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Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


crab apple


  • The Charm of Nine Herbs 7 Crab apple

    I live in a village which keeps the last remnants of ancient monastic orchards, and we still have a lot of fruit trees. When I first came here, ‘plundering’  was a regular amusement for boys from across the river, and you would find dropped apples on the bridge wherever some irate gardener had chased them. In the last year or two, a local group has planted a community orchard, and it is nice to think we are continuing an old tradition.

    This is the plant * called crab apple

    A seal sent this * over the sea-waves

    for the healing * of alien infections.

    These nine prevail * against the nine plagues.

    A worm came creeping * a man slaughtered it.

    Then Woden took * nine herbs of wonder.

    He cut the adder * into nine pieces

    apple and illness * fought it out

    so that illness would never * abide in his house.

    Nine herbs for the nine plagues, and at last a bit of genuine magic and paganism. Two lines later, however, we are back into the Christian references. It all reminds me of the man in the saga who was a Christian but invoked Thor during thunderstorms and in times of stress.

    Too sour for munching from the tree, crab-apples have been used for cider and vinegar, and in jelly. The vinegar is often used as an anti-inflammatory, for the treatment of arthritis and gout, and a gargle with cider vinegar will often help a sore throat. Apples are also comforting to upset stomachs, strengthening the liver and digestion. They were often mixed with spices to add to the effect, and for a while their scent was believed to dispel infections.

     



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