Daily Archives: July 17, 2019

Perhaps you’d like to buy a flower

Narcissus Gazes at the Spring - from the Roman de la Rose, 14th century, Unknown
Background Image: Narcissus Gazes at the Spring – from the Roman de la Rose, 14th century, Unknown

The imagery of the poem is quite beautiful with how she moves from the “Daffodil” to the “yellow bonnet” and carries that into the yellow of the “bees” contrasted to the green of the “Clover” and even hints at the drunken color with “sherry” (cherry colored). But it’s her use of the implied mythology behind the “Daffodil” as being related to Narcissus and her exploration of borrowing a “flower” that I find the most interesting.

The poem begins with her assuming someone wants to “buy a flower” from her. Her use of “Perhaps” is not a definite statement, so we have the image of the narrator making an assumption as to the intentions of whom they are addressing. The second line plays coy with whomever is being addressed by saying she “could never sell”, yet it’s possible she hasn’t even been asked yet, rather is only assuming this transaction is what is wanted from her. What I’m getting at here is that if you think about a time you feel you’ve looked quite good and you want someone (or everyone) to notice you – perhaps you bought some new clothes or got a great new haircut and you want to show off – but you don’t want someone to actually take you up on the offer, you just want to be noticed and then have everyone move on with their day.

This all has to do with appearances, and this is why I think the image of the “Daffodil” is important to the poem in its relationship to the myth of Narcissus. Narcissus loved having people want him, but he did not want to actually be had, he just wanted the ego boost of people telling him how beautiful he was. Later he drowned when he feel in love with his reflection because he was basically drunk with his own self-love. This poem is operating along similar lines in that it is a facsimile of the real thing, in this case spring time. A “flower” will bloom in the spring when the “Daffodil / Unties her Bonnet” and when “the Bees” get drunk (“Hock” is wine) on pollen, but the narrator in this poem already has a flower before spring has come – it is, like the reflection Narcissus fell in love with, not the real thing, it’s a facsimile, a reflection of spring that someone can “borrow” in winter, but you better not fall in love with it because it’s an empty object just like the reflection in a pond.

The poem ends with her saying she will gladly lend this “flower” but come spring when the real flowers appear, she must have it back at the very “hour” before their arrival. She does not say what will happen if she does not get it back, but Narcissus wound up killing himself over his reflection, so it’s implied something terrible will happen is she does not get her flower back.

Another way to think of this poem is that she is saying her own poem is not a substitute for actual spring, it’s only words on a page and that the real beauty is in going out to the garden and watching the bees drunkenly buzz about the daffodils. Yet the riddle here is that without poetry, how would we be able to put words to the beauty we see? It is poetry which gives meaning to the flowers and the bees and springtime and without it our lives would not be as rich. Thus the reflection we see in the pool is important because it allows us to understand the beauty of reality, but we must be careful to not go too far otherwise we will miss the importance of reality and only value the reflection.