Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Daffodils

Today is reckoned to be the average earliest flowering date for daffodils - some 13 days earlier than it was 20 years ago. This probably has less to do with 'global warming' than with a trend towards earlier-flowering bulbs. The daffodils (or some of them) have been coming into flower for the past week or so down my way, despite the bitter cold, and a very welcome sight they are, especially as today's varieties tend towards paler, more delicate flowers - more like the wild daffodil, and  less like the garish, stridently assertive standard garden daffs I remember from my boyhood, lined up like so many sentries in every suburban flowerbed.
  The wild daffodil is of course immortalised in that ur-poem of English romantic lyricism, Wordsworth's Daffodils - a poem whose first line alone is shorthand for Poetry Itself, at least in this country. But there is also Robert Herrick's beautiful lyric,To Daffodils - so spare yet so expressive, so simple yet brilliantly wrought. The second stanza, in particular, is quite wonderful...

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
         You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
         Has not attain'd his noon.
                        Stay, stay,
                Until the hasting day
                        Has run
                But to the even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
         We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
         As you, or anything.
                        We die
                As your hours do, and dry
                        Away,
                Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again.


13 comments:

  1. I saw a small bed of them in flower on Whatstandwell Station 15th Feb. Very early for Derbyshire.

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  2. Herrick is an under-estimated treasure. Here’s a sonnet of his, also on the theme of transience:

    The parting verse, the feast there ended

    Loth to depart, but at yet, at last, each one
    Back must now go to’s habitation:
    Not knowing thus much, when we once do sever,
    Whether or no, that we shall meet here ever.
    As for myself, since time a thousand cares
    And griefs hath fil’de upon my silver hairs;
    ‘Tis to be doubted whether I next yeer,
    Or no, shall give ye a re-meeting here.
    If die I must, then my last vow shall be,
    You’l with a tear or two, remember me,
    Your sometime Poet; but if fates do give
    Me longer date, and more fresh springs to live:
    Oft as your field, shall her old age renew,
    Herrick shall make meddow-verse for you

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  3. fantastic poem, one of my all time favourites, I've blogged about it before, I love the way that a poem about such a joyous carefree thing as a daffodil can really stick the knife in about our impending doom with such precision

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  4. A fine sonnet indeed, Ingoldsby - and I agree that Herrick is undervalued, I think for the usual reasons: making it look too easy, and taking pleasure in simple things. And for a strong undertow of good cheer beneath all the memento mori's. Not 'serious' enough!

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  5. A cheerful picture & an enchanting poem.
    Here in NYC the only signs of spring are drifts of snowdrops blooming in Strawberry Fields. I hope that Yoko Ono has been over from The Dakota to see them.
    Susan from NYC

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  6. poetry! whet has it ever told us that we don't already know...just in a very.convoluted way? no daffs before wordsmith? our mutual slaughter in fields not so far away seems more pressing than the precice shade of a passing daffodil....ok, i have one crocus in a little pot on my table, and am praying it flowers...

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  7. "tone"? Your cover is blown! But you're not alone...how these "poets" maunder on and on...and on... what happened to brevity and precision? Out the window, that's what! Good luck to you and your crocus, may it bring you joy!

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  8. You want brevity, precision? Try Kay Ryan - you can search her out on this very blog...

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  9. v v imprressed. such precision must be product of long thought and reflection, and deserves the same....nigeness, i'm cured! you may fly away home.....

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    ReplyDelete