THERE IS in the west of Ireland a flower called the love daffodil. Most daffodils bloom in Spring time, a beautiful yellow that lifts it’s head to the spring sun and follows it until the sun sets in the west. Then slowly closes it’s petals and droops it’s head toward the ground until the sun rises the next morning.
The love daffodil pushes through the snow in January and is buffeted by cold winds and shone down upon by an icy sun. The colour of the love daffodil is red. Some say if you find it on a clear frosty night in a full moon, blood drips from it’s petals to the snow covered ground.
You may ask why there is such a sad flower as this, that grows alone in the middle of winter before even the crocus heralds the spring.
It all happened a long time ago.
There once was a rich farmer who’s wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. They called her Caithleen.
It was fortunate indeed that she inherited her mother’s looks and her father intelligence. She grew up without her mothers vanity for her mother was very vain and was considered a great beauty.
Everywhere her father went Caithleen would follow listening to every word that was spoken. The workers loved her for she had a great memory for names. From the oldest man or woman whom she addressed as Mr or Mrs. to the youngest baby of the tenant farmers. The girls were jealous of her long black hair dark eyes and skin as smooth as velvet, yet for all that, they liked her.
The boys would blush and stutter in front of her not sure what to say to one so beautiful.
Her vain mother watched all that was happening and became envious of her daughter. The more her own beauty faded the more she made plans to be once more called the most beautiful of all Ireland.
One day as Caithleen was away on some errand she spoke to her husband.
“Husband,” she said, “you are indeed a rich man.”
He nodded, tapping his pipe on the heel of his shoe. “I have been blessed many times over. You, a beautiful and devoted wife, a daughter that I love and land that yields plenty.”
She watched him slyly as he gazed contentedly into the fire. “I hear,” she said, “there are vagabonds on the roads ready to take innocent young girls for ransom.”
Her husband stared at her in horror. “Ransom?”
“Yes, all the gold you can find and when they get it they kill the poor innocent ones.”
“Oh I could never let that happen to my beloved Caithleen. I will hire guards to protect her.”
“That will not help,” cried his wife, “for there are too many of the thieves.”
“Then wife what are we to do?”
His wife turned away so he couldn’t see the look of glee on her face. Her voice was sad. “For her own good she must be locked up in the dungeon where none may find her.”
“Never!” Cried her husband, “Caithleen is like a flower, she needs the rain on her face and the warm summer sun to bloom. I will ponder on this vexatious question.”
And ponder he did for a whole month driving his wife mad with his indecision. Then one day he made up his mind. “I will build a room for my beautiful Caithleen on top of the house. From there she will see all the countryside while none will be able to gaze on her. That way she will be safe from thieves and vagabonds.”
Unhappy though she was being locked away, she did her fathers bidding and settled in the room at the top of the house.
The seasons came and went. Spring with a sea of bluebells, summer with rolling hills of purple heather and long stalked rushes with balls of seed stuck to the top. Autumn lay the golden fields of wheat and winter when the ground slept.
Years passed and Caithleen grew more beautiful while her mother, with her sly ways turned into a very cranky woman because everybody kept asking for her daughter, never once mentioning how beautiful she was.
One Winters day her husband declared that he must have the thatch on the roof repaired.
With fear in her heart his wife gripped his arm. “But husband if the thatcher climbs the roof and sees your daughter he will tell the whole country.”
Her husband had aged a lot because he missed having his daughter by his side yet he could still smile. “Worry not wife, I have fixed everything.”
The next morning as the sun climbed into the blue frosty sky, Caithleen was awoken by the sound of singing.
She looked out the window and saw a young man about her own age working away pulling out the old thatch and replacing it with new. His hair was the colour of the straw that he matted with his fine strong hands.
He sang of the flight of the swallow and the music carried her to where the bird soared and knowing the song joined in.
“‘Tis a beautiful voice you have,” he said when the song finished.
Caithleen blushed. “Thank you, so have you. I’ve not seen you around here before.”
With nimble feet he climbed the roof to where she stood at the window. “I’m from the next county, my name is Shamus.” His smile was wide and happy.
Caithleen gave a start. His eyes were grey, plain grey. He was blind.
“Be careful you might slip!”
Shamus stood, sure footed, the smile growing ever wider. “I haven’t fallen off a roof yet and I’m the best thatcher in all of Ireland.”
Caithleen smiled. “You’re very sure of yourself.”
Shamus grinned. “I must get back to work or I’ll have no job by sunset and you must get to your work or you’ll get into trouble.”
“Oh, I. . ..” Caithleen blushed. “Yes, I’d better.”
Over the next days and weeks Caithleen and Shamus used to meet and talk and sing. Funny thing, no-one in or around the house could hear them yet, people out in the fields would stop and listen and wonder what kind of new bird had come to Ireland.
It was a grey day and late snow had started to fall. Shamus climbed up the roof to the window where Caithleen stood.
“Tis my last day Caithleen, I’ve come to say farewell.”
She wiped away the tears that ran down her face. Caithleen had fallen deeply in love with the handsome blind thatcher and had thought of all the ways she could stop him leaving.
“I’ve brought you a present,” he held out his hand, “’tis the first flower of spring.” The yellow daffodil shone out against the snow flakes that fell around him. Cathleen reached out and for a brief moment their hands touched.
“Caithleen, you have the most beautiful singing voice and when you speak I can feel the caring in it. At night I dream of what you might look like.”
Shamus paused, searching for words. “I wonder – before I go could I touch your face, just once?”
Wordlessly Caithleen reached out for his hand and guided it to her cheek. His touch was feather light as he traced her hair, the shape of her eyes, her nose. His fingers lingered on her lips. Gently she kissed each one.
“What is going on here?”
Caithleen’s mother strode into the room and seeing her daughter about to kiss the blind thatcher screamed. “Get away from her.”
She dragged her daughter away from the window and with a great heave threw Shamus down the roof. He tried to get a foothold but the snow, now thick made it too slippery.
Pushing her mother aside, Caithleen leaned out the window and watched her beloved slip over the side.
Beneath him was the last of the straw for the roof held together by stakes stuck in the ground.
His last word before his body was impaled was her name. “Caithleen!!”
With a cry of despair and still clutching the daffodil she leapt from the window. Down, down she slipped, her eyes never leaving the body of Shamus.
Her father found them, both impaled on the same stake, face to face, their lips touching. Between them lay the daffodil covered with their blood. With a breaking heart he buried them side by side on the hillside overlooking the farm. It was talked about near and far, the beautiful smiles they had on their faces.
If you suffering a broken heart, go to the West of Ireland in Wintertime. Search for the blood red daffodil. If you find it, hold it close to your breast and it will heal all unhappiness.
© John W. Kelly