Poem Hunter
Poems
Daffodils
(1930 - 1998 / West Yorkshire / England)

Daffodils

Poem By Ted Hughes

Remember how we picked the daffodils?
Nobody else remembers, but I remember.
Your daughter came with her armfuls, eager and happy,
Helping the harvest. She has forgotten.
She cannot even remember you. And we sold them.
It sounds like sacrilege, but we sold them.
Were we so poor? Old Stoneman, the grocer,
Boss-eyed, his blood-pressure purpling to beetroot
(It was his last chance,
He would die in the same great freeze as you) ,
He persuaded us. Every Spring
He always bought them, sevenpence a dozen,
'A custom of the house'.

Besides, we still weren't sure we wanted to own
Anything. Mainly we were hungry
To convert everything to profit.
Still nomads-still strangers
To our whole possession. The daffodils
Were incidental gilding of the deeds,
Treasure trove. They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we'd live forever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are. Never identified
The nuptial flight of the rarest epherma-
Our own days!
We thought they were a windfall.
Never guessed they were a last blessing.
So we sold them. We worked at selling them
As if employed on somebody else's
Flower-farm. You bent at it
In the rain of that April-your last April.
We bent there together, among the soft shrieks
Of their jostled stems, the wet shocks shaken
Of their girlish dance-frocks-
Fresh-opened dragonflies, wet and flimsy,
Opened too early.

We piled their frailty lights on a carpenter's bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens-
Buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered-
Propped their raw butts in bucket water,
Their oval, meaty butts,
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch-

Wind-wounds, spasms from the dark earth,
With their odourless metals,
A flamy purification of the deep grave's stony cold
As if ice had a breath-

We sold them, to wither.
The crop thickened faster than we could thin it.
Finally, we were overwhelmed
And we lost our wedding-present scissors.

Every March since they have lifted again
Out of the same bulbs, the same
Baby-cries from the thaw,
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.

But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are.
Here somewhere, blades wide open,
April by April
Sinking deeper
Through the sod-an anchor, a cross of rust.

User Rating: 3,5 / 5 ( 22 votes ) 4

Comments (4)

So much in this - an ever favourite. Beautiful, lyrical, self ritual and brutal.
This a poem from Birthday Letters about the years Hughes spent with Sylvia Plath. I love this poem despite its occasional tone of subtle cattiness and overall tone of bewildered irony. Even though Hughes is often considered the bad guy in their relationship there is also a sense that theirs was a fateful bond especially when the grief and longing come through these lines. Sylvia as a the ghost here is so fragile that it took me three readings before she fully materialized. I enjoy the image of the lost wedding gift as a grave marker in the last stanza. The anger and sadness in 'She has forgotten/She cannot even remember you' is substantial. This is a very genuine reaction to the death of important person in Hughes' life.
I have only recently become fully acquainted with Ted Hughes' poems and life. I find it interesting how he seems to return to the same themes. I met him in London in the late 1970s. He told me he was a poet but I didn't know much else. At lunch in a restaurant called The Pot in London one afternoon I mentioned that I liked Daffodils since each table had a bud vase with daffodils in them. He wrote me a poem on a napkin, which I still have, called Daffodil. It seemed a rather cynical poem. It begins by describing the attractive attributes of the flower but ends by saying it will be buffered and bruised by natures force only to be anulled and hardened to what life lies ahead or to slain by the bold steel of mans mind. He seemed to be a man with demons. I wish I had known him better.
All Ican say is....WOW!


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