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
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
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
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"