Tuesday, 16 March 2010


“A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky -

I've thought of all by turns, and still I lie
Sleepless…” - William Wordsworth

The common valerian, Valeriana officinalis, is the day’s birthday flower.  It symbolises a good disposition and the astrologers assign the plant to Mercury.  Valerian is thought to have aphrodisiac properties and it was thought in the past that if a girl wore valerian she would not have a shortage of suitors. Valerian is used by herbalists to treat anxiety and also as a sedative. Many natural herbal preparations use valerian as a gentle sleep-inducing agent. The mechanism of action of valerian in general, as a mild sedative in particular, remains unknown. Valerian extracts appear to have some affinity for the GABAA (benzodiazepine) receptor. Valerian also contains isoavalerate, which has been shown to be an agonist for adenosine A1 receptor sites. This action may contribute to the herb's sedative effects.

The Song of the Swallow

See! See! The swallow is here!
She brings good season, she brings a good year;
White is her breast and black is her crest;
See the swallow is here!

Ho! A roll of fruit cake from your well-filled cot,
Of cheese a fair round, of wine a full pot;
Porridge she’ll take and a bite of hardbake;
She never despises good cheer.

Go we away empty today?
An thou wilt give us, we’ll up and away;
But an thou deny us,
O, here we shall stay.

Shall we take your door and your lintel also,
Shall we take the good wife that is sitting below?
She’s not so tall, but we’ll lift her and all –
We can easily bear her away.

If you give us but a little, God will give you more;
The swallow is here, come open the door.
No greybeards you’ll see, but children are we
So we pray you to give us good cheer!
        Athenaeus, (3rd century AD, translated by J.M. Edmonds)

With the coming of Spring, ancient Greek children went from house to house singing the “Swallow Song” as they do today in rural Greece.  The song meant to bring in fertility, fecundity and wishes for good crops.  On hearing the song, the housewife was under the obligation to treat the children with goodies from her cellar.


  1. A beautiful read and the picture is a pleasure to the eyes.

    I don't come here as often as I should. Well I do actually, but I don't always have the time to stick around. Makes mental note to self to change one's ways.

  2. What a lovely spring poem!
    I use valerian herbal tablets to help me sleep sometimes and they really work!!!!