“There is no art without Eros.” - Max Frisch
The field daisy, Bellis perennis, is today’s birthday flower. It is the symbol of purity and virginity, adoration and innocence. In the language of flowers, the daisy speaks the words: “I share your sentiments”. It is under the dominion of Venus and in the past bruised leaves were applied to the testes to reduce swellings there! It used to be said, that Spring had not truly arrived until one could step over 12 daisy blooms under one foot on a lawn where they were growing. For the Northern Hemisphere, this is quite an apt birthday flower for this day, as Spring has truly sprung there.
The first cuckoos of Spring should be heard around this time in Europe. It is very lucky to be walking around when you hear the first cuckoo. On the other hand, one should be sitting when one sees the first swallow of the year:
Gang and hear the gowk yell
Sit and see the swallow flee
‘Twill be a happy year with thee.
If you hear the first cuckoo from your bed, you or someone in your family will die that year. If you have no money in your pocket or if you fail to jingle the coins in your pocket when you hear the first cuckoo call, then you will be poor all year. If you take some earth from under your right foot where you were standing when you heard the first cuckoo, scatter it where you do not want fleas to breed.
The cuckoo is a merry bird, she sings us as she flies
She brings us good tidings, she tells us no lies.
She dries up the dirt in the Spring of the year
And sucks little birds’ eggs to keep her voice clear.
Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933) was a Greek Alexandrian poet whose family was one of the oldest and most renowned of the Greek diaspora. He lived in Alexandria, Constantinople and London and just as he was coming to the end of adolescence, his family’s fortunes changed and his poetry is tinged with the colours of decadence and remembrances of past glories. His intense eroticism and “art for art’s sake” puts him on a parallel course with Oscar Wilde. Although embracing the European decadence he never denies his Hellenism and often his poems mine deeply into the past in order to gain inspiration and comment cuttingly on the present and future. His poetry influenced not only his compatriots but through his involvement with the English made him one of the better known of the modern Greek poets. The recurrent theme of Eros as viewed by the ancient Greeks often revolves around his own homosexuality and with implicit and tacit understanding transcends the fleshly Eros as described and attempts to capture the spiritualism of love.
Without thought, without pity, without shame
They built around me tall, forbidding walls.
And as I sit here now, in hopelessness,
I think of nothing else, my mind corroded by this lucklessness;
Because I had so much to do outside the walls.
How careless I must have been, not to have seen them building walls…
And yet I never heard the sound of builders or of construction.
They isolated me from the world around me quite imperceptibly.
Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933)