Daffodils

Ted Hughes

I’d bought a bit of wild ground.
In March it surprised me. Suddenly I saw what I owned.
A cauldron of daffodils, boiling gently.

It was a gilding of the Deeds – treasure trove!
Daffodils just came. And they kept on coming –

‘Blown foam,’ I wrote. ‘Vessels of light!’
They ran under every gust
On the earth-surge, ‘their six-bladed screws
Churning the greeny yellows
Out of the hard, over-wintered cholorophyl.’

I was still a nomad.
My life was still a raid. The earth was booty.
I knew I’d live forever. I had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are. I did not recognise
The nuptial flight of the rarest ephemera –
My own days!
Hardly more body than a hallucination!
A dream of gifts – opening their wrappers for me!

I thought they were a windfall. I picked them. And I sold them.

Behind the rainy curtains of that green April
I became intimate
With the soft shrieks
Of the jostled stems – the wet shocks, shaken,
Of the girlish dance-frocks –
Fresh-opened Dragonflies, wet and flimsy –

To each bright, scared look
I brought gentler cruelty. A thousand times
Slid my fingers down her slenderness
Felt deep into her chilly fountain of blades –
The watery flicker she peered from,
And nipped her off close to the bulb.

I piled their frailty lights on a carpenter’s bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens
(The buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered).
Propped their raw butts in bucket water
(Their oval, meaty butts)
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch. The whole lot went.
Yet they stayed. That night, on my pillow,
My brain was a chandelier of daffodils!

Dressed for Heaven,
Wings pouring light, faces bowed,
The souls of all those daffodils, as I killed them,
Had taken refuge inside me –

I could see right into their flame-stillness
Like seeing right into the eye-pupil
Of a person fast asleep, as if I’d lifted the eyelid –

I could study
That scarf of papery crinkle, fawn and perfunctory, at their throats,
And the tissue of their lips. I learned
That what had looked like a taffeta knot, undone
And re-tied looser, crumpled,
Was actually membrane of solid light.

And that their metals were odourless
More a deep-grave stoniness, a cleanness of stone,
As if ice had a breath –

They began to alarm me. Were these
My free girls, my Saturnalian nunnery,
With their bloomers of scrambled egg-yolk, their flounces,
Their core alive and kicking, their bare shoulders in frills,
That set the cold stars shaking
Loose and wetly
Inside walking, darkly-coated people?

I tried to picture them out there, in the grass –

These rigid, gold archangels somehow
Drank up my attempt.

With a grisly awe
Like the idea of atoms, or like the idea
Of white-frosted galaxies floating apart,
As I sank deeper, each towered heavier,

Cathedral interior lit,
Empty or all-seeing angel stare
Leaning through me –
                    it was Resurrection,
The trumpet,
The corpse-weight of nightmare!
                               I wrenched free
I flitted
With my world, my garden, with my unlikely
Baby-cries leached from the thaw –
                                   my shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year –