TWO WRITERS ON DAFFODILS
DAFFODILS – A poisonous flower, a harbinger of Spring, a Poet’s Muse? Below are two takes on these flowers, from Ted Hughes, where they symbolise his lost love, to Helen O’Neill, who has written a Biography of the Daffodil.
We piled their frailty lights on a carpenter’s bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens –
Buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered –
Propped their raw butts in bucket water,
Their oval, meaty butts,
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch –
Wind-wounds, spasms from the dark earth,
With their odourless metals,
A flamy purification of the deep grave’s stony cold
As if ice had a breath –
We sold them, to wither.
The crop thickened faster than we could thin it.
Finally, we were overwhelmed
And we lost our wedding-present scissors.
Every March since they have lifted again
Out of the same bulbs, the same
Baby-cries from the thaw,
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.
But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are.
Here somewhere, blades wide open,
April by April
Through the sod – an anchor, a cross of rust.
-Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters