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.
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!
When I went for a walk this morning along the cattle trackLa Cañada Real Sorianawhich skirts north of Posadas and Cordova, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the wild irises are out already. Above is just one example (I can’t include more at this stage because, as you might know already, I’m working on limited multimedia capacity!) — but I just couldn’t resist putting up this velvety delight:-
The iris flower means wisdom, hope, trust, and valour and it inspired the fleur-de-lis decorative symbol used by French royalty.
In the 16th century BC, irises were introduced to Egypt from Syria and were used to decorate the sceptres of pharaohs, representing victory and power.
The Ancient Greeks associated irises to the goddess of the rainbow due to their wide variety of colours. Iris was a messenger for Zeus and Hera and accompanied female souls on their way to heaven. Even to this day irises are placed on women’s graves so that the Goddess will help them find their place in heaven.
Each colour represents different qualities:
Purple, for royalty and wisdom; white for purity; yellow — passion; and blue for faith and hope.
And to end this flowery blog, here’s a beautiful poem by the American, Madison Julius Cawein (Kentucky, March 23, 1865 – December 8, 1914). (His father made patent medicines from herbs, so it is not surprising Madison’s love for nature!)
The Wild Iris
That day we wandered ‘mid the hills,-so lone Clouds are not lonelier, the forest lay In emerald darkness round us. Many a stone And gnarly root, gray-mossed, made wild our way: And many a bird the glimmering light along Showered the golden bubbles of its song.
Then in the valley, where the brook went by, Silvering the ledges that it rippled from,- An isolated slip of fallen sky, Epitomizing heaven in its sum,- An iris bloomed-blue, as if, flower-disguised, The gaze of Spring had there materialized.
I have forgotten many things since then- Much beauty and much happiness and grief; And toiled and dreamed among my fellow-men, Rejoicing in the knowledge life is brief. ”Tis winter now,’ so says each barren bough; And face and hair proclaim ‘tis winter now.
I would forget the gladness of that spring! I would forget that day when she and I, Between the bird-song and the blossoming, Went hand in hand beneath the soft May sky!- Much is forgotten, yea-and yet, and yet, The things we would we never can forget.
Nor I how May then minted treasuries Of crowfoot gold; and molded out of light The sorrel’s cups, whose elfin chalices Of limpid spar were streaked with rosy white: Nor all the stars of twinkling spiderwort, And mandrake moons with which her brows were girt.
But most of all, yea, it were well for me, Me and my heart, that I forget that flower, The blue wild iris, azure fleur-de-lis, That she and I together found that hour. Its recollection can but emphasize The pain of loss, remindful of her eyes.
Firstly, sorry to say that the photos in this post and the last 5 posts have been eliminated due to insufficient space on the multimedia (see my later post for details…)
Yes, more days than usual have passed since my last blog, but that’s because we’ve been quite caught up with the olives — trees that is.
It’s time for a good dose of copper sulphate, and as you can see from the photos, my son adapted the trailer and 1000-litre tank with tubes and jets (where the spray comes out of and which look like megaphones) and an inline generator that starts the spraying action as he drives the old Surf along the lanes of trees.
This copper sulphate treatment has to be repeated twice a year, with the next time probably being in November depending on what the weather’s been like. (Luckily there was enough of the solution left over for me to spray my medlar, fig, almond and citrus trees, so now I’ll be busy treating those in my spare time.)
The work was supervised by others, as well as us:
It did involve a lot of walking too, so half way, I decided to survey the operation from a convenient lookout in one of the shrubbier areas:
As we all know, farmers work hard, and thanks to them we are well-supplied with food. I like Cicero’s saying about agriculture:
‘For of all gainful professions, nothing is better, nothing more pleasing, nothing more delightful, nothing better becomes a well-bred man than agriculture‘ — Marcus TulliusCicero (106 BC — 43 BC).
Cicero— ‘Roman statesman, scholar, and writer, known as the greatest Roman orator, and upholding republican principles in the final civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic’ (Britannica).
And here is the first verse of a poem about agriculture, written by Margaret E. Sangster (Pen name,Aunt Marjorie 1838 – June 3, 1912). She was ‘an American poet, author, and editor. Her poetry was inspired by family and church themes, and included hymns and sacred texts’. (Wiki)
The dawn is here! I climb the hill; The earth is young and strangely still; A tender green is showing where But yesterday my fields were bare . . . I climb and, as I climb, I sing; The dawn is here, and with it – spring!
When we did eventually get home, our old faithful was there to welcome us:
Thank you for reading. As usual, comments and questions are always welcome.
Firstly, sorry to say that the photos in this post and the last 4 posts have been eliminated due to insufficient space on the multimedia (see my later post for details…)
As you may or may not know, today is the Epiphany, or Three Kings (or Reyes Magos, as it is known here in Spain) — the day when presents are given.
Last night I found my present — the first almond blossom! And here it is…
The Three Kings is a day that is very celebrated here in Spain when presents are traditionally exchanged. Usually floats bearing the Kings Gasper, Balthazar and Melchor, together with loads of sweets and presents are paraded along the streets, to the delight of the thronging crowds. Although these parades have been banned this year due to THE virus, children (and adults) can still give their letters to The Three Kings the day before, asking what they wish for.
Below is a photo taken from our local village Posadas, inviting people to come (in an orderly fashion with everyone wearing masks of course!)
