photo from @liverpoolparks
Robert Herrick ‘To Daffodils’
I love Robert Herrick. I love ‘To Anthea, who may command him anything’ and I love ‘So Good Luck Came’, ‘To The virgins to Make Much of Time’, ‘Corinna’s Gone a-Maying’ – we’ll come to that in May – and many, many others. What do I love? Herrick’s brilliantly balanced between loving this world and knowing how short a date it has.
But his poem ‘To Daffodils’ I have passed by many times, not really noticing it, not reading it, because I’d glance-read it and assumed I’d got it. After all, it is very short. But today, I’m stopping to read.
On Saturday my friend Angie (A Little Aloud Angie, yes) told me the daffodils planted along the roadside and in tubs in Hoylake (the next little town along from us) were spectacular and that it was worth going to Hoylake just to see them. That evening we were going to the pictures (don’t ask) and I drove a roundabout route, via Hoylake, to see them. They were magnificent, fluttering, dancing, yes like stars, and seemingly never-ending. Well done, Hoylake!
We were nearly late for the film but I wanted to take Angie’s advice because I knew I next time I tried to look they’d be gone. Like almost everything the nature, they do come and go very quickly. This is a thing you know more intensely as you get older because time speeds up as years pass. Does anyone remember that moving interview between Melvin Bragg and the dying Denis Potter, in which Mr Potter speaks of the joy of still being alive and being able to see this year’s blossom, ‘the blossomest blossom ever’?
Well that’s what Robert Herrick is talking about. ‘We weep to see/you haste away so soon’ because we see our own hastening mirrored in yours. ‘Time’s ah running out’, as Captain Beefheart says. Interesting that Herrick repeats the verb ‘haste’ in the day’s ‘hasting’ – as if everything now were moving at a tremendous time speed.
Let’s get to the end, he’s saying, then we’ll go. ‘We’ll go with you along.’ There’s an implication of being made to go along? of being unwilling? Let’s get to the end of the day, then we’ll go. But what is the end of the day for a human? ‘Stay, stay,’ the poet cries, trying to slow time down. In the first stanza, I know Herrick is really talking about himself (and me) but he covers it with daffodils as if it might only be about the passing of a flower’s quick life.
But the second stanza takes away any pretence.
Yes, thank-you for these daffodil poems – it did make me aware that they are about and will be gone soon – so I went in search and found some idling by the river last week 🙂
I got tripped up at that bit:
Until the hasting day
But to the even-song;
And, having pray’d together, we
Will go with you along.
had to go back and re-read it slower – there is some sort of faith here… like Wordsworth…something we need from the natural world. Last night I was with some friends reading Wordsworth’s ‘My heart leaps up…’ and the discussion was about faith – the childlike faith that the speaker has and how faith is an action – it takes practice – here there seems to be that action too but also a sharing – ‘having pray’d together, we…’
We wanted to know for whom things like rainbows and daffodils and butterflies, transitory beauty, are more ‘wonder-full’ – my friend did not know who gets more excited by these things her or her young daughter… and this made me think … there is the assumption that the world is better, newer, for small children, but as Herrick observes here, does it not grow in beauty the more aware we become of the transitory nature?
I will have to read this again -pay it the attention it deserves.
Time does speed faster as one gets older. Apparently it’s because the brain quits recording things it’s seen before over & over, so this year’s store of data may be shorter than last year’s….unless you EXPERIENCE new things that the brain needs to record! So, that’s what I’m trying to do. And, yes, make that effort to see the daffodils, cherry blossoms, your neighbor….all the beautiful things, while you can!