Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Flowers or Fruit?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.


Flowers or Fruit?

By Emily Ellsworth Fowler Ford (1826–1893)

IN Ulm’s Domkirche high there stands

An altar carved by master hands;

The loveliest forms, of leaf and flower,

Are wrought in wood, with cunning power.

Twined with the linden tassel-blows

In one spring wreath, wave bud and rose;

The freshness, and fair promise sweet

Of all June mornings in it meet.

But quainter emblems, curves as fair,

The left side of the altar share;

A wreath festooned of seed capsules,

Where loving skill held graver’s tools.

The pea-pod and the shepherd’s purse,

The crowned row of the henbane’s hearse;

The rose-hip and the moonwort’s shield,

The poppy’s star-cup from the field.

Which is the fairer garland, say,—

The beauteous blossoms of a day,

Or the seed-vessels, which but mask

Long floral generations? Ask

The craftsman, to what thought his choice

Of either wreath, his tool gave voice?

Which looks the brighter or the duller,

When wrought in monotone of color?

Which is the sweeter, flower or fruit?

Which is most precious? You are mute,—

The dewy morning, before strife;

The glory of completed life!