Spring In spring the crocuses broke out as bold As brass from refuge in their barren clay. They speared the air in colourful array And blazoned they their petals proudly told Of azure and of purpure and of gold. Heraldic, seméed in a field were they, Where cultivated gardens may display New growth and hopes unfurl amid the old. How numinous the force that can roll out Rich carpets over seeming fruitless drought! Our humble task, to give each plant a name: Fireweed perhaps, or rosebay willowherb? We curb the weed, the herb we don’t disturb: But in His eyes they surely are the same. Summer High summer now, the rambling hedgerows loud With magpies’ urgent rattle; thorny nest In hawthorn long abandoned, now possessed By creeping things, new leaves their living shroud. In season’s thunderstorms and heavy cloud, Well hidden in the deepest thicket best Permits the shrew some fitful sort of rest, From snake and stoat the only sort allowed. The turpentine seen bleeding from the pine: The deathcap; hemlock, poisons’ archetype; And bursting forth forbidden fruit, a sign Of all that’s cloying, fulsome, over-ripe. And Adam ate whatever Eve would bring, Beguiled he was, he tasted everything. Autumn In Eden’s garden rampant weeds now found, Disease and blight on every fruit and flower. Near leafless they and lifeless every bower, The broad oaks’ welcome shadows now surround The garden walls, in harsh white half-light bound. Beneath the louring naked hills they cower, The raindrops sour that fall in storm and shower, Well-trodden through the sodden peaty ground. The birds have flown, the swallow and the swift; Beginning their transcontinental drift The martins from their cradles in the eaves. The thorns still barb the rose that’s shed its leaves, But soon we’ll hear the hardy redwing sing Through winter bringing promise of the spring. Winter In winter clarity is best of all, Cerulean-bright the sky or Wedgwood blue Revealing frosted cobwebs in the dew. The ice creeps slowly over all to sprawl In sculpted drapes on frozen waterfall, Shapes Michelangelo could no more hew Than cast in bronze the churchyard’s wizened yew Or bring to life the sightless in their pall. And in the shortest days our menfolk brawl, For when the nights are long their tempers fray. The women call for peace, their children bawl, The old become more bitter by the day. For young and old the days are bitter cold And each cold night more bitter for the old. To Excel in Self-Pity I wonder if self-pity is the ache Of all the worst, because it always throws A pall of grief on others as it grows? To be the victim, take the blame, forsake Our kind like scapegoats, we must try to make Our wasted lives heard loud above all those Whose lives are just pathetic, make our woes The object of our every hour awake. To silence competition first we need The loudest voice of all, the greatest grief, The most exquisite pain beyond belief, And only then will anyone concede: Their own affliction’s still the very worst With which a human soul was ever cursed. Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK.