On Wordsworth and Little Yellow Flowers.
The Lesser Celandine
There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, 'tis out again!
When hailstones have been falling, swarm on swarm,
Or blasts the green field and the trees distressed,
Oft have I seen it muffled up from harm,
In close self-shelter, like a Thing at rest.
But lately, one rough day, this Flower I passed,
And recognized it, though an altered form,
Now standing forth an offering to the blast,
And buffeted at will by rain and storm.
I stopped, and said, with inly-muttered voice,
"It doth not love the shower, nor seek the cold:
This neither is its courage nor its choice,
But its necessity in being old.
"The sunshine may not cheer it, nor the dew;
It cannot help itself in its decay;
Stiff in its members, withered, changed of hue."
And, in my spleen, I smiled that it was grey.
To be a Prodigal's Favourite -then, worse truth,
A Miser's Pensioner -behold our lot!
O Man, that from thy fair and shining youth
Age might but take the things Youth needed not!
Much as I appreciate the genius of Wordsworth, I have to be in the right frame of mind to actually like his poems. Some days, busy, rushed days, I find them twee and sentimental. I am almost cross at Wordsworth for his 18th/19th Century privilege to wander about in the countryside in a fancy coat, waxing lyrical about every bloody flower part when so many folks at that time never saw a wild flower let alone had the time or education to write a wafty verse about it.
However, I think if Wordsworth was alive now he might be pleased that his flowery wordsmithery often appears in inspirational memes or on motivational coffee mugs. If he knew he was still reminding people to open their eyes and see the wonder in the details of the world around them he might be rather smug.
For the moment at least, we can still see the things that Wordsworth saw, flowers, sky, landscape, we just see them faster and faster. We can capture the beauty with our phones and describe them with hashtags instead of poetic devices.
Exactly a year ago, my lovely friend Moira of Craftiosity reminded the followers of her page to look at the detail of their immediate surroundings to find inspiration for creativity. It was on my dog walk that morning that I spotted the celandines and, out of practice as I was, I did as suggested.
I photographed them.
They reminded me of a scrap of fabric I had.
I sketched them and found the fabric.
I found more fabric in the colours I'd collected in my photographs.
I patched the fabrics together and embroidered some of the flowers.
I looked up the celandine on the internet and found the Wordsworth poem.
I embroidered the words of the first stanza of the poem around the edge of the now hexagonal piece.
I went off it and put it away.....that was fun!
Fast forward twelve months and the celandines are in flower again. Expert stitcher and EG member Tricia, arrives at Airedale Embroider's Guild with a beautiful thing that she has made. A miniature, three dimensional model of a harp covered in green silk, embroidered with stunning goldwork and the strings are formed by needles...it's a needle case!
Tricia tells us at the meeting that she has made it from a kit designed by Jenny Adin-Christie. Well I'm so blown away by the skill with which this thing is made and the sheer beauty of it that I don't recognise the flowers even when I'm taking my photographs.
When I get home I look up the background of the piece and discover that it's called "The Wordsworth Harp" and Jenny has based her design on an exquisite piece held in the collection of The Wordsworth Trust.
Jenny Adin-Christie tells us that the original needlecase was apparently worked by one Edith May Southey, and was the subject for Wordsworth's poem "On Seeing a Needlecase in the Form of a Harp".
Now Wordsworth had a bit of thing for the celandine flower and Jenny's beautiful embroidery design is based on another poem of his "To the Small Celandine" You can read her full post HERE
Anyway, coming full circle and looking at my photographs of Tricia's version of the Wordsworth Harp, it's clear that the lesser celandine is the little flower she has worked so expertly on to the body of the piece. Inspired afresh I returned to my own piece on the subject and set about a rework and here are the results.
So I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this before I put on a frock coat and waft off through some meadows somewhere, is that inspiration is a shared experience. In this case from a single detail, a tiny yellow flower; Wordsworth, Edith May, Jenny, Tricia, me and a shedload of instagram users have all contributed directly or indirectly, to a collective appreciation of something beautiful. Which, sentimental or not, just makes the World a slightly better place doesn't it?