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Small Proportions

Lily of a day, as in the poem by Ben Johnson

Going over the the publisher’s final edits of my book, I found I had no time to write this week. So I’m letting Ben Johnson do the reflecting for me today.

In a recent conversation with one of my readers (and blogging friends, see the comments for Revolution: a poem), I mentioned old Ben as a poet who has greatly influenced me. The poem below is the main reason why. Old classic style, I know, but with a timeless immediacy that spoke right to my heart when I first read it. (Especially given my shortened life span.) The fleetingness of beauty is an appropriate subject, I think, for this time of year. Enjoy!

It is not growing like a tree

In bulk doth make Man better be;

Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,

To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:

A lily of a day

Is fairer far in May,

Although it fall and die that night—

It was the plant and flower of light.

In small proportions we just beauties see;

And in short measures life may perfect be.

Photo by Rafael Zamora on Unsplash

Ben Johnson’s poem found in

A Treasury of Great Poems, compiled by Louis Untermeyer, 1994 edition,

also found here:

Christina Chase View All

Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.

5 thoughts on “Small Proportions Leave a comment

  1. I’ve been traveling. Drifting too. And trying to curtail screen talk so I can attend better to persons here in my home, my daily rounds, faces I can smile with.. But I looked here just now, and . . . Wow. . . I do understand. This is a poem to treasure. Glad to have re-discovered it (So many from long ago have disappeared from my head. It’s good to have this one back!)


    • Yes, best to be with the plants and flowers of light who are near and dear to you, face-to-face. Old Ben would agree. (And you’re welcome for returning a treasure to you!) Peace and blessings, Al!


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