The above quote is taken from Robert Burns‘ epic poem Tam o’ Shanter (7th stanza). ‘It is a wonderful poem in which Burns paints a vivid picture of the drinking classes in the old Scotch town of Ayr in the late 18th century.’
These very descriptive lines of Burns are flavoured with evocativeness, poignancy, wistfulness, doom, fright, macabre, warning and even a slight sense of humour — they are definitely worth a read!
A little bit about the man: Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire in Scotland on the 25th of January, 1759. He was also known as Rabbie Burns (as well as other names such as the Bard of Ayrshire). He was a Scottish poet, (belonging to the Romantic Movement) and was also a lyricist, farmer and exciseman. He was considered the national poet of Scotland and wrote both in the Scots language and its dialect, as well as in English (where his comments were often the most blunt). He also travelled around collecting folk music from Scotland and wrote the lyrics forAuld Lang Syne, (meaning ‘old long since’ / ‘long, long ago’ / ‘days gone by’…) which is typically sung at Hogmanay. For his full, interesting biography see here.
And as for the meaning of poppies…
It is thought that the word ‘poppy’ is derived from the Old English popig, which is a Medieval Latin alteration of the Latin word papaver, meaning ‘to swell’. It could also stem from the Latin word for milk, pappa, perhaps because of the milky sap that oozes from its stem when the flower is cut.
The symbolism of the poppy is quite wide-ranging, depending on the colour of the poppy and the country where it grows. For example, the red poppy can symbolise peace, death and sleep, which explains why, in western countries, it is usually used in commemoration of the soldiers fallen in the war.
In contrast, in Eastern countries red poppies usually symbolize love and success, whereas white poppies usually stand for remembrance and peaceful rest and are often tied to funerals and memorial ceremonies.
In Japanese and Chinese cultures the red poppy represents passionate love in a couple.
Apart from these meanings, poppies can also symbolise imagination, messages delivered in dreams, beauty, luxury and extravagance.
Finally and interestingly enough, the Californian poppy is the national flower of California and the red poppy is the national flower of Albania.
Thank you for reading. I hope you can enjoy your wild flowers wherever you are.
Since I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided not to linger in bed, entertaining endless thoughts in my head (that rhymes, doesn’t it?), but instead (and so does that), have an early cup of Tetley’s to rehydrate the brain and hopefully get it in some sort of working order — and if that failed, then have a invigorating shower followed by a healthy breakfast (of yoghurt with cut-up strawberries and bananas, plus raisins, mixed seeds, goji berries, all sprinkled over with cinnamon. Yummy!).
So I did all this, and finding myself pretty revitalised, despite my 5-hour night— (I was watching a documentary ‘til late on Hitler and the reaction of the different monarchies to him, the Nazis and the war) — I decided to go for an equally-invigorating walk along our country lane. Though the temperatures these days are reaching the 23°C mark, the morning temperatures are still fresh, around 8°C so it makes pleasant walking.
So off I set and what did I come across? The following photos will explain:
Now let me share with you what I have recently learnt about the pretty lupin:
The name comes from the Latin lupus, which means wolf, and the reason for the name is because it was believed that these flowers stole¸ cunningly like a wolf, the nutrients from the earth since they were commonly found on poor soils (the flowers that is, not the wolves). However, quite the opposite is true: lupins, like other legumes such as lentils, chick peas etc. actually enrich the soil and are useful for farming as they are high in nitrogen. Here in some traditional olive groves local to Posadas in the province of Cordova where the olives are picked by hand and not by machine, you can often see bushes of lentils, beans and chick peas that have been planted in rows between the trees. After the legumes have been harvested, the remaining plants will then be dug back into the soil in order to increase its fertility with all that added nitrogen.
Although lupins are part of the pea family, they are poisonous, containing toxic seeds and can therefore pose a threat to livestock and cattle. However, there is now the ‘sweet lupin’ a genetically-engineered variety of the original in which the toxic alkaloids have been removed. The beans of the lupin plant are edible and used for both human and cattle consumption. Australia is a major producer of these lupins
NOTE: you cannot eat just any lupin seeds from your garden or countryside the seeds must be processed first to remove the toxicity.
Lupin beans are a great favourite here in Spain (in fact in all the Mediterranean Basin countries, as well as North Africa and Latin America. They were also popular with the Incans, Native Americans, Romans and the Egyptian pharaohs too). Here, the lupin beans, or altramuces in Spanish, are often given as a free tapa in many bars (they are previously soaked until soft). Beware though: people who have a peanut allergy are fairly likely to be allergic to lupin beans too.
