Fragrance in Literature-Persia/Iran




Across Persia
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot

Engaged in such processes on a greater or smaller
scale the mob jostles and jabbers on. Here is a violent
altercation, probably about a question of a penny-
farthing or some such sum. There a calm and quiet
matching of wills between two courteous individuals,
upon which may probably depend a considerably
larger amount. While we are watching, suddenly a
furry head bobs into us behind, and we are nearly
knocked over by a great package strapped on a lusty
mule. There is no ' by your leave ' ; you must get out
of the way if you do not want to be knocked over.
You must take care of yourself if you are to be taken
care of at all. Farther or nearer, as the case may be,
there arises the din of the copper-smiths' bazaar, and
everywhere there is the confused buzz of voices,
streaked here and there with shouts and rough oaths ;
it is a kaleidoscope of sound. The air is filled with
spices and scents and the odour of humanity ; it seems
to have a veritable consistency of its own, and to hang
like some sort of all-enveloping medium full of smell
and noise. Even the light itself can scarcely penetrate
this resistant atmosphere. The corners are black with
a solidity of darkness, and even the sunshine, which
streams through the little windows in the vaulted roof,
has to force its way through the teeming air in shafts
of light along which dance a multitude of motes. The
East, if it does not trade well, trades at least
vehemently.


Our garden is no prim English place with well-
mown lawns and gravel walks. It is a place of
rambling little paths, fringed with a wealth of orange-
trees and bushes ; a secluded wilderness of green
restfulness. Even in the most ungentle season there
are oranges hanging from the boughs and verdure to
comfort the eye, while later, in the vivid heat of
spring, the roses load the heavy air with their perfume.

The concluding conversational ceremonies were suc-
cessfully negotiated, and we at last tore ourselves
away, feeling, I am glad to say, none the worse for
the cups of tea, the attar-of-rose-perfumed coffee, and
the Russian cigarettes which we had had to consume.

It is only in the
deserts and the jungles and the far-away mountains
and valleys that there comes the true sensation of
home. Then, indeed, it sometimes comes very keenly.
It is aroused by a little thing ; a shade of green, the
trickling of water, the breath of the wind, a chance
cry or a stray odour, and the whole yearning desire
for the old associations and the old places floods over
the heart. ' My thoughts to-day are all of home/ I
once wrote on my travels. ' Sometimes an overpowering
longing to be there comes over me, a great dragging
at the heart that makes the thought of all the weary
miles almost too much to bear. I fall into a day-
dream on some monotonous march, and for a little
there are about me friends and familiar things ; then
with a start I awake, and there, all around, is the
white, lonely waste, bounded by the far snow-clad hills,
and I, who was a moment ago thousands of miles
away, am back again plodding my tiny inches forward
on my little pony.'


Persia, the awakening East

Cresson, W. P

Yet, in spite of all this apparent confusion,
a certain order reigns. Each trade and corpora-
tion has its own quarter where men of the same
calling work side by side. There are streets
where the traveller's ears are deafened by the
pounding of brass and the beating of leather;
more silent ways, hung with bright colors like
those of the cloth-dealers ; and others again filled
with pungent smells and spicy odors, where the
perfume-sellers ply their trade. A native seems
always able to discover in what part of this great
Oriental " department store " his needs can be
supplied, but to a foreigner this labyrinth of
strange trades and callings will always remain
something of a mystery.

True, for a few brief weeks in the spring-
time a miracle is wrought on these barren plains.
Under the magic spell of the tempered sun and
gentle rain, an ephemeral carpet of grass and
wild flowers is spread over the stony waste. Then
the caravan grazes wide across the plain, and the
land is filled with the sound of running water
and the scent of growing herbage.

Queer things about Persia
Lorey, Eustache de; Sladen, Douglas Brooke Wheelton

When the meal is ended the ewer is brought round
again, this time filled with rose-perfumed water. The
guests then get up and smoke kalyans. Some of them
may remain all night and sleep there ; others will have
their servants to fetch them, with the enormous lanterns
called fanouSy which are generally white with a red stripe
round them.

