1931-A Spring Idyll: The writer poetically celebrates the beauty of the Daphne bush in Wyllies Lane

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 07 April 1931

DAPHNE: A SPRING IDYLL.

Tradition says that the lane leading from the little hamlet of Ansty down the woods and leas and on to Slough Green is the oldest road in Cuckfield.


One of its names, the “Wyllies” Lane, which is the old Saxon word for “fox,”goes to confirm this. However that may be, it has many interesting features, and in the long ago there was a particularly picturesque rambling old cottage where, in a comer of the garden path, once grew so sweetly and modestly the little Daphne bush.

The Daphne bush

There I first saw her on that bright sunny morning throwing her graceful flowering branches into the fresh Spring air, offering up her incense to the heavens and welcoming the great masses of clouds that came floating over the Downs like huge migrant birds returning to assure us of the breaking Spring. There in the little cottage garden, with all the pageantry of the opening Spring, the little Daphne—not waiting for her leaves- threw out her sweet blossoms, determined to be one of the first to usher in the new spirit of the year.


Then and there I fell desperately and hopelessly in love with her. I loved her well-set-up habit of growth; I loved her little mauvy flowering spikes blushing in all the glorious virginity of their newfound blossoms and covering the brown stems to the very tip—now-puce and pink, now flushed with rose, changing and reddening to the kisses of the Spring sun. I loved the delicious, fascinating scent she threw into the sweet air. Was there ever perfume refreshing and intriguing as the Daphne’s? As she grew there in the corner of her old garden, waving her blossoms in the golden sunlight and flirting with the light Spring air, I thought her the “sweetest thing that ever grew beside human door."


I entreated her to give me her new-found love, to share her sweet young life with me, but Daphne was shy and tremulous; she feared to leave her old cottage garden and the shelter of the big apple tree. She pleaded her strange ancestry, and the tragedy of her history.


She slily warned me that history repeats itself, and if a lovely Greek nymph could be turned into a little bush, who knows but what the bush might change, and again become a beautiful wilful goddess and then . . , ? I protested that fear had no place in my heart. Whether she were the sweet Daphne bush, or Daphne, the Greek goddess, I should contented if she would pledge her love to me. She answered only with a whiff of her intoxicating perfume. I prayed her to pledge me in wind and rain or sun —but, no, my pleadings were of no avail. The sun and the Spring air were her first loves, and in a last despairing hope, I sang her this little song:


Pledge to me in the winds of heaven,

Pledge to me in the clinging vine,

Pledge to me in the white snow driven,

But pledge, only pledge, your love to mine.


Pledge to me when the fragrant earth

Breathes of love in the shadowy light;

And pledge me life were nothing worth

Unless our love is linked to-night.


Pledge to me while thy blushing youth

Flings light and love from your sweet eyes,

And pledge me it is very truth,

That down one road our journey lies.


O sun and rain and whisp'ring trees.

And flowers that scent the soft green leas

You’ve heard my song, now witness ye,

Daphne has plighted her love to me!


Then Daphne relented, and a whisper came—“ When the summer fades.”


HUBERT BATES.

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