Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams


Yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow!
It is not a color.
It is summer!
It is the wind on a willow,
the lap of waves, the shadow
under a bush, a bird, a bluebird,
three herons, a dead hawk
rotting on a pole--
Clear yellow!
It is a piece of blue paper
in the grass or a threecluster of
green walnuts swaying, children
playing croquet or one boy
fishing, a man
swinging his pink fists
as he walks--
It is ladysthumb, forget-me-nots
in the ditch, moss under
the flange of the carrail, the
wavy lines in split rock, a
great oaktree--
It is a disinclination to be
five red petals or a rose, it is
a cluster of birdsbreast flowers
on a red stem six feet high,
four open yellow petals
above sepals curled
backward into reverse spikes--
Tufts of purple grass spot the
green meadow and clouds the sky.


Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

Primroses (genus Primula) are an old-fashioned flower, which was very popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. Many times they are seen in garden centers in full bloom in foil wrapped pots. They are often taken into the house where they only live for a short time and then are discarded but they are perennials, which can be planted outdoors for years of repeated blooms. The are very bright, come in many colors and bloom very early in the spring. The name primula is derived from the Latin word for “first”, primus and the primrose is derived from the Italian words for “first rose”, prima rosa. Thank you to Martha Stewart’s research staff!

Primroses are easy to propagate and most prefer an acid soil plus shade. These are wonderful attributes for my area (US zone 7) because most of our shade loving shrubs also like an acid soil. For example, azaleas, mountain laurel and rhododendrons all thrive in acid soil. This makes mulching the garden with acid leaching pine needles a free and good looking alternative as it can be easily found by rustling discarded pine needles before the truck that picks up trash or recycle makes its rounds. It is important to mulch primroses because they can have dirt splashed onto the leaves too easily when watered otherwise. As I will discuss below they must be frequently watered. I think they look a bit like African violets with clustered flowers. Pine needles hold the floppy leaves up out of the dirt and hold the moisture in.

Primroses do have their more difficult side. They require steady moisture and a soil rich in organic matter. This is difficult to find in many shady situations due to competition from tree roots. Raised beds, irrigation and improving soil with compost or other organic matter can help. However, it is important not to add too much extra soil over the root zone of established trees or the roots will not be able to get enough oxygen. In many situations where planting is done close to the tree containers are the best solution.

I keep trying to find a way to use the phrase “walking down the primrose path” in this W/U but I can’t so I’ll just share the quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

“Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede”

Thanks to John Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

And the definition of "primrose path" from The American Heritage Dictionary:

1. A way of life of worldly ease or pleasure
2. A course of action that seems easy and appropriate but can actually end in calamity.

UK references for pending update: secure.html images/primroselogo.jpg through page 5 of google image on "primrose UK"

Prim"rose` (?), n. [OE. primerole, F. primerole, a derivative fr. LL. primula, from L. primus first. See Prime, a.] Bot. (a)

An early flowering plant of the genus Primula (P. vulgaris) closely allied to the cowslip. There are several varieties, as the white-, the red-, the yellow-flowered, etc. Formerly called also primerole, primerolles.


Any plant of the genus Primula.

Evening primrose, an erect biennial herb (Enothera biennis), with yellow vespertine flowers, common in the United States. The name is sometimes extended to other species of the same genus. -- Primrose peerless, the two-flowered Narcissus (N. biflorus). [Obs.]


© Webster 1913.

Prim"rose`, a.

Of or pertaining to the primrose; of the color of a primrose; -- hence, flowery; gay.

"The primrose path of dalliance."



© Webster 1913.

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