetic, and I see butterflies as part of the poetry of nature.
My children introduced me to butterflies. I found that trying to stalk and spot birds with noisy toddlers was very frustrating, and butterflies were less scared of us, so we hunted for them instead. They are so colourful, and live in such beautiful places, that we were all captivated. Butterflies soon became a passion; then I realised that without friendly habitats they could not flourish, and that they represent a highly sensitive barometer of the natural world. Pollution, pesticides, reckless building development, loss of green spaces, and reduction of plant diversity: all result in the death or even extinction of butterflies. A world without butterflies would, in the end, be a world without people.
The poems are about butterflies and about people. We depend on each other. Though they may not be aware of it, butterflies give us enormous pleasure, and in my case the inspiration to write about them.
The name Anthocharis combines Greek words for flower and grace. Cardamines refers to the bittercress genus of plants, which includes the cuckooflower, on which Orange-tip females lay their eggs, gracing the flowers in the process.
The English name is a precise description of one half of the species – the male – but the females do not have orange-tipped wings. Their wings, however, are beautifully decorated with yellow and black scales that give an impression of green mottling.
It is a butterfly to cheer the spirits on a sunny spring day.
When spring is well unwound
and in full swing,
when blue tits leave the fat balls
to fill their beaks instead
with twigs and feathers for their nests,
a flame-edged roamer
busies through the archway
from the green beyond,
a flying smile, a live rebuke to darkness.
The Orange-tip monitors
the primrose bank,
his white and burnished copper
faster than the yellow-pale petals
quivering in the breeze,
and all their colours singing youth.
His green-dappled mate
seeks out cuckooflower
by the brook.
Both are quickly gone
from corner of the eye,
but life is good on a morning
tinged with orange.
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