Thursday, 10 February 2011


 This time of year brings wave after wave of spring flowers.  Among the most beautiful must surely be the narcissus.  These early miniatures are clearly forced but still have the fragile beauty of the slightly later garden varieties.
From any angle they are quite simply gorgeous.
 It's no surprise that they've been given the name of the Greek nymph who fell in love with his own reflection until he wasted away by the pool.  Legend suggests that this flower sprang up on the spot where he died!
A more likely link with the name is the Greek root word - ναρκάω (narkao) - which means "to grow numb" because the plant has narcotic properties.  The bulb is particularly poisonous and just a few years ago some school children became ill when a daffodil bulb was added, by mistake, to some soup that they made.
The plants are also often known as daffodils - a name first recorded in 1590.  This also comes from Greek -  ασφόδελος (asphodelos)   -   which is actually a small white flower commonly found in Greece!  It seems that, since the Dutch produced such huge quantities of bulbs the term "de affodil" may have gradually morphed into daffodil.  Finding accurate information on that is something of a challenge.   
 Symbolism attached to the narcissus varies: it represents vanity or unrequited love in the west but means wealth and good fortune in China.  If your narcissi flower on Chinese New Year then it is said that you will experience good fortune throughout the next year.  
It is worn on Saint David's Day (1st March) and used as the symbol for Wales and in Germany the link is with Easter  - Osterglocke - the Easter Bell.  
Interestingly in Tattoo art a daffodil means "self esteem"!
 Tiny flowers!  Great resilience and strength.  Amazing varieties.
For me they mark the end of winter and the beginning of the brighter, sunnier days of spring.
It is no surprise that the daffodil is used as the badge for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
I came across a poem - no not Wordsworth's!  It would be my guess that most British children had to learn his verses off by heart at some stage during school days.
No, this is by the American poet edward estlin cummings ....

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me 

So, sitting looking at these little pots of narcissi I'm reminded again of the beauty all around us in the small things as well as in the great vistas.  God is good.

Lord of the boundless curves of space
and time's deep mystery,
to your creative might we trace
all nature's energy.

Your Spirit gave the living cell
its hidden, vital force;
the instincts which all life impel
derive from you, their source.

Church Hymnal number 31
Albert Frederick Bayly (1901-84)

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