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A Sea of Daffodils

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 07 May 2008 in Uncategorized

Daffoldils

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.

IN my first book about Anastasia Krupnik...and that's its title....she, at age 10, accompanies her father to a Harvard English class in which he is teaching this Wordsworth poem to his bored students. Walking home with him afterward, they talk about "the inward eye which is the bliss of solitude" and the little girl realizes that her grandmother, in a nursing home, has such an inward eye....memory....that provides company for her.

I love inserting literary references into fiction for young people. Recently, in the book "Messenger," after the death of the character Matty, I quoted the second verse of this Houseman poem, "To an Athlete Dying Young":

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.


If not used to excess, I think the reference flies past for the young reader without slowing the narrative, but that someday in the future that reader may recall it in some other context, as I did yesterday, driving up my driveway here in Maine and thinking suddenly, "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"....

I am here now, beside the lake, beside the trees, for a week, after a two-day trip to Newport News, Virginia, where I spoke at a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony and was so graciously hosted by the Jewish Council there. This is the fourth year in a row that I have spoken at a Yom HaShoah ceremony and each one is different, each always very moving.

Maybe that experience is connected to the daffodils, bursting forth each year renewed, reminding us of vibrant life continuing after a cruel time.

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Comments

Guest
Tasses Monday, 29 November 1999

Ah... the Giver argument. LOVED having that one with my 6th graders and my husband and children. The argument still continued after Messenger & Gathering Blue...
I think it might possibly be the first time most of my students encountered an ambiguous ending (the very best kind in my humble opinion).
So enjoy your comings and goings on your blog :-) Since we appear to have similar tastes in books, I have to recommend The Monsters of Templeton. Great Ending!

Guest
Jonas Monday, 29 November 1999

The open-endedness of the ending of The Giver compelled me to a point where I couldn't be satisfied by my imagination, and had to name myself after the main character and live out his story myself...kidding, but I really did name myself Jonas after your character. Well this Jonas is currently in college studying philosophy.
The anecdote about Wally Lamb...Reality really IS stranger than fiction, huh? What an unbelievable coincidence. And you don't even seem that surprised by it! I guess synchronicities just occur when you make fiction a natural and integral part of your reality. Something to think about...

Guest
Jennifer Elliott Monday, 29 November 1999

As a teacher, I completely agree with you about the ending of The Giver. I LOVE how you end it, because then my students write their own endings to it, and they are so wonderful to read. It certainly makes what is often a boring task-- grading-- interesting. We are reading the novel right now in class, and this is the point where many of my students are finishing it on their own instead of waiting to read it in class (even my kids who "hate reading"). They come up to me and complain about the ending, and I tell them something along these lines... "You've identified with Jonas throughout the entire novel. You love how he is able to experience freedom and to help his community do the same, right? Well, there is no freedom for you if the author gives you a definite ending. Live! Write! Imagine! She's giving you the freedom to do that just as Jonas is given the freedom to create a new life for himself." Then they usually say, "Oh, well, when you put it that way, that's pretty cool." :)

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