The beans are very nutritious and the extract from the seeds of the white lupin help the production of collagen, promoting cellular repair and growth. They are low in fat, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids, high in fibre and contain protein too. They are also prebiotic. (I’ll think in future I’ll be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix — yippee, here comes super-woman!)
On a more mystical note, apart from their symbolism with wolves and the moon, the lupin represents happiness, imagination, creativity and admiration, also energising one’s inner strength. They represent hope for new opportunities too. (Yes, I’ll definitely be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix in the mornings, possibly soaking them first in a cup of Tetley’s to give them that extra kick!)
So, all in all, apart from being pretty and useful, lupins are also positive-meaning flowers, encouraging good cheer and hope. Something I wish for all of us.
But to finish with, here’s a poem about lupins bySeamus Heaney — poet, playwright and translator, lecturer and professor, (and one of nine children!), from a farming, cattle dealing and linen mill worker background.
Seamus Heaney (Ireland 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)
They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing. In waiting. Unavailable. But there For sure. Sure and unbending. Rose-fingered dawn’s and navy midnight’s flower.
Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure, Sifting lightness and small jittery promise: Lupin spires, erotics of the future, Lip-brush of the blue and earth’s deep purchase.
O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks That stood their ground for all our summer wending And even when they blanched would never balk. And none of this surpassed our understanding.
As I mentioned in my last post —Bunnies and springtime flowers galore! — we have been suddenly inundated (here in the Cordovan hills) by seasonal birds that have made a comeback, as well as destructive caterpillars, lambkins and bunnies.
Two of the birds are regular visitors as you will see in the photos: there is the friendly Great Tit (Parus major) that alights on my window grilles, and though I like to flatter myself by presuming it has especially come to see me, I do know that the real excuse for it hovering by my window is to peck off any insects that have stuck on the glass. It calls out with its strident ‘chee-chee-chee-chee-chee!’
Then there is the hoopoe, that strikingly-coloured Old World bird with its zebra-coloured wings and crest. It is also called Upopa epops, and I used to mistake it for a woodpecker because of its long, curving beak.
This largish fella loves to perch itself on the neighbouring olive tree that grows just outside my bedroom window and carve its beak into the trunk in pursuit of bugs. It doesn’t build a nest, but simply adopts any hollows for its abode. It has a funny, distinctive call which sounds something like ‘Ku ku ku ku’… (pause) ‘ku ku ku’ (pause and repetitio unitatum…).
Interestingly enough, the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament banned this bird as a food source because it belongs to the same group as the vulture, eagle and pelican and therefore considered unclean and forbidden to Jews who deemed it ‘abhorrent and not to be eaten’. However, in 2008 it was declared the national bird of Israel (though the national animal of Israel is the gazelle).
Just to say that I wasn’t able to write a usual mid-week blog because apart from my online teaching and writing work, I’ve been quite busy trying to prepare a few items for my online Etsy shop.
I have been inspired by the sudden explosion of springtime flowers here in Posadas (in the province of Cordova) which has happened a little earlier than usual.
There has also been a return of many species of birds, including my usual visitors, the hoopoe, blue tit and partridges (which will feature in my next blog…), as well as loads of bunnies and hares, little lambs and baby goats (already smelling of acidy milk!).
The things I don’t approve of (that is until they have reached their beautiful butterfly stage) are the caterpillars — we have been inundated with them! They have drilled into my iris flower buds, chomped their way steadily through my broad bean plantlets and are causing havoc to any budding grape vines which haven’t been previously sprayed. Now I don’t like to use pesticides or chemicals, so it is quite a normal sight for me to go rushing out into my garden and vegetable patch first thing in the morning (usually still in my fluffy pyjamas and mules) and run up and down the rows of plants, flicking off these furry creatures.
(I don’t know what our neighbour must think when he spies me from afar with his extra-strong binoculars, which I know he does because he did openly admit it one day when we were sat together having a leche manchada — milky coffee: his excuse is that he likes to invigilate our house as well as his for security reasons, as we do live out in the sticks a bit and we only have mastiffs and an adopted mongrel as alarms.)
Anyway, to cut a long story short, here are a couple of photos explaining what I’ve been up to since last we met…
And here is a merry little poem about spring (yes, I know I’m being a bit premature, but try telling that to the Cordobese flowers and bunnies!)
Spring by William Blake — (London 1757–1827) ‘Poet, painter, engraver, and visionary… considered one of the leading lights of English poetry’ — The Poetry Foundation.
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers, From the seas and the streams; I bear light shade for the leaves when laid In their noonday dreams. From my wings are shaken the dews that waken The sweet buds every one, When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast, As she dances about the sun. I wield the flail of the lashing hail, And whiten the green plains under, And then again I dissolve it in rain, And laugh as I pass in thunder.
