Clowns All-Heal

My favourite poem is Andrew Marvell’s Damon the Mower. Damon, a humble field-hand, is slighted and rejected by the beautiful Juliana, who is more interested in the handsome shepherds. While considering his rejection, he loses concentration, cutting his own ankle. In the final verse, he reflects thus:

‘Alas!’ said he, ‘these hurts are slight

To those that die by love’s despite.

With shepherd’s-purse, and clown’s-all-heal,

The blood I staunch, and wound I seal.

Only for him no cure is found,

Whom Juliana’s eyes do wound.

’Tis death alone that this must do:

For Death thou art a Mower too.’

Herbs may heal his physical cuts and bruises, but the one inflicted by unreciprocated love can be healed only by death. All a little melodramatic; if Damon is like all other red-blooded young men, he’ll soon develop a crush on some other comely young woman. Yet there are wounds and injuries from which we do not easily recover. These are usually, but not always, emotional and mental. A betrayal, a rejection, a heart-felt grief; from such things, recovery might take years or a life-span.

I observed clown’s-all-heal growing by the banks of the Ribble in Preston back in August. It’s a pretty flower and certainly possesses healing properties, especially for fresh wounds. Its other names are clown's woundwort and marsh hedgenettle, bespeaking its properties and preferred habitat. ‘Clown’ comes from the Elizabathan words clowne or cloyne meaning “man of rustic or rough manners, a boor, a peasant," which accurately describes poor Damon. A useful plant to know if you were a hard-working agricultural operative, but useless to those grieving inwardly.

The prophet Malachi prophesies the coming Christ in his fourth chapter, bringing judgement to those who reject Him, but healing to those who yield to Him:

But to you who fear My name

The Sun of Righteousness shall arise

With healing in His wings;

And you shall go out

And grow fat like stall-fed calves.

Charles Wesley incorporated the idea into Hark the Herald, that most richly doctrinal of all our carols. Christ is the sun who illuminates our darkness, the healer of our pain and disfigurements, the liberator of the imprisoned. Most importantly of all, He heals our broken relationship with a holy God, restoring love, fellowship and harmony between creature and Creator. Truly, Christ is our Sinners-all-heal.