Today in British Literature, I reintroduced the “Life is Full of Adventure and Struggle” unit as we began our journey with Frodo Baggins in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. As part of the teaser, I shared Vernon Scannell’s “Nettles” with my students, emphasizing that this poem actually comes from a contemporary poet, not a dead author from ages past. (When I started teaching this poem, Scannell was still alive). What I so appreciate about this poem as a father and human is the father’s devotion to his son and also the realization that we can’t protect our children from everything, nor can we fully avoid struggle in our lives. Life includes struggle, but from it we can learn and grow ourselves, more quickly that the nettles in Scannell’s poem. Remember: stinging nettles, like our struggles, used correctly can be to our benefit! (For more information, see this article on “6 Evidence-Benefits of Stinging Nettle.”)
Nettles by Vernon Scannell
My son aged three fell in the nettle bed. ‘Bed’ seemed a curious name for those green spears, That regiment of spite behind the shed: It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears The boy came seeking comfort and I saw White blisters beaded on his tender skin. We soothed him till his pain was not so raw. At last he offered us a watery grin, And then I took my billhook, honed the blade And went outside and slashed in fury with it Till not a nettle in that fierce parade Stood upright any more. And then I lit A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead, But in two weeks the busy sun and rain Had called up tall recruits behind the shed: My son would often feel sharp wounds again.