And to finish, here’s a poem from one of my favourite authors, D.H. Lawrence. (Mind you, to be honest, I didn’t realise til lately that he started out as a poet.) For his short biography here is an interesting link.
Almond Blossom — D.H Lawrence (England, 1885- France, 1930)
Even iron can put forth,
This is the iron age,
But let us take heart
Seeing iron break and bud,
Seeing rusty iron puff with clouds of blossom.
December’s bare iron hooks sticking out of earth.
That knows the deadliest poison, like a snake
In supreme bitterness.
Upon the iron, and upon the steel,
Odd flakes as if of snow, odd bits of snow,
Odd crumbs of melting snow.
But you mistake, it is not from the sky;
From out the iron, and from out the steel,
Flying not down from heaven, but storming up,
Strange storming up from the dense under-earth
Along the iron, to the living steel
In rose-hot tips, and flakes of rose-pale snow
Setting supreme annunciation to the world.
Nay, what a heart of delicate super-faith,
The rusty swords of almond-trees.
Trees suffer, like races, down the long ages.
They wander and are exiled, they live in exile through long ages
Like drawn blades never sheathed, hacked and gone black,
The alien trees in alien lands: and yet
The heart of blossom,
The unquenchable heart of blossom!
Look at the many-cicatrised frail vine, none more scarred and frail,
Yet see him fling himself abroad in fresh abandon
From the small wound-stump.
Even the wilful, obstinate, gummy fig-tree
Can be kept down, but he’ll burst like a polyp into prolixity.
And the almond-tree, in exile, in the iron age!
This is the ancient southern earth whence the vases were baked, amphoras, craters, cantharus, oenochoe, and open-hearted cylix,
Bristling now with the iron of almond-trees
Iron, but unforgotten,
Ever-beating dawn-heart, enveloped in iron against the exile, against the ages.
See it come forth in blossom
From the snow-remembering heart
In long-nighted January,
In the long dark nights of the evening star, and Sirius, and the Etna snow-wind through the long night.
Sweating his drops of blood through the long-nighted Gethsemane
Into blossom, into pride, into honey-triumph, into most exquisite splendour.
Oh, give me the tree of life in blossom
And the Cross sprouting its superb and fearless flowers!
Something must be reassuring to the almond, in the evening star, and the snow-wind, and the long, long, nights,
Some memory of far, sun-gentler lands,
So that the faith in his heart smiles again
And his blood ripples with that untenable delight of once-more-vindicated faith,
And the Gethsemane blood at the iron pores unfolds, unfolds,
Pearls itself into tenderness of bud
And in a great and sacred forthcoming steps forth, steps out in one stride
A naked tree of blossom, like a bridegroom bathing in dew, divested of cover,
Frail-naked, utterly uncovered
To the green night-baying of the dog-star, Etna’s snow-edged wind
And January’s loud-seeming sun.
Think of it, from the iron fastness
Suddenly to dare to come out naked, in perfection of blossom, beyond the sword-rust.
Think, to stand there in full-unfolded nudity, smiling,
With all the snow-wind, and the sun-glare, and the dog-star baying epithalamion.
Oh, honey-bodied beautiful one,
Come forth from iron,
Red your heart is.
Fragile-tender, fragile-tender life-body,
More fearless than iron all the time,
And so much prouder, so disdainful of reluctances.
In the distance like hoar-frost, like silvery ghosts communing on a green hill,
Hoar-frost-like and mysterious.
In the garden raying out
With a body like spray, dawn-tender, and looking about
With such insuperable, subtly-smiling assurance,
No bounds being set.
Flaked out and come unpromised,
The tree being life-divine,
Fearing nothing, life-blissful at the core
Within iron and earth.
Knots of pink, fish-silvery
In heaven, in blue, blue heaven,
Soundless, bliss-full, wide-rayed, honey-bodied,
Red at the core,
Red at the core,
Knotted in heaven upon the fine light.
Five times wide open,
Six times wide open,
And given, and perfect;
And red at the core with the last sore-heartedness,
Hello all! I hope that your New Year is going well so far!
Firstly, sorry to say that the photos in this post and the last 3 posts have been eliminated due to insufficient space on the multimedia (see my later post for details…)
This afternoon I sat outside to soak in a bit of the Cordobese sunshine after the cold, frosty -2° C start. And as you can see from the photo, I was soon accompanied by three of my ten cats who, one by one, gingerly climbed up onto my lap.
Here is a quote from Bill Dana (comedian, actor, and screenwriter, who lived from October 5, 1924 – June 15, 2017). These words rang true for me!
“I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not. Mine had me trained in two days.”
The cats also reminded me of a poem written by one of my favourite poets, John Keats, who unfortunately had a very short life, dying from tuberculosis when he was only 25.
To Mrs Reynold’s Cat (A love sonnet to a feline acquaintance)— John Keats (born London, England October 31, 1795, died February 23, 1821 in Rome)
Cat! who hast past thy grand climacteric, How many mice and rats hast in thy days Destroy’d?—how many tit bits stolen? Gaze With those bright languid segments green and prick Those velvet ears—but pr’ythee do not stick Thy latent talons in me—and upraise Thy gentle mew—and tell me all thy frays Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick. Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists— For all the wheezy asthma,—and for all Thy tail’s tip is nicked off—and though the fists Of many a maid have given thee many a maul, Still is that fur as soft as when the lists In youth thou enter’dst on glass-bottled wall.