Study Guide

The Tuft of Flowers Man and the Natural World

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Man and the Natural World

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun. (1-2)

This poem puts us in nature right from the jump, as we follow the speaker out to an empty field. Say—this looks like the perfect place to dwell on the nature of human connection.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been,—alone, (5-8)

The elements of nature here—trees, breeze, grass—all point to the speaker being alone in the world. Hopefully a butterfly or tuft of flowers will come along soon and cheer him up.

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared. (21-24)

Well, would you look at that? The arrival of the butterfly and—more importantly—the appearance of these passed-over flowers renews the speaker's faith in human connection. Maybe the natural world's not so isolating after all.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around, (31-33)

It's telling that the speaker's discovery of his connectedness has opened up his appreciation for the natural world. He describes himself as paired up with the butterfly and in tune with the birds. Rather than seeing the natural world as empty, he now sees it as filled with life—good times.

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