Snowdrops. Photo by me.

 

Candlemas bells, Galanthus, you still sound just north of the Levant, drifting across the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. You came to me via the piety of Benedictines serving the faith in rejection of most else—they brought you from Renaissance Subiaco on foot or on horseback, in canvas bags tucked inside leather satchels— and they poured you out into the sunlight, then buried you in chimes a stone’s throw from their dark nocturns and early morning prayers. They did love their gardens, the monastics, as they loved God. They must have loved you.

The candles that were lit in these cold, stone buildings each February, where congregations gathered to beeswaxed pews from all corners of the shire to pray, now spill into the graveyards in the form I find you today on the Goggin, all the way from the Abbot’s fields of Lazio. Now you are the candles and the incense burnings along the lane, up on the mown verge. You ring far beyond the Church of England walls, and we are glad, pushing up the hill into the coppice. You are the flowing immigrant to enshrine the earliest of Spring, the short days of hibernation breaking into longer spells.

The light and the change-ringing is coming back, in you.

Your little bell-bulbs are set strong in the hedges and woodlands, and even your seed will sprout if the Queen Bumblebees are early. We love this kind of campanology, and the shadows you cast on crushed, rusted bracken, when the early sun rises low to the East, and your heads bow low to the breeze that swings in from the Baltic and then from the Irish sea. The glistening cells of your petals are clean vellum in that light. You are a bright manuscript awaiting attention; the illuminations of that life, the gold leaves at sunset.

Thank you for it all, dear snowdrops of the Galunaissance. Your familiar sound is a salve for me. If you didn’t ring, what terrible sign that’d be. My genes chime deep in the Brythonic, pre-Roman. But Celts too hailed from elsewhere, from the South. You are an Islander bell, just like me, and all incomers, aged and new. We all wash over these lands in the change-ringing. In the time we are here, best to care for it all.

 


Note: There is no certain origin, as yet, for the introduction of snowdrops into great Britain. I am making a calculated guess, is all.


Audio: MP4

 

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