Saturday, June 27, 2009

Eye to Eye

An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face.
'That eye is like to this eye,'
Said the first eye,
'But in low place,
Not in high place.'

"Ss, ss, ss," said Gollum. He had been underground a long long time, and was forgetting this sort of thing. But just as Bilbo was beginning to hope that the wretch would not be able to answer, Gollum brought up memories of ages and ages and ages before, when he lived with his grandmother in a hole in a bank by a river, "Sss, sss, my preciouss," he said. "Sun on the daisies it means, it does." --J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

That was what sprang to mind when I found these flowers in Minden, Nevada last week. I was waiting to meet family and had a couple of hours to spare. There was a little park, or perhaps a border, around a small pond. The landscaping, as you can see, was very nice. There were drip lines under the bigger bushes (mostly currants and Oregon grapes) and the small trees, which were obviously put there on purpose, but everywhere else it looked as though Nevada had been left to fill in as it pleased. And it pleased!

Where was I? Oh, daisies. I have doubly enjoyed the memory of that "eye in a blue face," riddle since taking Old English. At some point, we learned the original form of the word "daisy" was the Old English dæges eage*, literally "day's eye," comparing it, if I remember aright, to the sun itself. Given Tolkien's philological inclinations the good old riddle is likely linguistic as well as picturesque.

*It's pronounced approximately "DYE-ess EYE-uh"

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