Monday, 22 February 2010

The Hatchet, Butterflies and Poppies

It was a bible study night in the prison. I had invited along an English teacher from the local high school. The prisoners had been having difficulty with the problem of whether the bible as a book was to be taken literally or should there be an effort to interpret for better understanding. I thought that this particular teacher might have something worthwhile to contribute to the discussion. She was trying to explain the use of poetic language. She said to the prisoners, “If I said that I floated over the lawn like a butterfly you would know exactly what I meant. Likewise if I say bury that hatchet you know I do not mean that to be taken as literally.” “Well,” said one prisoner, “maybe you might not, but that is why I am in here, because I did just that.”

Two things that never fail to bring joy into the lives of people are Poppies and Butterlies. Both so transitory in their existence. Here but for a moment and gone.

Butterflies do indeed float over gardens and with them they bring a great presence of beauty. For this very reason I planted a Buddleia plant in my garden. Butterflies love the enormous flower heads and the strong aroma. Butterflies have always evoked emotion down through the centuries. An old worthy speaks of how he dreamt he was a butterfly and such was the emotion when he awoke that he was forced to ask. “Was I a man who dreamt I was a butterfly? Or am I a butterfly who believes I am a man?

It is this sense of wonder and that is the goal and aim of most art. The desire to share with others the emotions stirred up in everyday life. Sometimes what we try to convey might be a flash of insight worthy of sharing, or it may be a fleeting ephemeral passing feeling.

I can think of emotions brought to my inner being by the sight of a butterfly landing on a flower and opening its wings to the sun.

I remember as a young boy capturing a butterfly in a jar so that I could look at. In so doing I had captured something and contained it in a jar for a large part of its expected lifespan. Such is not the way of Tao. The artist can capture that moment and share it for eternity. Then they are at one with Chi.

Oh beautiful butterfly

Fly my way

Here for a day tomorrow you die

Touch me with wonder

Excite me with joy

Ephemeral moment

Stay with me for aye.


  1. Once again Ralph; wonderful prose. The poem is absolutely lovely, so complete. Thanks for sharing

  2. Not really a poet are you? Still it does conjure up a delightful scene - butterflies are so delicate and apart from the poor butterfly only lasting a day. Shame on you.