Monday 20 November 2017

Poetry: from The Winter's Tale

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Anthony Cronin

Shakespeare's beautiful list of wild spring flowers is from The Winter's Tale, one of the late plays that involve a lost daughter who re-appears and resolves a father's difficulties.

Perdita, the lost one in The Winter's Tale, is really Hermione, believed to have been left to die on a desert island 16 years before by order of her father, the king himself.  She is now the beloved of Florizel, also a king's son, and it is really his power and influence that are the magic wands  that bring reconciliation all round. The spectator or reader can judge the improbabilities of this plot for themselves. But most of the controversy about this passage has been rather low-level discussion of whether Shakespeare's knowledge of the wild flora of England shows that he was a 'true' countryman rather than just a townie from Stratford. Neither category, it seems to me, would have any special knowledge of the subject or would need to have.

from The Winter's Tale

William Shakespeare

...... Daffodils,

That come before the swallow dares, and take

The winds of March with beauty; violets dim,

But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes

Or Cytherea's breath; pale prime-roses

That die unmarried, ere they can behold

Bright Phoebus in his strength - a malady

Most incident to maids; bold oxlips and

The crown imperial; lilies of all kinds,

The flower-de-luce being one.

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