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Friday, April 8, 2016

Daffodils, without irony

Daffodils picked near my house in a Spode vase sent from England by Jane
Every spring, in the woods near my house, sunlight comes in because the trees have no leaves yet. Daffodils blooms in those sunny patches. It's hilly in the woods, and at the bottom of the hills a stream meanders through. Every year, I pick daffodils there. This year, the daffodils, like Easter, appeared early, perhaps, in the case of the daffodils, because we had a milder winter than usual. 

I had to slow down to work my way carefully through thorns that seemed, to my fancy, to have been deliberately put on guard at the periphery of the woods to get we human creatures to adopt a far more thoughtful and deliberate pace as we enter the forest. 

On the note of slowing down, this year, I have been especially enjoying reading some of Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads and particularly an old favorite, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."  I find this poem a balm to my soul in what has been a relentlessly busy season. I simply delight in his image of the joyful daffodils:

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
And as I get older, I more and more resonate with:
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 
There's nothing like a store of happy memories:
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
I imagine Wordsworth, or perhaps Dorothy, on a sofa on a cold day, thinking about those daffodils with no photograph or painting,  just the memory, and then, feeling happy recalling them.

Daffodils in the lake District.

 Dorothy Wordsworth wrote about these same daffodils in her journal:

 I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway.
To me, this passage is as lovely as the poem. It's so direct, so immediate. I remember reading Dorothy's journals many years ago on a long flight somewhere, and being much taken with them.


  1. Shared on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
    It is a very delicate meditation upon the simple things of life and their importance in our lives - something of which I am more and more aware and for which I am so greatful. Thank you.

  2. One of my favorite lines from Shakespeare's plays is "daffodils that catch the winds of March with beauty before the swallow dares ... " Wordsworth and Dorothy have this power to sustain us with their words in deep responsiveness to the natural world around them in the context of their memories of all they have felt and suffered from harder things around them. I liked her journals too. Have you read Kathleen Jones's The Passionate Sisterhood -- I recommend it; it's about the women in Wordsworth and Coleridge's households. Many gifted.

  3. Thank you for the comments, and Camille, for the sharing. Ellen, thanks for the Shakespeare quote about daffodils.

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  5. It's still too cold here in Québec on the banks of the St. Lawrence for daffodils to bloom, but today while out walking, I noticed some shoots making an appearance, so there is hope! T.S. Eliot famously claimed that April is the cruellest month, but I think November must be. At least the days are getting longer and there is the promise of new life. Thanks for the lovely blog post!

  6. Thanks Elaine. I hope you are adjusting well to being back in Quebec.