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Miracle on St David’s Day

Forty years ago, in a Valleys school, • The poet guesses that as a child ‘forty years ago’ in a school in the Welsh valleys
the class recited poetry by rote. the children learned poems by repeating them aloud – ‘by rote’. For the first time
since his unhappiness/depression made him retreat inside himself so that in his
Since the dumbness of misery fell ‘dumbness of misery’ he ceased to speak, her poetry has somehow awakened his
he has remembered there was a music pleasure in what she calls the ‘music of speech’. He has ‘remembered’ he once
of speech and that once he had something to say. ‘had something to say’.

When he’s done, before the applause, we observe

the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings • In the last verse of only three lines there is a moment of silence before the applause
and the daffodils are flame. which is always a real tribute to the speaker. Using metaphor she refers to this as
‘the flowers’ silence’, reminding us of the setting and the subject of the poem he
recited. As though nature joined in the tribute a thrush began to sing and using
Gillian Clarke assonance and metaphor ‘the daffodils are flame’, as their colour grew stronger.

• This is a moving poem. It says much about those society writes off, probably most
especially the mentally ill. It reminds us of the power of memory and the capability
of the human spirit to revive. Remember that the Welsh are lovers and makers of
music and since pre-Christian times poets.

• Saints like St David become saints because they perform miracles; that is, believers
pray to them for help in sickness for instance, and a cure that cannot be medically
explained is a ‘miracle’. Here it is appropriate that on St David’s Day the dumb
man speaks and he recites The Daffodils, and daffodils are worn in Wales to
celebrate St David’s Day.

Structure and Form

• Each verse has five lines, except the eighth which has three in order to emphasise
the stunned reaction of his audience and the beauty of the setting. The metre is
irregular though the lines are roughly of the same length. It is unrhymed.

Comparative Ideas

• Look at other poems in the collection which are about the enduring power of
childhood memories, whether positive as this was or not. You might consider:

The Barn
Old Man, Old Man
Once Upon A Time