Sunday, March 1, 2009

Happy St David's Day!

Today, Ist of March, is St David’s Day and instead of marking it with the (by now) traditional flag or with other... *cough*, *cough*... national emblems, I have decided to put up a couple of poems which I believe connect well with the celebration.

The first shouldn’t need any introduction, other than to tell you that its title is NOT officially "The Daffodils", but in fact "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud":

I wander'd 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, of course. And of course he wasn’t Welsh. The poem is, however, about the Welsh national flower and it ties in very closely with the next one by the current National Poet for Wales, Gillian Clarke. OK, at first glance the setting may not be the most salubrious, but bear with it, there is most definitely a miracle on St David’s Day, right at the end:

Miracle on St David's Day

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude


An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed
with daffodils. The sun treads the path
among cedars and enormous oaks.
It might be a country house, guests strolling,
the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.
I am reading poetry to the insane.
An old woman, interrupting, offers
as many buckets of coals as I need.
A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens
entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic
on a good day, they tell me later.
In a cage of first March sun a woman
sits not listening, not seeing, not feeling.
In her neat clothes the woman is absent.
A big mild man is tenderly led
to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer's hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.
He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer's voice recites The Daffodils'.

Once again, a very Happy St David's Day to my (2!) Welsh readers.


Stonemason. said...


Timothy Belmont said...

O'Neill, I hope leeks are on the menu tonight! :-)

O'Neill said...


As it happens, just microwaved one of Ms O'Neill's specials... a very tasty potato and leek soup;)