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Dances With the Daffodils
My Cambridge, Massachusetts neighborhood is accustomed to stern, brightest regalia, gowns, flags, pennants, by Harvard University; They attract all attention and remind us that all our pageantry is of the ancient kind and is our own. However, we take special note of the daffodils parade, decked out in vibrant yellow, once reserved for the Chinese emperor. They are always sharp, flashy, dramatic,
Their presence is announced by its central trumpet from which one would at least expect a Handel or a Purcell, and a sharp, regal, formal, unsurprising hearing. Daffodils seem made for this.
Over the past several days I have been impatient to see the house built by the cold, the progress of the arrangements, the vigorous growth of the stalks, the sprouting stalks, where, soon, the yellow trumpet that catches the attention of every eye will emerge.
Excitement is in the air.
I feel it, and enjoy watching these lordly daffodils do their thing… because they only come once a year and stay for a while. It’s okay for them to call me and remind me that their time is coming and I need to be ready; Ready to see, enjoy, savor, their time is bright, memorable, but always too short.
The most beautiful boy name in the world.
Daffodil is the common English name for this stylish flower. But that is not his real name. Like noblemen treading carefully in our democratic days, daffodils know when to use their common name, but never forget their true pedigree. They are actually Narcissus, the botanical name for a genus of mostly hardy, mostly spring-flowering, bulbs in the Amaryllis family native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. The publication “Daffodils for North American Gardens” lists 50 to 100 wild species.
The story of Narcissus comes from Greek mythology. There a handsome young man of incomparable beauty became so maddened by his absorbing appearance that, while observing himself in a pool of water, he fell into the water and drowned. In some variations of the legend, the young man died of hunger and thirst because he could do nothing but surprise himself.
We all know such people. . . But the gods did not commemorate his charming appearance and folly as they did by marking the place where he was placed with the wonderful plant of Narcissus.
The daffodils, wary, sensitive to Narcissus’ folly, associate this story (and their true identity) only with unwary admirers; To everyone else they are just “daffodils”. I am such a tested admirer, sensitive; Thus he has shared with me, discreetly but proudly. It is rare, they say, to commemorate the gods of Olympus, and rightly so.
Each daffodil testifies that their appearance is good, a “stunner”. It has a central trumpet-, bowl-, or disc-shaped corona surrounded by a ring of six-flowered leaves called the perianth which are united into a tube at the anterior edge of the 3-locular ovary. The seeds are black, round and swollen with a hard covering. The three outer parts are the sepals and the three inner parts are the petals.
Of course, every daffodil knows exactly these facts (and more), they understand that you may not have a botanical bent of mind. Thus, they only demand one thing from you: unqualified praise. Little seems necessary for such luxury of color and joy. If you persevere, they won’t remind you that all narcissus varieties contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulbs but also in the leaves. A hint of this usually gets deferred appreciation. Daffodils are full of compliments, and don’t let you think they’re inadequate. It is often abundant, extravagant, dazzlingly beautiful, constantly praised. . . They have high standards to maintain, making sure we follow them. We salute them unworthy; He blessed us with his beauty. We are happy to do so; Such beauty is rare and soon disappears.
A love affair between daffodils and poets.
Poets, for whom beauty is eternal bliss, have to look to a field of daffodils to wax, well, poetic. In 1807 William Wordsworth published “Poems in Two Volumes”, the words he first wrote in 1807.
Every daffodil knows these grand words of beauty, optimism and contentment, and happily so:
“I was wandering alone like a cloud
It floats over high wales and hills,
Then I saw a crowd
A host of dancing daffodils;
By the lake, under the trees,
Ten thousand dance in the breeze.
The side waves danced but those
Blissfully crossed the sparkling waves: —
A poet cannot be gay
In such smiling company:
I watched — and stared — but thought little
What assets the show brought me:
Often I lie on my bed
In a vacant or anxious mood,
They shine on that introverted eye
which is the joy of solitude,
And then my heart was filled with joy,
And dances with daffodils. “
Other poets and those with optimistic, poetic inclinations have also presented daffodils with their efforts.
Amy Lowell (d. 1925) was not as cute and stylish as daffodils; Her words were heavy in a Victorian way.
To the early daffodil. . .
“Though the yellow trumpet does not sound The same spring!
You announce the myriad flowers of a prosperous summer. . . “
This is not his favorite poem. . . But they respect it
Still a poet. She meant well.
They prefer Robert Herrick (d. 1674) to daffodils
“Fair daffodils, we weep to see
You leave so soon. . . “
Herrick can make them maudlin and sentimental. Having died so early, he prefers such concepts — and obstinacy — to remain private. Beneath the surface of their beauty is always the reality of death and all too soon oblivion.
EE Cummings’ (d. 1962) “In time of daffodils” is a poem of declaration and purpose. It keeps them focused:
“In the days of daffodils (who knows
The goal of living is to grow)
Why we forget, how we remember”
They cherish their history and all the poets who expand and burnish it.
Yet on any day of their very short annual stay, they like this best; “April Showers” sung by Al Jolson (1921).
“And where you see clouds over the hills, you’ll soon see a crowd of daffodils.”
“And the daffodils looked beautiful today
She looked beautiful. ” (From “The Daffodil Lament” by The Cranberries, 2002.)
Indeed they do.
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