A new blossom unfurled in our garden just yesterday: Narcissus poeticus, or Poet’s Daffodil. This winsome, aromatic, white-petaled bloom is as fresh as spring itself, but don’t let a fresh face fool you. This fair flower is ancient.
Narcissus poeticus has been traced back to the 4th century, BC, where it’s described in the botanical scribblings of Theophrastus.
In his fifth Eclogue, the poet Virgil mentions a narcissus which fits the description of N. poeticus.
In Greek mythology, Nemesis, Goddess of Vengeance, punishes the Greek hero, Narcissus, by turning him into a blossom historians have long associated with N. poeticus.
Even gentle Persephone is said to have been plucking sweet bouquets of N. poeticus when Hades showed up to whisk her rudely away to the Underworld.
Legend has it that the Poet’s Daffodil, long cultivated in Europe, was carried to England by Sir Geoffrey de Fynderne following the Crusades. Today, Poet’s Daffodils, or Findern Flowers, remain an emblem of the village of Findern, UK.
Early American settlers brought N. poeticus to Philadelphia in the late 18th century; since that time, Poet’s Daffodils have naturalized throughout the eastern United States and Canada.
My penchant for poetry commanded I purchase these N. poeticus bulbs, which I discovered in a local garden center, last fall. (How had I never known there is a such a thing as a Poet’s Daffodil?)
Just outside the front door, our solitary Narcissus poeticus curtsies to the wind and enchants the cool morning air with fragrance, deeply satisfying my quest for the poetic and my love of history.
Mystery of mysteries – somehow, here in our small garden, what’s old is new again.