I sift the snow on the mountains below, And their great pines groan aghast; And all the night ‘tis my pillow white, While I sleep in the arms of the blast. Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers, Lightning my pilot sits; In a cavern under is fettered the thunder, It struggles and howls at fits; Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion, This pilot is guiding me, Lured by the love of the genii that move In the depths of the purple sea; Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills, Over the lakes and the plains, Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream, The Spirit he loves remains; And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile, Whilst he is dissolving in rains.
The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes, And his burning plumes outspread, Leaps on the back of my sailing rack, When the morning star shines dead; As on the jag of a mountain crag, Which an earthquake rocks and swings, An eagle alit one moment may sit In the light of its golden wings. And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath, Its ardours of rest and of love, And the crimson pall of eve may fall From the depth of Heaven above, With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest, As still as a brooding dove.
That orbèd maiden with white fire laden, Whom mortals call the Moon, Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor, By the midnight breezes strewn; And wherever the beat of her unseen feet, Which only the angels hear, May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof, The stars peep behind her and peer; And I laugh to see them whirl and flee, Like a swarm of golden bees, When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent, Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas, Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high, Are each paved with the moon and these.
I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone, And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl; The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim, When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl. From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape, Over a torrent sea, Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof, The mountains its columns be. The triumphal arch through which I march With hurricane, fire, and snow, When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair, Is the million-coloured bow; The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove, While the moist Earth was laughing below.
I am the daughter of Earth and Water, And the nursling of the Sky; I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores; I change, but I cannot die. For after the rain when with never a stain The pavilion of Heaven is bare, And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams Build up the blue dome of air, I silently laugh at my own cenotaph, And out of the caverns of rain, Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb, I arise and unbuild it again.
The mimosa tree’s already in flower. Well, it’s not actually in FULL flower, but I thought I’d better take a photo of it today as rain is forecast and so the flowers won’t look fluffy and chick-like anymore, but will become rather shrunken and consolidated! The scent from the tree is delicately perfumed…
Here are the opening verses of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about the mimosa:
The Sensitive Plant— Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 Sussex, England –1822 Tuscany, Italy)
This poem was written during the early 1820’s when Shelley was living with his wife in Pisa and was experiencing difficulties in his marriage after the death of his child, Will. The poem describes a garden full of flowers which is attended by a lady, and the flower that stands out from all the others is the mimosa, or ‘sensitive plant’. The three sections of the poem reflect the seasons and there is a contrast between night and day and between the flowers and stars. This reflects the feeling of man’s temporalness compared to the eternity of the universe…
In the secret language of flowers, mimosa represents secret love, safety and increased sensitivity. Belonging to the acacia family it is also the symbol of gold, sun and a triumphant life — something I think we all would like!
Being a nice, sunny day, my legs were just itching to go for a walk — and so for a walk I went…
This time I followed the Sendero Ruta del Cambuco footpath which lies between Posadas and Hornachuelos. ‘Cambuco’ is of Celtic origin, meaning ‘barranco’, or in English, gully, ravine and steep riverbank.
This picturesque path passes by waterfalls, rivers, poorly-preserved remains of old flour mills and along former canals harking back to the Moors and al-Andalus.
The path then wends its way through agricultural land planted with orange groves, olive trees and arable crops, and also passes stretches of ‘monte’ or wild land populated by small dwarfs, asparagus bushes, fig trees and loads of wild flowers and thyme.
The rock type is predominantly limestone-rich baked sandstone which has eroded in places to give karstic scenery and features like this natural cave. The whole area was under the sea at one time and there are many fossils dating to the Miocene period.
The path then passes close by an old Moorish bridge, Puente Quebrado which crosses the river. (‘Quebrado’ in English means broken, uneven or irregular.) Originally there were five arches, though only this one now remains. The design of the arch was typically Arabic. The bridge, together with the path formed part of the Xth century Arabic Route known as la Yadda (la ‘Gran Ruta’ — the Great Route) that led from Cordova to Badajoz (near the Portuguese frontier), running close to the extensive Cañada Real Soriana cattle track.
The path then led towards the huge Bembezar reservoir (the one with the haunted monastery, Santa Maria de los Ángeles, perched high upon the cliff). It then turned up towards the B road along which we walked a short while til we got back to the car.
It was supposed to be a half-an-hour walk according to the information board, but I think we must’ve missed the path coming back because in the end it took about an hour and a half!
Nevermind, it was all great fun!
Thank you for reading — as usual, comments and questions are always welcome.