Hanmer's Agate

Hanmer’s Agate: Experiments of a Tulip Fancier,

Sir Thomas Hanmer  (1612-1678)



Returned from exile, he stands in a muddy field,

once his garden of formal parterres; 

the trees are war-torn, storm-slashed;  fireweed

rages through the grounds and the unhinged door


into the great hall;  mice rampage,

bird shit weeps on the lace and lovelock

of his portrait as a young man;  dung in the chapel

requisitioned for Parliamentarian horses.


Far from the Commonwealth’s courts, Sir Thomas

tends his garden, remembering the promise packed

in papery brown bulbs brought back from France

in the ship’s hold, his first wife left behind in her grave.


He plants the knot-garden they’d planned together: auriculas,

ranunculas, anemone and above all, tulips:

Belle Isabelle, Belle Susanne and Agates.

They rot in the wet Flintshire soil.


Should he sprinkle wine on the earth with incantations

to the moon?  No. But after much experiment,

he shares his success with a fellow tulip-fancier,

Cromwell’s second-in-command.


To  Major-General John Lambert,

                        From Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bart.


Plant them about the full moon in September,

in soil taken from mould from the fields or woodstacks

and mix with a 4th part or more of sand.


A gift of beauty, beyond faction: the mother-root

of the most exquisite and gallant, a tulip agotted

with scarlet, and gris de lin on pure white,

well parted, its base and stamens blue.

Published in Magma No 70, the Europe themed edition (Spring 2018)