Yuca Filamentosa

By Margaret Fuller

“The Spirit builds his house, in the least flowers, —
A beautiful mansion. How the colours live,
Intricately delicate. Every night
An angel for this purpose from the heavens,
With his small urn of ivory-like hue, drops
A globular world of the purest element
In the flower’s midst, feeding its tender soul
With a lively inspiration. I wonder
That a man wants knowledge; is there not here
Spread in amazing wealth, a form too rare,
A soul so inward, that with an open heart
Tremulous and tender, we all must fear,
Not to see near enough, of these deep thoughts?” — MS.

  OFTEN, as I looked up to the moon, I had marvelled to see how calm she was in her loneliness. The correspondences between the various parts of this universe are so perfect, that the ear, once accustomed to detect them, is always on the watch for an echo. And it seemed that the earth must be peculiarly grateful to the orb whose light clothes every feature of her’s with beauty. Could it be that she answers with a thousand voices to each visit from the sun, who with unsparing scrutiny reveals all her blemishes, yet never returns one word to the flood of gentleness poured upon her by the sovereign of the night?
  I was sure there must be some living hieroglyphic to indicate that class of emotions which the moon calls up. And I perceived that the all-perceiving Greeks had same thought, for they tell us that Diana loved once was beloved again.
  In the world of gems, the pearl and opal answered to the moonbeam, but where was the Diana-flower? — Long I looked for it in vain. At last its discovery was accidental, and in the quarter where I did not expect it.
  For several years I had kept in my garden two plants of the Yuca Filamentosa, and bestowed upon them every care without being repaid by a single blossom. Last June, observed with pleasure that one was preparing to flower. From that time I watched it eagerly, though provoked at the slowness with which it unfolded its buds.
  A few days after, happening to look at the other, which had not by any means so favorable an exposure, I perceived flower-buds on that also. I was taking my walk as usual at sunset, and, as I returned, the slender crescent of the young moon greeted me, rising above a throne of clouds, clouds of pearl and opal.
  Soon, in comparing the growth of my two plants, I was struck by a singular circumstance. The one, which had budded first, seemed to be waiting for the other, which, though, as I said before, least favorably placed of the two, disclosed its delicate cups with surprising energy.
  At last came the night of the full moon, and they burst into flower together. That was indeed a night of long-sought melody.
  The day before, looking at them just ready to bloom, I had not expected any farther pleasure from the fulfilment of their promise, except the gratification of my curiosity. The little greenish bells lay languidly against the stem; the palmetto-shaped leaves which had, as it were, burst asunder to give way to the flower-stalk, leaving their edges rough with the filaments from which the plant derives its name, looked ragged and dull in the broad day-light.
  But now each little bell had erected its crest to meet the full stream of moonlight, and the dull green displayed a reverse of silvery white. The filaments seemed a robe, also of silver, but soft and light as gossamer. Each feature of the plant was now lustrous and expressive in proportion to its former dimness, and the air of tender triumph, with which it raised its head towards the moon, as if by worship to thank her for its all, spoke of a love, bestowed a loveliness beyond all which I had heretofore known of beauty.
  As I looked on this flower my heart swelled with emotions never known but once before. Once, when I saw in woman what is most womanly, the love of a seraph shining through death. I expected to see my flower pass and melt as she did in the celestial tenderness of its smile.
  I longed to have some other being share a happiness which seemed to me so peculiar and so rare, and called Alcmeon from the house. The heart and mind of Alcmeon are not without vitality, but have never been made interpreters between nature and the soul. He is one who could travel amid the magnificent displays of the tropical climates, nor even look at a flower, nor do I believe he ever drew a thought from the palm tree more than the poplar.
  But the piercing sweetness of this flower’s look in its nuptial hour conquered even his obtuseness. He stood before it a long time, sad, soft, and silent. I believe he realized the wants of his nature more than ever he had done before, in the course of what is called a life.
  Next day I went out to look at the plants, and all the sweet glory had vanished. Dull, awkward, sallow stood there in its loneliness the divinity of the night before. — Oh Absence! — Life was in the plant; birds sang and insects hovered around; the blue sky bent down lovingly, the sun poured down nobly over it,—but the friend, to whom the key of its life had been given in the order of nature, had begun to decline from the ascendant, had retired into silence, and the faithful heart had no language for any other.
  At night the flowers were again as beautiful as before. — Fate! let me never murmur more. There is an hour of joy for every form of being, an hour of rapture for those that wait most patiently. —Queen of night! — Humble Flower! — how patient were ye, the one in the loneliness of bounty, — the other in the loneliness of poverty. The flower brooded on her own heart; the moon never wearied of filling her urn, for those she could not love as children. Had the eagle waited for her, she would have smiled on him as serenely as on the nightingale. Admirable are the compensations of nature. As that flower, in its own season imparted a dearer joy than all my lilies and roses, so does the Aloes in its concentrated bliss know all that has been diffused over the hundred summers through which it kept silent. — Remember the Yuca; wait and trust; and either Sun or Moon, according to thy fidelity, will bring thee to love and to know.

Source: The Dial (January 1842) pp. 286-288