Snowdrops are a delightful sight in February. They give a bright feel to mossy grounds which sparks a little joy on a grey day. These flowers are known to have approximately 20 variations of species and can grow up to 30cm tall. The botanical name is Galanthus, gala in Greek means “milk” and anthos, meaning “flower”(Wikipedia.org).
Although they are cultivated far and wide it is thought that they are native to eastern Europe. It is believed that many soldiers of the Crimean War brought small bundles of these bulbs back to Britain, but were first documented in Botanical text in the 16th century (www.nhm.ac.uk). Today they are cherished and there are dedicated Snowdrop Gardens open throughout the UK.
The snowdrops delicate nature has attracted the attention of many poets. Emily Dickinson, the garden lover, often uses metaphors to describe elements of nature. In the poem “I taste a liquor never brewed” she is giving praise to her garden, “drunk” on the intoxication of scent, beauty and botanical skills in cultivation. She uses metaphor to convey feelings, in my opinion, of her joy in the garden. I love the last stanza as she refers to the “seraphs” (a variety of snowdrop) as they “swing their snowy hats”.
I taste a liquor never brewed – From Tankards scooped in Pearl – Not all the Vats upon the Rhine Yield such an Alcohol! Inebriate of air – am I – And Debauchee of Dew – Reeling – thro’ endless summer days – From inns of Molten Blue – When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee Out of the Foxglove’s door – When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” – I shall but drink the more! Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats – And Saints – to windows run – To see the little Tippler Leaning against the – Sun! By Emily Dickinson. William Wordsworth also thought of these little white flowers as angelic. In his poem “On seeing a tuft of snowdrops in a storm”, he uses words such as “faithful and immortal”.
When haughty expectations prostrate lie, And grandeur crouches like a guilty thing, Oft shall the lowly weak, till nature bring Mature release, in fair society Survive, and Fortune’s utmost anger try; Like these frail snow-drops that together cling, And nod their helmets smitten by the wing Of many a furious whirlblast sweeping by. Observe the faithful flowers! if small to great May lead the thoughts, thus struggling used to stand The Emathian phalanx, nobly obstinate; And so the bright immortal Theban band, Whom onset, fiercely urged at Jove’s command, Might overwhelm, but could not separate! By William Wordsworth.