Monday, 23 May 2016

Lily of the Valley


This is a scent which is becoming rare - not because the flower no longer grows or the ingredients can no longer be blended, it is the wearer of it which has all but died out.

If you took, at random, a girl born between 1895 and 1920, let her mature until somewhere between late teens and early twenties, and nurtured her with the occasional ball or dance, a Summer Fete or a trip to the coast with parents and siblings until she watched her own offspring by a survivor of a world war find their own scent - the girls giving it off and the boys never quite identifying its name - then it strengthened through evaporation. Its real name was a secret never to be told, even if she had the words or time left to tell it.

Not just Lily of the Valley, it is - or was - the distilled memories of the youth of an old woman.

Overload time:

This below, is the only proper poem I ever wrote, and I wrote it when living with Shawn here in Bath, in 1976. Ok, I know this is a bit of a floral binge-fest, but I'm going to give it an airing after all these years. It's crap, but I still like it.

Orpheus and Euridice

Walk in the land that time forgot
(the land remembers, we do not)
and in the sickly-scented shade
of Cypress trees, an esplanade
will lead the way to where there stood
a temple, in a silent wood
of Cedars from the Lebanon.

This grove of living censers found
the perfume that they spread around
with roots, sunk deep into the land
where incense lies, and where they stand
like priests upon the mountainside.

A crumbing fresco on a wall - 
a broken picture - can recall
with words more vividly than thought,
a memory, which, if left to aught
but flowers would too soon decay, 
lose its colour, fade away,
like Orpheus and Euridice.

27 comments:

  1. Bet you never smell of it!
    Fags and beer more like

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    1. I used to buy the soap - around the same time I wrote the above addition. These days you are right - + farts.

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  2. Replies
    1. I need R.D. Stainforth to read it for me, sitting on a staircase and punctuating it with long drags from a cigarette whilst searching the ceiling for the call of the muse. Or maybe not...

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    2. I've just been looking at RDS's recent offering..... he gets worse and worse.

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    3. I think he was wearing a blanket!

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    4. I thought he had been sacked. Maybe they just blocked me.

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  3. That reminds me of an older lady I once encountered in a store. She was perturbed that nobody was using talcum powder anymore. She seemed to think that people are now content to smell badly. I did not have the heart to tell her that we had moved on to anti-perspirant's.

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    1. Your comment made me chuckle, Iris.

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    2. It's a true story. Bless her heart.

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    3. Old ladies tend to smell of stale cake if they lose their sense of smell - in my experience...

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  4. Are you reading Edith Wharton right now? Lily of the valley are top of my list. I have an entire bed of them, carried with me to new homes and started from a trowel full from my great grandmother's garden. My great grandmother Cox; Uncle Pearl Cox' sister in law.

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    1. No, not reading Edith Wharton. I don't know why Lily of the Valley came into my head. They are (were) often featured in fairy book illustrations, I think.

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  5. I quite like the second paragraph of this post. If written in lines it would be a fine example of free verse. I'm not sure what you mean by "proper poem" but this one strikes me as Tennysonian.

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    1. I mean one which rhymes - de da de da de da de da...

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  6. Here in France, Lilly of the Valley (Muguet) is given to friends on May 1st. People are also allowed to sell it on Parisian street corners without any permits. It's BIG on May 1st.

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  7. Lily of the Valley (and Mimosas) are my favourite flowers.
    Your poem is very good, I like it.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. When I was young, I used to always buy Lily of the Valley soap. I was in touch with my feminine side I suppose...

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  8. Lily of the Valley is my Ma's favourite flower.
    What a multi talented man you are Mr S.

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    Replies
    1. See above - not just for elderly ladies!

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  9. I shall be thinking about my grandmother all day after reading this post. Not a bad thing.

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    1. I never knew any of my grandmothers - 'either', I suppose!

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  10. You have so many artistic strings to your bow Tom ...... I really love the poem, only slightly marred by the fags, beer and farts comments !!!!! ...... it was lovely up until then !!!! XXXX

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