The first Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) to come into flower at Doorus on February 17, 2009
Although Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' is one of the most famous and widely read poems in the English language, daffodils were probably not Wordsworth's favourite flower. He wrote no less than three poems about the tiny Lesser celandine and just one about the more famous daffodils. This is his first poem in praise of the celandine
To the Small Celandine
Pansies, Lilies, Kingcups, Daisies,
Let them live upon their praises;
Long as there's a sun that sets
Primroses will have their glory;
Long as there are Violets,
They will have a place in story:
There's a flower that shall be mine,
'Tis the little Celandine.
Eyes of some men travel far
For the finding of a star;
Up and down the heavens they go,
Men that keep a mighty rout!
I'm as great as they, I trow,
Since the day I found thee out,
Little flower! - I'll make a stir
Like a great Astronomer.
Modest, yet withal an Elf
Bold, and lavish of thyself,
Since we needs must first have met,
I have seen thee, high and low,
Thirty years or more, and yet
'Twas a face I did not know;
Thou hast now, go where I may,
Fifty greetings in a day.
Ere a leaf is on a bush,
In the time before the Thrush
Has a thought about its nest,
Thou wild come with half a call,
Spreading out thy glossy breast
Like a careless Prodigal;
Telling tales about the sun,
When we've little warmth, or none.
Poets, vain men in their mood!
Travel with the multitude;
Never heed them: I aver
That they all are wanton Wooers;
But the thrifty Cottager,
Who stirs little out of doors,
Joys to spy thee near her home,
Spring is coming, Thou art come!
Comfort have thou of thy merit,
Kindly, unassuming Spirit!
Careless of thy neighbourhood,
Thou dost shew thy pleasant face
On the moor, and in the wood,
In the lane - there's not a place,
Howsoever mean it be,
But 'tis good enough for thee.
Ill befall the yellow Flowers,
Children of the flaring hours!
Buttercups, that will be seen,
Whether we will see or no;
Others too of lofty mien;
They have done as worldlings do,
Taken praise that should be thine,
Little, humble Celandine!
Prophet of delight and mirth,
Scorned and slighted upon earth!
Herald of a mighty band,
Of a joyous train ensuing,
Singing at my heart's command,
In the lanes my thoughts pursuing,
I will sing, as doth behove,
Hymns in praise of what I love!
The name is probably derived from the Greek chelīdónion meaning swallow said to be so called because it blooms when the swallows return in spring. Actually it blooms much earlier than the swallow returns, but like the swallow it is regarded as a harbinger of spring.
The plant was traditionally called 'pilewort' and was used to treat the painful affliction of piles because a bunch of the fleshy small roots somewhat resembles the condition. Surprisingly Wordsworth didn’t bring that into his poem
It is a member of the buttercup family and is one of the earliest spring wild flowers, and provides nectar and pollen for bumblebees emerging from hibernation. Its flowers react very clearly to weather conditions, opening with the sun and closing whenever rain or colder weather come along.