In the UK, where I am based for the winter, March, April and May are deemed the months of spring. Strictly speaking, spring begins on the vernal equinox, which will be on 20 March this year, but as far as I am concerned, it has begun, and for one simple reason…
There are daffodils blooming all around.
Is there any more cheerful sight than these friendly flowers blooming even in the winds, the cold – even the snow? They are such sociable souls, these ‘daffadowndillies’, growing in groups that form carpets of glorious colour.
One of the most beautiful spots in the UK is the Lake District, in the northwest of England, an unspoilt place of mountain and fell, lake and forest – and green, so much green, set against the blue, blue sky and waters. Come the spring, this is a place dotted with yellow, too, and it was the daffodils blooming here more than one hundred years ago that inspired English literature’s most famous poem about spring. I am, of course, referring to William Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, or ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’.
I wandered 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 stretched 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.
Beautiful, don’t you think? Golden flowers dancing in the breeze, gleeful and jocund (cheerful) company. I love the idea that at just the memory of the flowers the poet dances with the daffodils. I feel that way too, after a walk in my garden or the fields near my home; I take that joy of spring home with me.
‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ was inspired by a walk Wordsworth took with his sister, Dorothy, by Ullswater.
View of Ullswater from Gowbarrow Fell
In fact, Wordsworth did not devise the poem entirely from his own recollections, but was inspired by the lyrical description of that day penned by Dorothy in her journal.
When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils close to the water-side. We fancied that the sea had floated the seeds ashore, and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more; and at last, under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and above 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 higher up; but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity, unity, and life of that one busy highway.
– The Grasmere Journal, Thursday, 15 April 1802
‘Seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind…’ I’m sure you will agree that Dorothy’s depiction of the daffodils is every bit as wonderful as her brother’s.
William and Dorothy Wordsworth
If you ever have the opportunity to take a trip to the Lakes during springtime, a most beautiful spot to visit is Dora’s Field in Rydal, Westmorland. Here, upon the death of his beloved daughter Dora, William Wordsworth planted a sea of daffodils in her memory. The National Trust continues to maintain the field so that it is carpeted with the spring blooms. It is the perfect place to sit on a bench, gaze at the scenery and drink in springtime.
Of course, for most of us a trip to the Lakes is out of reach just now, but ‘dancing with the daffodils’ is not! Can you spot any daffodils, or other spring blooms, on a walk today? Perhaps you could buy a little bunch and place them in a vase to brighten up your home and your spirits. They really are ‘jocund company’.
Photo credits: 1) Simon Bratt/Shutterstock; 2) Mike Cassidy/Unsplash; 3) Shaun Derby/Shutterstock; 4) University of Texas Libraries & public domain; 5) Cath Smith/Unsplash.
What a truly lovely piece of writing. I can find something to love in all the seasons but Spring is special, the time of rebirth, and daffodils are the harbinger of that.