11 Mar 2011

Narcissus - Daffodil

‘I wander’d lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.’

William Wordsworth, 1904

Whether it be a flash from the lapel of a hurrying commuter on the underground, clusters of yellow popping up during your walk in the park, or tight bundles jostling for attention on a packed florist’s stand, it is near impossible to go anywhere at the moment without spotting Narcissus, the flower affectionately known as the daffodil.

Although it might be overlooked as a classic bouquet bloom, March is unmistakably the month for this golden girl of spring flowers. The daffodil takes over in Wales as its national flower on the first of the month, in celebration of St David’s Day. This sets the tone for the remainder of March, as spring rolls into town and carpets of yellow grace grassy banks up and down the UK.

Daffodils front Marie Curie Cancer Care’s campaign throughout March, encouraging the wearing of daffodil pins to support of the tireless work of the charity and its nurses, supporting those afflicted by cancer.

This is all very well, but where do daffodils come from? And what is their significance?

The daffodil’s showy yellow trumpets and dazzling petals have a much earlier literary origins than William Wordsworth’s 1904 poem, and, like many flowers, are steeped in Greek mythology.

According to Ovid’s story, Narcissus was an exceptionally beautiful Greek hunter, but equally proud and condescending of those who loved him. Narcissus was fatally punished for this when the Gods caused him to fall in love with his own reflection. So enraptured with his own beauty that he failed to realise his reflection was a mirage and unable to leave himself, Narcissus wasted away. His remains were turned into the Narcissus flower that pops up in our gardens today.

After Narcissus, the daffodil is sometimes seen as a symbol of unrequited love and alternatively as a symbol of vanity in the West, in keeping with his behaviour. In the east and especially in China, however, it is a symbol of wealth and good fortune – a blooming bulb on Chinese New Year is probably the best luck for the year ahead.

The daffodil is also widely associated with Easter, giving it connotations of new life, rebirth and hope.

The daffodil may be taking over, but it certainly has much more to it than meets the eye.

Author: Polly Crossman


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