Friday, August 27, 2010


I'm not a very green-fingered person so I was well pleased that at least one seed from the packet flowered! Poets seem to be inspired by Sunflowers, often favouring the wilting, withered kind. The American poet Allen Ginsburg (1926-97) in his 'Sunflower Sutra' 1955 was inspired by the Sunflower to write-

Look up at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust....
A perfect beauty of a sunflower! A perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence!

The British Liverpudlian poet Brian Patten (b.1946) in a first-line entitled poem from the collection 'Vanishing Trick' 1976 wrote of sunflowers

You missed the sunflowers at their height
Came back when they were bent and worn
And the gnats, half-froze, fell one by one
Into the last of the sprawling marigolds.

Floating somewhere between meticulous 'occular observation' and 'cosmic awe', Sir Thomas Browne in his Discourse 'The Garden of Cyrus' notes-

A like ordination there is in the favaginous Sockets, and Lozenge seeds of the noble flower of the Sunne. Wherein in Lozenge figured boxes nature shuts up the seeds, and balsame which is about them. - Chapter 3

It cannot be a coincidence that the Sunflower is featured in the Discourse, 'The Garden of Cyrus',  as symbolically it's the Solar half of the 1658 literary diptych. The pattern enclosed within the seed-structure of the Sunflower-head is a fine example of 'how nature geometrizeth' and exemplary of the 'Quincunciall Lozenge' pattern as illustrated in the Discourse's frontispiece.

1658 Frontispiece to The Garden of Cyrus

The pattern of seeds in the Sunflower is also a good example of the Fibonacci sequence of numbers in Nature. The Fibonacci number sequence, a mathematical progression can be detected in many works of nature. The spiral structure of the Pineapple and Pine-cone also have the Fibonacci numbers in their structure. They too are noted in 'Cyrus'. Browne's own highly symbolic number, the number five is included as part of the Fibonacci sequence - 0 - 1- 1- 2- 3- 5- 8- 13- 21 - 34 - 55

Fibonacci pattern in Sunflower head

There's a big difference between the first photo at the top and the bottom photo's posted. Taken within a few minutes of each other , one against a background of sky, the other in a dark corner, reveals the strong effect that bright light and shade has upon colours.

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