Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Fair Maids of February
One month is past, another is begun,
Since merry bells rung out the dying year,
And buds of rarest green began to peer,
As if impatient for a warmer sun;
And though the distant hills are bleak and dun,
The virgin snowdrop like a lambent fire,
Pierces the cold earth with its green-streaked spire
And in dark woods, the wandering little one
May find a primrose.
I took the photograph of the snow drops in my garden this morning and thought that the words of this poem were perfect for it. One of their country names is 'Fair Maids of February' and they are also known as 'Candlemas Bells'. February 2nd is Imbolc/ Candlemas Day and it marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The old saying about this day is:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
winter will have another flight,
If on Candlemas day it be shower and rain,
winter is gone and will not come again.
There has been a little sunshine but mostly we have had cloud and rain so it looks as though the worst is behind us:) Certainly the days will begin to get noticeably longer now as the Great Wheel slowly turns and we move towards the Spring.
The last line of the poem made me wonder whether there were any primroses visible and to my surprise a search produced the double white flowers of Primula 'Marie Crousse' in a sheltered corner. Not the lovely wild primroses that Coleridge was speaking of but a cheering sight nevertheless.
Close by I caught sight of the first deep pink flower of this Lenten Rose - Helleborus orientalis. It's time I cut back last year's leaf stems so that the flowers can be seen properly, I wasn't expecting to see flowers this early after such a long,cold snowy period.
I took my little camera with me when B Baggins and I went to the woods this morning, I wondered whether there were any signs of Spring visible yet. You have to look carefully but they are certainly there, these are the male hazel catkins still tightly closed. You can really see why they get the country name of lamb's tails.
A few tiny buds of pussy willow sparkling with raindrops.
These are the tiny new leaves of the wild honeysuckle, the woods are full of it and in the early summer when it flowers the scent is wonderful.
Amazingly the bluebells are already pushing through the brown carpet of dead leaves, the more you look the more you can see. Ecclehall Woods are anciant woodland and in late April/early May the woodland floor is a carpet of blue.
I caught sight of these new leaves of the hart's tongue fern as we crossed the river on our way out of the woods, it isn't the greatest photo but I was peering over the top of a high muddy bank and trying not to fall head first into the river. If it hadn't been so muddy and slippery I could have got nearer and got a better shot but there you go - sometimes you just have to do the best you can!
And lastly, came cold February, sitting
In an old wagon, for he could not ride;
Drawne of two fishes for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slyde
And swim away: yet had he by his side
His plough and harnesse fit to till the ground,
And tooles to prune the trees, before the pride
Of hasting Prime did make them burgein round:
So past the twelue Months forth, and their dew places found.
from The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1552-1559)