15 March 2009

Daffodils

Daffodils beneath York city walls.

Here in Great Britain, as the snowdrops tire, daffodils emerge magically from our winter soil at around this time of year. I remember as a student in Scotland, I would often have to travel upon the spectacular east coast railway line. In springtime, I would notice how in Stirling and Linlithgow and Edinburgh, daffodil fingers were only just pushing through the surface but by Durham, flower buds were revealed and by York, the slopes of the city walls were bursting with the gorgeous fresh golds and primrose yellows of ten thousand gaudy daffodils, swaying together like a vast army that had come to suppress the winter blues.

Yesterday, Shirley and I drove over to Swanland, near Hull to meet up with our friends and fellow crazy Hull City fans. It is a lovely, almost exclusive village and having once wandered lonely as a cloud through Beverly Hills, California, I swear that many of the grand houses in Swanland would put Beverly Hills to shame. "Who lives in them?" asked Shirley. I don't know - lawyers, surgeons, business leaders, and perhaps above all people with pots of inherited wealth -I surmised. There were so many fresh new daffodils gathering at the gateposts and on the verges , bursting with pride, trumpeting an end to winter and the renewed fertility of our earth.

For many people who know little of poetry, Wordsworth's famous poem about daffodils suggests a stereotypical cartoon-like figure of a poet frolicking through the countryside like a nancy boy, quill in hand, describing spring flowers. What a gay day! It isn't that at all. He's writing about emotion recollected in tranquility and about mankind's relationship with Nature. He thinks of Nature as a rejuvenating force that we can so easily miss or take for granted. The Lakeland daffodils at the beginning of the nineteenth century are merely a symbol of the uplifting forces of Nature in which human beings are only a jigsaw element.

"Affodils" or as the Dutch called them - "De affodils", have been around a long time, beginning their botanical journey in the mists of time on the edges of the Mediterranean in Turkey and Italy and Spain. They have been nurtured and cultivated to such a degree that there are now countless varieties and though their trumpeting blossoms don't last for very long, they are surely one of our most favourite flowers. A reminder from 1805:-

Daffodils
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

What are my words worth?

17 comments:

  1. actually Wordsworth wrote that poem in October, but that's the power of laudenham, I mean imagination, for you

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  2. Daffodils are my favourite flowers. By the way, I hope you are going to chastise Arthur for his puncutation and spelling mistakes, just like you do with me. ;)

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  3. JENNYTA What spelling mistake? Though - yes - of course I noticed that "actually" didn't begin with the capital it required. However, I forgive Arthur because of his "condition".

    There are some women who relish chastisement and on that subject, please tell me what "puncutation" is? You are a very, very naughty blogger and Mr Pudding is already rolling up his sleeves.

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  4. Isn't that you, just out of shot, frolicking along the city walls of York, YP?

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  5. I thought I saw him skipping over the rampart...

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  6. BANGKOK BOOTHS - I never frolic.
    DELWYN - I never skip.
    But I do report mockery by other bloggers to Blogger Central Control so be warned...

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  7. Although I haven't been back to Ohio since 1977, we were in Beverly Hills last year and saw some of the houses you described. They were certainly something.

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  8. I have an annual obsession - every spring I demand to know just how many daffodils there are in England - and every year no one can tell me although 'Lots' could be the correct answer.

    They were out in mid February in Cornwall btw.

    On a more sombre note when my grandad was dying he really wanted to hang on to see the new daffodils one last time - and he did.

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  9. Terrific photo and terrific post, YP! Just the other day I was trying to explain to a friend the difference between daffodils and jonquils after we had seen jonquils blooming along the roadside.

    Aren't they both a type of narcissus, though?

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  10. Just for the record, I think Arthur is the one who should be punished for his puncutation...

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  11. Did you know that William Wordsworth wrote his daffodil poem after reading the journal entry of his sister, Dorothy Wordsworth? Here's the entry: http://www.rc.umd.edu/rchs/reader/dwdaff.html

    This is one of the poems I memorized because I loved it so much I wanted to carry it in my head.

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  12. JJ Thank heavens your grandad got to see the daffs one last time... and as for how many? As many as there are stars in the sky and fishes in the ocean.
    BIRT Stop teasing me and reveal yourself! Are you Chris? I have my doubts now as Chris very much still lives in Ohio.
    RHYMES I just thought that jonquil was simply another name
    for a daffodil and I believe you are right it does belon to the narcissus family...
    ALKEDA-FARIDA SAINTLY SPINNER. I didn't know that. Thanks. I have just read the piece. Fascinating. I also memorised the poem and when a university professor challenged his tutorial group I was the only one who could recite a poem in full and it was "Daffodils".

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  13. Your trying to kid me that Spring has sprung up there.,are you not ???

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  14. You're right YP I'm not Chris, but I worked at Red Raider in 1977 and remember your fine voice in a Tavern in Chagrin Falls. I thought I'd give you the odd clue, and answer any of your questions. Cheers. PS I enjoy your blog

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  15. amazing sight is them thar daffs outside York's city walls.a word or two, farndale!

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  16. They are my favourite flower too. I prefer the simple ones to the complicated, over-bred varieties. This comment is heading to be as dull as some people think Wordsworth is (though I'm not one of them)

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  17. DAVID Yes Spring is springing which means the harsh NZ winter will be back soon!
    BIRT The "Cheers" suggests to me that you are Ian from The Midlands. I remember bumping in to you on the Isle of Ios some time around 1981... Amazing you tracked me down again! Am I right?
    MUDDY MR MOOS - Ah Farndale - I have heard it is a sight to behold at this time of year though I have never been there...
    DAPHNE DAUGHTER OF COMMUNIST - Wordsworth dull? That's like saying that The Spice Girls could sing or that Sir Fred Goodwin's selflessness is akin to Gandhi's!

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