Friday, 19 June 2009


There was a piece on the Today programme this morning about how this year we will have a bumper crop of daisies. Apparently, the plentiful rain combined with warm conditions has encouraged their growth. They are unusually long-stemmed too.

I've always loved daisies. They remind me of lying on the school playing fields and chatting to girls whilst they made daisy chains. Picking them, pulling the petals and squeezing the oily yellow stamens would also give you something to do to avoid ogling too much. Delicious summer days.

One of my favourite poems is 'A Daisy' by Jon Silkin. His flower poems comprise the most original nature poetry that I've come across. They contain an uncanny combination of irrepressible energy, a rich sensuality and a careful, almost botanical, precision in description. They succeed in giving you a totally fresh view of something intimately familiar; and not just of the nominal subject. I get a thrill every time I read this one:

A Daisy

Look unoriginal
Being numerous. They ask for attention
With that gradated yellow swelling
Of oily stamens. Petals focus them:
The eye-lashes grow wide.
Why should not one bring these to a funeral?
And at night, like children,
Without anxiety, their consciousness
Shut with white petals;

Blithe, individual.

The unwearying, small sunflower
Fills the grass
With versions of one eye.
A strength in the full look
Candid, solid, glad.
Domestic as milk.

In multitudes, wait,
Each, to be looked at, spoken to.
They do not wither;
Their going, a pressure
Of elate sympathy
Released from you.
Rich up to the last interval
With minute tubes of oil, pollen;
Utterly without scent, for the eye,
For the eye, simply. For the mind
And its invisible organ,
That feeling thing.

[from Nature with Man, 1965]


worm said...

I like your natural history posts!

and it's a nice poem - apart from the line
"Why should not one bring these to a funeral?"
which sounds like a drunken Yoda mangling his words! :)

It was only a couple of weeks ago when I heard on radio 4 that we were also apparently to expect a bumper crop of dandelions this year...obviously it's going to be a summer of extravagant botanic fecundity

I find the most miraculous thing about daisies is the way that they close up to sleep at night and open to greet the warm sun every morning.

Gaw said...

Just read yours on the venus flytrap - truly fascinating!

Very strange line, it is. Not just grammatically, it's also thematically a bit incongruous. But it works as mortality and re-birth are themes touched on by the poem, I think. As you say, the closing and opening of the daisy seems miraculous and is perhaps emblematic.

Funny you should mention dandelions. Silkin wrote a good if rather creepy poem on this flower too. I'll probably seek it out and post it.

By the way, your mentioning Yoda reminds me of a wedding we went to. My missus shamefully didn't have a hat to wear (she'd literally just flown in from reporting on an earthquake somewhere). We looked in the local town for one but all we could find were Yoda masks. We imagined her meeting the parents and bowing her head slightly bringing her mask/hat into their eye-line: 'ah, proud you must be'. Well, it seemed hilarious at the time!

Kevin Musgrove said...

My one and only regret in not having a lawn is not having all those daisies to sit amongst.

Dandelions and daffodils are one of the great spring combinations.