The Royal biroun consists of a mass of hetero-
geneous buildings surrounding the Gulistan, or rose
garden, a perfumed oasis where huge fountains spread
sheets of rippling coolness ; where clear streams in
channels of pale turquoise blue tiles glide between
green lawns gay with peacocks, swans, and doves ;
where, behind masses of rare plants and flowers, rise
groves of dark cypresses, pines, planes, and willows.

The Khiaban-i-Almasieh is the most picturesque
avenue of Teheran. It begins at a monumental gate,
with its great arch set in tiles that flash like jewels,
flanked by double arches not less rich and crowned by a
delicate arcade filled in with sapphire sky as clear as
glass, and ends at the principal gate of the Imperial
Enderoun, Dervazeh Almas — the Gate of Diamonds —
so called because of the looking-glasses cut in the shape
of diamonds, shining in the sun, which ornament its bright
red fagade.
It is in this avenue that the most beautiful trees of
Teheran are found — huge trees, between which roses,
apricots, and peaches let fall into the stream of clear
water, which runs down it, the petals of their fragrant
blossoms.

In the Library, which comes next, in fragrant cedar
cupboards, are to be found by the thousand precious
ancient manuscripts adorned with invaluable miniatures.

A little farther on was a shop where they sold
porcelain ; where amongst horrible modern Russian
things, which had no other title to be Kadim except
their battered condition, could be found some beautiful
china and the unique tiles of rich metallic lustre whose
manufacture is a lost art. These fetch a very high
price in the market of Teheran ; a piece no bigger than
a prayer-book may be worth twenty pounds. Especially
charming were the tall porcelain flasks, almost the shape
of an Italian wine-flask, used for scent, holding a pint
or less, some of course quite tiny. The old porcelain
tea-caddies which you may find in this bazar are almost
unique. They are shaped like our old-fashioned silver
tea-caddies.


Glimpses of life and manners in Persia

Sheil, Mary Leonora Woulfe, Lady; Sheil, Justin, Sir,

The town of Gilpaegan was in a more than ordinary
state of decay. An impression was made on me of this
place by a present of a camel-load really an ass-load
of roses. They had no stalks, and were tied up in a large
cloth. As soon as it was untied the sweet perfume filled
the whole tent, and attracted Frances, who sat down in
the midst of the fragrant heap, and would have made a
pretty picture with the roses scattered on her head and
lap. I am told that in this part of Persia, and in Ker-
manshah, melon-fields are to be seen three or four miles
in length, and a mile and a half in breadth. I really
believe there is no exaggeration in the statement.

Through Persia on a side-saddle

Sykes, Ella C

Our garden had masses of tumbled-looking pink roses, and it
was one of the occupations of the women to nip the heads
off to make rose-water, and great fun they had during this
operation. One day I came across a group of laughing girls,
their ghostly white sheets thrown back, who were surrounding
one of their number lying flat on the takt, or mud platform,
in the garden, and gleefully burying her in the fragrant pink
blossoms.

The famous attar of roses is no longer manufactured in
Kerman, the reason being that the roses grown in the few
gardens round the town are not nearly sufficient to render the
distillation of the renowned perfume worth while, if indeed the
Kermanis have not lost the secret of the art.
Plenty of rose-water, however, is made, being used by the
rich for their ablutions, and by all classes to flavour their
sherbets. The process of making it was a very simple one,
masses of rose-heads being put into a great iron pot of water,
and the vessel heaped round with burning charcoal. A jar
filled with cold water was then placed on the flowers, and the
perfumed fluid slowly dripped from a tube passed through the
cold water into a bottle placed to receive it Whoever was
making this gulabi always insisted on drenching our handker-
chiefs with the warm liquid, which had a most sickly odour.
In some gardens certain rose-trees grew to a great height,
forming a sort of arbour, a mass of pure waxy white or yellow
or vivid orange blossoms — a wonderful sight to behold ; and in
their mazes the sweet-voiced little bulbuls sang at intervals all
day long ; while about this time the pistachio-trees were most
beautiful, their nuts hanging in pale green bunches, flushed
with a brilliant crimson.


