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Word from Wormingford

27 March 2015

How is it that daffodils appear so suddenly, Ronald Blythe wonders

COLLECTING the post, there they were, where they had been since time immemorial: my wild daffodils under the plum tree - the ones that Dorothy Wordsworth drew her brother's attention to. Although he did not acknowledge this when he wrote, "And all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils."

But their immediacy is true enough. One day, there is just fresh spring grass; the next this golden host, nodding and waving in a chilly breeze. And loud birdsong above them. And the white cat padding through them. And the horses looking through the hazels at them. And thenNarcissus Pseudonarcissus. It descends from the medieval Latin affodile, our Lent Lily. How long have they been here, this Wordsworthian patch that spreads? A cold coming they had of it.

Passion Sunday. I take matins. "Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble. . ." And, in this instance, passing from the mental sufferings of Jesus as he went the way of the cross. You did not have to walk very far from Jerusalem, or from any Roman city, to see the crucified. It was: "Keep the peace, or this is what will happen to you." I often think of this when we give each other the Peace in church. "The peace of God, David, Merial, Mrs. . . I've forgotten your name."

Passion Sunday first appeared in the Book of Common Prayer in 1928, so what shall we sing? The sumptuously sad "O sacred head"; the unsparingly painful "When I survey"; "My song is love unknown", which a neighbouring priest wrote for the men in his parish. All of them, and a bitter anthem, and that last glimpse of Jerusalem before the sight faded from those dying eyes. No cheerful goodbyes at the church door.

Floods of crocuses. Scaffolding round the tower. Then carloads of flowers for Easter Day waiting to take over. Early in the week, lunch with a young prison chaplain, myself wondering - marvelling, indeed - at his quiet ability. "But then I couldn't do what you do," he says, simply, and I think of the multiplicity of the Church.

Now that King Richard's bones have been translated from a car park to Leicester Cathedral, the author of Don Quixote, the first novel, is to be suitably laid to rest. Miguel de Cervantes was almost contemporary with Shakespeare. Don Quixote de Mancha sends up the knightly quest, and is the originator of many of our popular sayings. The following were all said in Spanish before we borrowed them: "Time out of mind", "A finger in every pie", "Put you in a pickle", "Thank you for nothing", "No better than she should be", "Within a stone's throw of it", "Give the devil his due", "You've seen nothing yet", "I begin to smell a rat", "My memory is so bad that I sometimes forget my own name."

But there are sayings of his that deserve a new currency: "Youngsters read it, grown men understand it, and old men applaud it." Which sent me to the bookshelf to heave down my own, two-volume copy, in French, with wonderful drawings, sometimes two to a page, dated 1836. My name is scribbled in it.

One of Cervantes's sayings is: "Can we ever have too much of a good thing?" Enthralled, it is well past midnight when I put the Don to bed. "Mum's the word."

In the morning, I hurry breakfast to see the eclipse, but invisibility reigns. "As well look for a needle in a bottle of hay" (Cervantes).

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