Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 1 March 2013

GBMD: Miracle on St David's Day

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude
                 - The Daffodils,
William Wordsworth

An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed
with daffodils. The sun treads the path
among cedars and enormous oaks.
It might be a country house, guests strolling,
the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.

I am reading poetry to the insane.
An old woman, interrupting, offers
as many buckets of coals as I need.
A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens
entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic

on a good day, they tell me later.
In a cage of first March sun a woman
sits not listening, not seeing, not feeling.
In her neat clothes the woman is absent.
A big mild man is tenderly led

to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer's hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.

He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer's voice recites 'The Daffodils'.

The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients
seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect.
Outside the daffodils are still as wax,
a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables
unspoken, their creams and yellows still.

Forty years ago, in a Valleys school,
the class recited poetry by rote.
Since the dumbness of misery fell
he has remembered there was a music
of speech and that once he had something to say.

When he's done, before the applause, we observe
the flowers' silence. A thrush sings
and the daffodils are aflame.

Gillian Clarke in: Letter from a Far Country

Gillian Clarke is a new discovery for me, courtesy of finding a poem for today's Muse Day. I have just ordered all her books, on the strength of this poem :)

The picture is of the paperwhite daffodils on our kitchen table this morning. They were born out of a broken rule and their scent is another miracle for today's St David's Day.


  1. Genuinely touching. So pleased you shared it. Almost didn't read it and now, am so glad I did.

  2. Very moving poem. I feel I must read more of her works, too.
    Thanks for sharing this one.
    Have a lovely day.
    Lea's Menagerie

  3. So poignant. Thanks for introducing me to this author.

  4. Thank you for sharing these words - I was moved!

  5. Gosh, I'm usually terribly lazy when it comes to poetry, I never give it time, get impatient if I don't feel I "get" it. That I read and then re-read. Wonderful. Thank you.

  6. Gardeningbren - I think this is one of the best poems I've ever found for Muse Day

    Lea - you have a lovely day too :)

    MHM - that's just it - it's the poignancy of that moment which really hits home

    Angie - I still am and I've read this poem many times since!

    Janet - it's a story which probably wouldn't get a second look when written in prose, but becomes so much more as a poem. I'm so glad you 'got' this one :)

  7. Thank's so much for introducing me to Gillian Clarke...and Muse Day...this is new to me too.

    Being read to is so precious's one of my first's comforting yet inspiring.

  8. Thinking of the Days - welcome :)

    I'm so pleased to have made this discovery :) Garden Bloggers' Muse Day was started and hosted by Carolyn Choi of Sweet Home and Garden Chicago a while back. She moved States a nearly 2 years ago and I hope she'll reinstate it on her new blog sometime. In the meantime, I'm keeping the meme warm for her and also because I enjoy seeking out new poems and authors, plus gardening wisdom on a regular basis. It's a great excuse to pause and reflect :)


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