On halting for the night, we found we
were in Mazenderan. It was a delightfully cool spot,
surrounded by high mountains, but without a village or
inhabitants ; situated on a high bank overlooking the river
Heraz, which flows past the city of Amol into the Caspian.
We enjoyed the cool breezes, and the fresh trout from
the river, and pitied our friends in sultry Shemeroon.
Next day the road was not quite so precipitous ; we
skirted round the mountain of Demawend, and saw the
everlasting snow within a few hundred yards of us, while
under our feet there was a brilliant carpet of bright
blossoms and fragrant herbs. On our right hand was a
steep precipice, at the bottom of which rolled the Heraz,
and the road was not too difficult to prevent us from
appreciating the pleasant embalmed air and wild scene.
At length we arrived close to the town of Ask, which
seemed to me to be buried in a hole in the mountains,
and my heart failed me when I saw the formidable
descent we must make before reaching it.

Sometimes the tra-
veller passes for miles through a plain, or over moun-
tains far remote from human habitation, covered with
aromatic plants, from which the most delicious spicy
odours are exhaled.

It was an ideal halting-place, as the village was situated in
a long, grassy valley resplendent with flowers. The air was
scented with the perfume of sweetbriar and peppermint, an
odd combination ; the euphorbia grew in sheets of vivid
yellow, varied with pink patches of lousewort, while the
lavender, sage, camomile, daisy, celandine, and a little con-
volvulus were in full bloom with many another flower. This
charming spot was unfortunately too distant from the hills,
where my brother hoped to have some sport, and he left at
daybreak next morning in search of a good camping ground,
sending the syce back about ten o'clock with a message to
say that he had found a suitable place, and that I was to
follow as soon as possible.


The Farman Farma had left his citadel in the town, and,
after the custom of all Persians when about to travel, had
taken a pavilion outside, the better to collect his servants and
belongings. As his garden adjoined ours, a large breach was
speedily made in the mud wall between them, and his High-
ness gave us a good deal of his society, dining with us
without ceremony, and inviting us in return to repasts in
one of the prettiest rooms I ever entered in Persia, a large
apartment entirely decorated with mirror-work (that is, bits of
looking-glass arranged in intricate patterns on stucco-work),
and having two rows of elaborately carved niches, in which
Persians place quinces, being much addicted to their
perfume.


It was most pleasant to wander about the extensive date-
groves, watered by three parallel streams winding among the
crops of barley and Indian corn springing up under the trees.
The whole place was perfumed by patches of beans in full
flower, and we had the unwonted sight of lettuces and young
onions, while tiny purple irises gemmed the grass. We had
to cross and recross the streams continually, over somewhat
insecure bridges formed of hollowed-out palm-trunks through
which water poured, and on the edges of which we had to
balance ourselves as best we could.

We left Ismailabad the following afternoon, and as we
issued from the gateway we found a large crowd of Parsee
women assembled to speed us on our way, and to avert the
evil eye from our path. Their manner of compassing this
latter was somewhat novel to me. On a large brass tray a
mirror and some burning scented herb had been placed, and
as we were about to mount, one of the women advanced and
held the tray towards us, thus securing us from all danger on
the road.


On the last night of our stay in camp the shikarchis (hunts-
men) gave us a display of what they called atish barzi, or
fireworks, setting light to the abundant scrub on the castel-
lated crest of a hill close to our camp. The scene reminded
me of descriptions I had read of the sack of some old baronial
stronghold. The sheets of flame shooting up into the dark-
ness, the rolling masses of smoke, and the crowd of silhouetted
figures rushing wildly around the keep-like summit, all
fostered the illusion, while the air was heavy with the aro-
matic scent of the burning sage and thyme.

