Grow, Grow

Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it
and whispers, “Grow, grow.”
Midrash Rabba, Bereshit 10:6

Translations of this charming thought vary. I bet you didn’t see that coming. Of the two alternative translations I found, though, neither actually mentions angels. Instead, they refer to each blade of grass (or herb) having its own mazal — constellation, apparently — which strikes (or hits) it and tells it to grow.

But it hardly matters now. Like “Play it again, Sam” and “Lead on Macduff,” the misquotes have become the thing. Not that society has always been so tolerant. To wit, here’s what happened to someone who misquoted the line from the Scottish play:

In 1898, a drunk was arrested in London misquoting the phrase.
He was fined 7s., in default ten days imprisonment.
History House

That zero-tolerance approach to misquotation seems extreme, but we have to draw the line somewhere. (Of course, it’s possible the drunk was arrested and fined for almost smacking a bunch of people with a stick, not for the misquote. Reports vary.)

Anyway, back to the Midrash. I don’t know when the concept morphed from “constellations smiting blades of grass and telling them to buck up” into “grass-whisperer angels bending solicitously over blades of grass and sweetly encouraging them,” but the why seems obvious. I mean, which sells better on a greeting card?

I was thinking of this saying this week when one of my stalled-due-to-the-unseasonable-cold tulips finally grew, grew and produced a bloom.

First tulipSo, my thanks go out to whatever constellation or angel had a hand in this. Given that we’re still at below-normal temps for the foreseeable, maybe I’ll try my own hand at a little tulip and iris whispering. It couldn’t hurt, right?

Grow, grow.

And maybe I’ll try my hand at listening for that whisper over me. And be ready to duck, if necessary.


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8 Responses to Grow, Grow

  1. Tom Watson says:

    You just reminded me of one of my favourite stories. It’s by Garrison Keillor, from Lake Wobegon Days. The story is “How the Crab Apple Tree Grew,” and is from the life of Harold and Marlys Diener.

    Harold was always trying to impress Marlys…and also the kids. He’d say, “Look kids…” and he do something. Marlys would only say, “Harold, you’re ridiculous!”

    One day they went into the woods to pick morels and he spotted this crab apple tree, so he took his knife and cut off a shoot, and said to the kids, “I’m going to plant that in our back yard and it will be a magnificent tree,” and Marlys said, “Harold, don’t be ridiculous!”

    But he took that shoot and grafted it, He watered it and tended it and, more than that, he came out late at night and bent down and said, “GROW, GROW, GROW.” The graft held, it grew, and one year it was interesting and the next it was impressive and then wonderful and finally it was magnificent…the greatest tree the Dieners ever had in their back yard.

    The point is that every last one of us needs someone who will say to us, “Grow, grow, grow” and water us, and tend us, and care for us…and love us, no matter what our age – a young tender shoot, or an old starting-to-wizen-up plant.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – It’s a lovely store, and I can just hear Garrison Keillor delivering it. We *do* all need a growth-whisperer.

    • barbara says:

      Abraham Lincoln said, “I am a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    I’m sure there’s material there for a book that someone could/should write: Famous Quotation that They Didn’t Say.
    Two other famous quotes that are {usually] misquoted come from Lord Acton and from Hippocrates
    JIm T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – I expect there is. A quick search turns up a site with 31 mis-rendered quotes, and there are other sites with mis-attributed ones.

  3. Your tulip is in the Georgia O’Keefe class of flower images, Isabel. Sumptuous. Sometimes, just one is all you need to see of a thing to appreciate its magnificence. Then, you will savour all the others more sweetly when they arrive.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Fair enough. I see hints that more tulips are coming but our days are colding again this week, so I might have to wait a while to savour any more.

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