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!’