A Charm of the Haggard Herbs
When I was translating the Old English Charm of Nine Herbs, someone talked about writing a modern one, and I took it as a dare. This year I have been out and about in the haggard – a strip of land between the road and the river, and now you can see them all.
A Charm of Nine Haggard Herbs
We are nine, a triple trinity
of leaf and flower and fruit,
a gift to blood and bone and breath.
Elder is first, the gift of summer,
white flowers to clear the skin
and banish cold from heart and lungs.
Hawthorn is home to birds and fairies.
Its flowers smell of death, but its berry
is good to strengthen heart and veins.
Though yarrow’s flower is small and dull,
its feathery leaf is used for staunching wounds,
its bitterness heals and mends the skin.
Clover, beloved of bees and sweet
as a loved girl’s footprints, is remedy
for coughs, and quickens growing plants.
Comfrey, with its deep roots, its strong
leaf growth, mends bones, and brings up
deep-lying minerals in the soil.
Dandelion, the piss-a-bed kidney herb,
has power to cleanse, to bring down
the over-mighty, encourage what is sluggish.
Wild rose, bright baubles on its thorny stem
for winter sweetness, calm, and strength
against fevers and grief of heart.
Plantain is used to clear poison. Rub the leaf
to soothe the bites and stings of insects.
It is so low underfoot, yet mighty.
Bramble, a tangle of thorn, and things
that buzz and sting, its dark and glowing
berries are the joy of autumn.
We are nine, we are closer than you think
in the wild and unregarded places in between.
We are haggard, and we survive.