Gidr was a very pleasant halting-place with its fields of
green barley, blossoming fruit trees, and profusion of scented
willows in full flower. A river added considerably to these
attractions, although it was but a marshy stream flowing
between high sandstone banks. We looked down from them
on to crowds of camels feeding on the tamarisk scrub
growing close to the water's edge, and enjoyed the unusual
sight of plenty of bird life.

In the land of the lion and sun; or Modern Persia. Being experiences of life in Persia from 1866 to 1881

Wills, Charles James

Persia is not a favourable place for flowers ; the gardeners
merely sow in patches, irrigate them, and let them come up as
they will. Zinnias, convolvulus. Marvel of Peru of all colours,
and growing at times as a handsome bushy plant, five feet
high, covered with blossoms ; asters, balsams, wallflower,
chrysanthemums, marigolds, China and moss roses, or *'gul-i-
soorkh " (from these the rose-water is made), and the perfume
in the gardens from them is at times overpowering, are the
usual flowers. Yellow and orange single roses are common ;
they are, however, devoid of scent. The noisette rose, too, is
much grown, and the nestorange, a delicately-scented single
rose, the tree growing to a great size.
The favourite plant is the narcissus ; it grows wild in many
parts of Persia. Huge bundles of the cut flowers are seen in
the dwelUngs of rich and poor ; the scent is very powerful.

The Persians cut small rings of coloured paper, cloth, or
velvet, and ornametit (?) the flower by placing the rings of
divers colours between the first and second rows of petals, and
the effect is strange, and not unpleasing, leading one to suppose
on seeing it for the first time that a bouquet of new varieties
has been cut, for so transparent a cheat does not strike one as
possible, and a newcomer often examines them with admiration,
failing to detect, or rather not suspecting, any deception. The
ordinary Lilium candidwn is much admired in the gardens
of the great, and is called " Gul-i-Marian " (Mary's flower).
A large proportion of the narcissus are double ; it is the single
variety that the Persians ornament. The tulip, too, grows
wild, and the colchicum, also the cyclamen. Above Shiraz,
however, there are few wild flowers until onenearsthe Caspian;
but below Kazeroon, in the spring, the road is literally a flower-
bespangled way, blazing Avith various tulips and hyacinths,
cyclamens, etc.

In the sunken beds of many of the courtyards are orange
trees ; the scent from the blossoms of these is rather overpower-
ing in spring ; the beds beneath are generally covered with a
tangle of luxuriant convolvulus or clover. The oranges are
the bitter orange, like that of Seville ; generally a few of the
fruit are allowed to remain, and all through the winter the
golden balls make the trees gay. In the bazaar the sweet
oranges from Kafr and Kazeran, limes, fresh dates, pomiloes,
shaddocks, and fresh lemons, show that we are in a w^armer
zone.

Persia has particularly fine quinces and pomegranates. The
latter I have seen of four pounds' weight. The Ispahan
quinces are sent all over the country, packed in cotton, as
presents. They give forth a very strong and agreeable
perfume, which is much delighted in by the natives ; and they
are passed from hand to hand, and savoured like a sweet-
scented flower. The Attar-beg pomegranates have no per-
ceptible seeds, and their flavour is very delicious. Their
variety is great — sweet, sour, or sour-sweet; they vary, too,
from white to almost black in the pulp. As the pomegranate
flourishes throughout Persia, it seems strange that it is not
cultivated in England. It is very handsome as a shrub, and
the scarlet bloom most effective as a garden ornament. The
fig is small, but luscious, and innumerable varieties are found.
Gooseberries and currants are unknown.


Necklaces and bracelets are much worn, and numerous
chains with scent-caskets attached to them ; while the arms
are covered with clanking glass bangles, called "Alangu,"
some twenty even of these hoops being worn on an arm.

Toorbesah, white radishes, are grown about the size of an
Qgg, the tops are boiled and eaten as greens. Apples are good
and common. Pears are very bad. The quinces and pome-
granates are magnificent; the former especially are grown
in Ispahan and are of great size and fragrance. They are
sent with the Gourg-ab melons all over Persia as presents to
grandees.