Sunday, 5 April 2020

Celandine, Blackthorn, Blackcap

This morning I took the train – an otherwise empty train – to one of my nearby country haunts. It was there that I took the above photo of a drift of Lesser Celandine, a springtime flower now at its glorious best (in this part of the world anyway). This favourite of Wordsworth's inspired the Bard of Grasmere to write not one, not two, but three poems about it, none of which, alas, could be classed among his better efforts. This stanza, from his 1802 celandine poem, is representative:

Ere a leaf in on a bush,
In the time before the thrush
Has a thought about her nest
Thou wilt come with half a call,
Spreading out thy glossy breast
Like a careless Prodigal;
Telling tales about the sun,
When we've little warmth, or none.


That final couplet always springs unbidden into my mind when I see the first celandines. I rather wish it wouldn't.
  This morning's weather, though, was not a case of 'little warmth, or none'. It was warm enough for me to walk jacketless and in a short-sleeved shirt. There were some people about, but all were assiduously keeping their social distance, and most of the time I had the common, like the train, to myself. Visually the chief glory of the morning was not the celandines but the great dazzling blazes of snow-white blackthorn blossom. Even without a 'blackthorn winter', they seem to be having an amazing year.

I was hoping to find the air filled with birdsong – warbling in particular – but there was surprisingly little activity on that front, apart from Chiffchaffs announcing their name repeatedly. I guess it's still a little early. However, on my way back, much nearer home, I caught my first Blackcap performance – and very wonderful it was, fully living up to Gilbert White's description of the Blackcap's song as 'full, sweet, deep, loud and wild'.
Here's a Blackcap (not my one) in full flow...




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