Miracle On St David’s Day by Gillian Clarke

‘They flash upon that inward eye
which is the bliss of solitude

from ‘The Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth
 An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed
with daffodils. The sun treads the path
among cedars and enormous oaks.
It might be a country house, guests strolling,
the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.

I am reading poetry to the insane.
An old woman, interrupting, offers
as many buckets of coal as I need.
A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens
entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic

on a good day, they tell me later.
In a cage of first March sun a woman
sits not listening, not feeling.
In her neat clothes the woman is absent.
A big, mild man is tenderly led

to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.

He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer’s voice recites ‘The Daffodils’.

The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients
seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect.
Outside the daffodils are still as wax,
a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables
unspoken, their creams and yellows still.

Forty years ago, in a Valleys school,
the class recited poetry by rote.
Since the dumbness of misery fell
he has remembered there was a music
of speech and that once he had something to say.

When he’s done, before the applause, we observe
the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings
and the daffodils are flame.

By Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)


Gillian Clarke discussing and then reciting her poem ‘Miracle on St David’s Day’

Gillian remarks on her site: “All you need to know about this poem is that it is a true story. It happened in the ’70s, and it took me years to find a way to write the poem.

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I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth

I wander’d lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils,

Beside the lake, beneath the trees

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretch’d in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

The waves beside them danced, but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –

A Poet could not but be gay

In such a jocund company!

I gazed – and gazed – but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought.

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils.

 

by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

The original poem was first publish in Poems in Two Volumes (1807) while this, more famous, revised version was published in 1815