Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE NETTLE-KING, by MARY HOWITT

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE NETTLE-KING, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: There was a nettle both great and strong
Last Line: But he said not a word, and went his way.
Alternate Author Name(s): Botham, Mary
Subject(s): Flowers; Plants; Poisons & Poisoning; Planting; Planters

There was a Nettle both great and strong;
And the threads of his poison flowers were long;
He rose up in strength and height also,
And he said, "I'll be king of the plants below!"
It was a wood both drear and dank,
There grew the Nettle so broad and rank;
And an Owl sate up in an old ash tree
That was wasting away so silently;
And a Raven was perched above his head,
And they both of them heard what the Nettle-king said;
And there was a toad that sate below,
Chewing his venom sedate and slow,
And he heard the words of the Nettle also.

The Nettle he throve, and the Nettle he grew,
And the strength of the earth around him he drew:
There was a pale Stellaria meek,
But as he grew strong, so she grew weak;
There was a Campion, crimson-eyed,
But as he grew up, the campion died;
And the blue Veronica, shut from light,
Faded away in a sickly white;
For upon his leaves a dew there hung,
That fell like a blight from a serpent's tongue,
And there was not a flower about the spot,
Herb-Robert, Harebell, nor Forget-me-not.
Yet up grew the Nettle like water-sedge,
Higher and higher above the hedge;
The stuff of his leaves was strong and stout,
And the points of his stinging-flowers stood out;
And the Child that went in the wood to play,
From the great King-nettle would shrink away!

"Now," says the Nettle, "there's none like me;
"I am as great as a plant can be!
"I have crushed each weak and tender root,
"With the mighty power of my kingly foot;
"I have spread out my arms so strong and wide,
"And opened my way on every side;
"I have drawn from the earth its virtues fine,
"To strengthen for me each poison-spine;
"Both morn and night my leaves I've spread,
"And upon the falling dews have fed,
"Till I am as great as a forest-tree;
"The great wide world is the place for me!"
Said the Nettle-king in his bravery.

Just then came up a Woodman stout,
In the thick of the wood he was peering about.
The Nettle looked up, the Nettle looked down,
And graciously smiled on the simple clown:
"Thou knowest me well, Sir Clown," said he,
"And 'tis meet that thou reverence one like me!"
Nothing at all the man replied,
But he lifted a scythe that was at his side,
And he cut the Nettle up by the root,
And trampled it under his heavy foot;
And he saw where the Toad in its shadow lay,
But he said not a word, and went his way.

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