As in 1887 and 1977, the beacon fires were lit last night.
1887 was Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 1977 Elizabeth II’s Silver.
From 1887, by A. E. Housman
From Clee to heaven the beacon burns,
The shires have seen it plain,
From north and south the sign returns
And beacons burn again.
Look left, look right, the hills are bright,
The dales are light between,
Because ’tis fifty years to-night
That God has saved the Queen.
But yesterday was Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday. Mrs T and I lit the fire indoors instead of out, sat before it, and toasted our toes as well as HM.
Wordsworth may have the fame when it comes to daffodils in verse, but in Shropshire this Spring we saw drifts of daffodils beside the roads, beneath the hedges, shining along the footpath edges … apologies; he is too easily parodied.
But I wondered why such county-wide devotion to a Welsh emblem: surely not love of the western neighbour? Rather love of the flower itself, and its defiance of lingering resistance from Winter’s rearguard winds.
But then I picked up A.E. Houseman, and these lines from A Shropshire Lad (X, March)
- The boys are up the woods with day
- To fetch the daffodils away,
- And home at noonday from the hills
- They bring no dearth of daffodils.
- Afield for palms the girls repair,
- And sure enough the palms are there,
- And each will find by hedge or pond
- Her waving silver-tufted wand.
- In farm and field through all the shire
- The eye beholds the heart’s desire;
- Ah, let not only mine be vain,
- For lovers should be loved again.
The girls’ palms are of course the pussy willow, whose ‘silver-tufted wands’ set off the daffodils so splendidly in the vase. And how good to be reminded, even by the morbid Houseman, to link our own flora and ourselves, to the ‘Hebrew children’ who went to meet the Lord carrying olive branches, and singing ‘Hosanna!’
At last the ground was fit to try a sowing of carrot seeds. It’s a special moment; that pinch of dust that promises so much. I always inhale! I mean that I take a deep sniff of the precious grain which smells more of carrot than the roots themselves, though the first pullings will be tastier than anything in the shops.
A little boy I know has sown seeds for the first time and eagerly checks them every day. It is good to share his delight and be grateful for the seed, the sowing and the sweet anticipation!