Spring is coming, spring is coming – wild daffodillies, Bunhill Fields and Blake

Native Wild Daffodil | iPadart | Lesley Scoble

Spring is coming, spring is coming

Spring is coming? It’s already here! In fact it became official on 21st March. But, I’ve drawn a picture of the wild daffodil and I thought that this little traditional song helps illustrate it! I love daffodils being called “daffodillies” in the lyrics.

‘Winter aconite and cyclamen flowers are coming too” | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Spring is coming, spring is coming,
Flowers are coming too;
Pansies, lilies, daffodillies
Now are coming through.

“Birdies build your nest” | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Spring is coming, spring is coming,
Birdies, build your nest;
Weave together straw and feather,
Doing each your best.

“Shimmer and quiver on the river” | The Thames | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Spring is coming, spring is coming,
All around is fair;
Shimmer and quiver on the river,
Joy is everywhere.

This song is oft times attributed to the poet William Blake, but I can’t find proof of this. I don’t own the ‘Complete Works of Blake’ and the library is closed because of lockdown. Therefore, I can’t bury myself in library books looking. It’s driving me daffy! I want to know for sure. Can any of you out there confirm that William Blake wrote it (or otherwise)? Please let me know and earn my eternal gratitude! I know that schools and music educators teach it as a Traditional Folk Song—but did Blake write the words?. I have another question! Do “pansies and lilies” come through alongside daffodillies in Spring? I thought they came later… just wondering. Perhaps change the words to crocus and snowdrops… or winter aconite and cyclamen… or primroses? If William Blake wrote the original, my apologies!

William Blake

William Blake regarded by many as one of the greatest poetic and artistic geniuses of modern times (can the 18th century still be referred to as ‘modern times’?) lived and worked in London.

William Blake’s birthplace demolished in 1968 | Archive photo taken in 1962

He was born at number 28 Broad Street (now Broadwick St), Soho, in the year 1757. They demolished his childhood home in 1968. What were they thinking?! Would you demolish Shakespeare’s birthplace?

Catherine Blake (neé Boucher 1762-1831) graphite drawing c.1805

Catherine Blake 1762-1831

In 1782 he married Catherine Boucher, whom he would train to work as his skilled assistant in his engravers shop. He depended much on the support of his wife, who helped with the printing and colouring of his work—even finishing some drawings for him.

William Blake age 50 | oil on canvas by Thomas Phillips 1807

William Blake 1757-1827

Blake lived with his wife at number 13 Hercules Buildings, Hercules Street, SE1 in the then pastoral district of North Lambeth. Demolishment of the house took place in 1918 (they’re fond of destroying Blake’s houses, aren’t they?). Today there is now a housing estate where his home once stood.

Bunhill Fields

Bunhill Fields, the non-conformist graveyard, where you can find monuments to Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and the parliamentary Cromwell family, is also the final resting place of this great poet.
It is one of those places that when you enter it, it has ‘a feeling’. The light seems different, somehow. 

On my stroll round Bunhill Fields, a squirrel asks me for a nut.

And he accompanies me on my walk to see an old headstone.

Bunhill Fields, London | Photo: Lesley Scoble

There is a small wreath of flowers beneath the headstone that tells you the great poet-painter lies nearby with his wife. I read the inscription, and the squirrel turns his attention to the morsel I gave him.


In 2018 they placed a ledger over the actual spot where William Blake lies. I pass a time of day ‘muffled behind Covid masks, chat with a gardener’ who tends Bunhill Fields, and he tells me that there are nine other souls who share his plot. The inscription is a quote from Blake’s famous Jerusalem. 


The Native Wild ‘Daffodilly’


In Britain we have only one native wild daffodil. The popular name is the Lent Lily. The Scientific name is Narcissus pseudo-narcissus. I just call it wild!

It’s wild to be short!

Our native wild daffodil grows to a short 12 inches (35 cm) in height — it’s wild to be short! (written by a short person). They have a silver blue-grey-green foliage. The petals are pale yellow around the darker yellow of the distinctive daffodil trumpet. The gentle paleness of the petals and it’s shorter stature is a good way to differentiate them from their garden relatives. 

Wild daffodils on a woodland walk | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Habitat

Ancient woodland is the preferred choice of habitat for the wild daffodil. And it thrilled me to stumble across groups of them, spreading out in compact clumps on a walk in Devon. Pastures and orchards are havens too, for this quiet narcissus.

Blooming everywhere!

A century ago the Wild Daffodil would bloom everywhere, but nowadays is becoming much rarer, along with its shrinking woodland and orchard habitat. Devon, Wales and Cumbria remain the best outposts to see these beautiful wild flowers.


A woodland delight is stumbling across groups of wild daffodil in compact clumps on a walk in Devon.

Small corms of daffy info

Daffodils growing in wintry mountainous conditions of Wales contain high quantities of a compound called Galantamine with valuable use in medication for Alzheimer sufferers. 
The National Trust in Cornwall working with volunteers has collected a phenomenal variety of daffodils from hedgerows to form a large heritage collection. So perhaps Cornwall is the place to go to see the best assortment of old and new cultivars. 
It is astonishing to learn that Britain produces 90% of the world’s cultivar of daffodils! However, because of this year’s Covid lockdown, fields of daffodils remain unpicked.

Tomorrow it is the 12th April, and lockdown will ease with the shops opening again! Perhaps my local library will too? In which case, I can find out if William Blake wrote about ‘daffodillies’ in Spring is coming, spring is coming.

Spring has come! So, get out there and go see some wild daffodillies, if you can!

9 comments

  1. Hi from another shortie, I’m just 4ft 10 ins. I love your blogs. Haven’t written anymore myself since I became a full time foster carer to my 6 year old gt.grandson. But I must try and find time again as I love writing about my family history research.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Antonia! Haha it’s wild to be short! Wow! A six year old great grandson! So very precious. But, you must try and allow yourself a little, regular time each day for your own pursuit!—important for you and those around you!
      Thank you again for your compliments re my blogpost. Means a lot to me
      L xx

      Liked by 1 person

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