High on a chalk ridge

Too few to weave a garland –

Ophelia’s orchid.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

For Carpe Diem: On a mountain path

We found a few of these flowers on the South Downs Way today between Eastbourne and Jevington and believe they are the Early-Purple Orchid or the “Long Purple” as described by Gertrude in Hamlet:

There is a willow grows askant the brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead-men’s-fingers call them.
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

And here is Ophelia, as painted by Millais.

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt ‘Ophelia’, 1851–2