Mariposa: poetry in a single word. Better than butterfly?
A paradise for butterflies, Costa Rica has 1,200 individual species, ten percent of the world’s mariposa population. Throughout the country butterflies are a kaleidoscope of colour, petal wings nectaring in blossoms.
A butterfly’s life cycle is a natural source of poetic inspiration—egg to imago (adult) in forty-eight weeks, imago to death sometimes a mere three days. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly,” wrote an anonymous poet. Since April is Poetry Month, we have paired photos of the delicate beauty of butterflies with the lyrical imagery of poets. After all, as Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.”
At times their wings are folded
like the covers
of a book
that opens suddenly
and comes to life
Listen to the butterfly
Whose days but number three
Listen to the butterfly
Don’t listen to me.
The butterfly’s out on noon patrol,
Dragoning down to the rapt flower heads.
For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,
into the world.
So it happens that I am and look.
Above me a white butterfly is fluttering through the air
On wings that are its alone
And a shadow skims through my hands
That is none other, no one else’s, but its own
When I see such things I’m no longer sure
that what’s important
is more important than what’s not.
Winged blossom, Nature’s freeman
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
April’s air stirs in
Floats and balances
If I were a lepidopterist
And you were a butterfly
The rarest of all Wood Nymphs
Could safely pass me by.
Beguiling Painted Ladies
Might lovely wings unfold
And I should still regard them
With eyes distinctly cold.
Les Admirals and Monarchs,
Such negligence regret,
Alone for you, my dearest,
Where spread my eager net.
George S. Hellman
Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your
grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
The people of this world are like the three butterflies in front of a candle’s flame.
The first one went closer and said: I know about love.
The second one touched the flame lightly with his wings and said:
I know how love’s fire can burn.
The third one threw himself into the heart of the flame and was consumed.
He alone knows what true love is.
Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have
sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Anderson
I’ve watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless!—not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!
The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
Flies from plant to plant with nary
A forethought as to where he
Alights, a butterfly.
Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.
The butterfly’s attractiveness derives not only from colors and
symmetry: deeper motives contribute to it. We would not think them so
beautiful if they did not fly, or if they flew straight and briskly like
bees, or if they stung, or above all if they did not enact the
perturbing mystery of metamorphosis: the latter assumes in our eyes the
value of a badly decoded message, a symbol, a sign.
Above life’s chaos
A Butterfly flaps its wings
Update: Langer, Emily. “Linda Pastan, poet of concentrated beauty, dies at 90.” Washington Post, February 1, 2023.
In Costa Rica, there are three places we visited to see butterflies. The Butterfly Observatory in El Castillo, near the Arenal volcano is an education and research center that hosts the largest butterfly exhibit in the country. The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens one-hour guided tour is led by a highly knowledgable guide (ours was Nea, from Wales). During this hour, you will explore four different gardens where you will learn all about butterflies and bugs in Costa Rica. Lastly, you’ll find butterflies in the great outdoors all throughout the country.
On Thursday, April 30, 2020, celebrate the 4th annual Poem in Your Pocket Day across Canada. The day encourages people to select a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. Find out more at http://poets.ca/pocketpoem/.