Fragrance in Nature Literature-In God's out-of-doors by William Alfred Quayle

In God's out-of-doors by William Alfred Quayle

And winds laded with odors you can not escape their sweet com-
radeship. And winds blowing across a field where haycocks exhale fra-
grance, who can escape their witchery? Such winds know how to spoil
waters and fields and forests of spikenards and balsams. I have in-
haled fragrance from winds blown fresh from the sea through moors of
purple heather, and can I forget the poetry of it even in heaven? I
pray I may not.

Winds of spring, apple-scented and with earth-smell in them ! And
walking through woods at night when dew drips from the leaves and
the score or more of odors saturate the air, and the frog's song sings
up from marshes and ravines as if that were audible odor, and star-
light plays hide-and-seek with you through the foliage, when there puffs
in your face the musk of many odors mixed, then you could catch the
Wind and kiss her on the cheek like a girl, for sheer delight. Then
when lilacs blow, and spring hastens on to June and white clover chokes
the air with heavy perfumes, and roses tell in the dark where they are
blooming by the fragrance they lent the breeze as it strayed indolently
through their dear delights, or later, when harvests spill their essences to
the languorous winds, and later still, when winds bear their sad freightage
of autumn leaves falling, or fallen, and faded. the wind is the poet
laureate of autumn; and the lonely, tearful music and autumnal fra-
grance of leaf-distilled perfumes fairly drug the senses of the spirit till
perforce the winds make us poets against our will and reason.

In one of Hosea Biglow's pastoral preludes (bless him who wrote
them and gave us Hosea!) is a touch of genius in discriminating
odors. "Mr. Wilbur sez to Hosea, 'Wut's the sweetest smell on
airth?' 'Noomone hay,' sez I, pooty bresk, for he was allus hank-
erin' 'round in hayin'. 'Nawthin' of the kine,' sez he. 'My leetle
Huldy's breath,' sez I ag'in.' 'You're a good lad,' sez he, his eyes
sort of riplin' like, for he lost a babe onc't about her age 'the best of
perfooms is just fresh air, fresh air,' sez he, emphysizin', 'athout no
mixture.' " And that is worth thinking of. All odors the winds bear
are defective as compared v/ith the utter freshness of the moving airs
themselves. "Jest fresh air," what an exhilarant that is. Drinking
water spouting fresh from mountain snow
drifts, and the blowing of clean air in the
race, and the making your piayer to God
when life grows hard or glad are not these
apart from all things else and allow of no
comparisons. Similes are lifeless here. And
the breath of a wind after a rain! Wind is
unspeakable for music and odors. What a
happy fate to be associated with such recollec-
tions. If man or woman might hope in com-
ing years, when far beyond the sight of
eyes or hearing of the ears, to stay sweet
memories in hearts which could not forget
them, what could human heart ask more?
And I have known such folks. The mention
of their names makes me think of sunlit fields.
All sweet things lie adjacent to their person-
alities, just as trees and shade and gurgling
brooks and trailing clouds and sublime soli-
tudes and what seems the ragged frontiers of the world lie adjacent to
huge mountains.

Winds are fortunate to be the carriers of aromas and music; to
come freighted with the lilac's breath and the happy voices of happy
women s laughter. But I do not hesitate to confess that the rarest
wind I have ever experienced is blown from Kansas prairies on summer
twilights. About midway in Kansas, east and west, is this wind in
perfection. Nothing equals it. I have loved winds blown from briny
seas and from the emerald deserts of great lakes and the St. Lawrence
dreaming northward like a drifting ship, and from Alp and Sierra, and
my belief still holds that for unutterable tenderness, part wind, part
spirit, for poetry whose threads can never be unbraided, these Kansas
June prairie winds have not any competitor. This may be the love of
my lifetime veering my judgment, though I incline to believe this is the
judgment of a balanced and an equal mind. The prairie wind, as I tell
you, has a witchery quite beyond the telling of any man. There have
I walked along the shores of summer twilight as on the shores of blue
and beautiful Galilee, and caressing, like an angel's hand, went the dear
wind, and in it a voice, half whisper and half dream, its touch, like the
shadow-touch of a fond hand passing across you, yet scarcely touching
you; the hush, and after that the slow streaming wind, like a breath
from heaven upon a pilgrimage across the spaces, so remote its origin
appeared; and journeying not any whither, yet everywhere and in no
haste, loverlike loving to linger for another kiss such a wind withal
as one might love to have kiss him on the face that evening, when,
after a long journey, with bleeding feet, he walked in through some
postern gate out on the fields of heaven sown to asphodels, and dim
lights and violets and immortelles. Such is the twilight summer wind
in Kansas when the prairie grasses stoop a little to let the zephyrs by.
To feel this necromancy once is worth a pilgrimage; seeing it will
endure among the luculent recollections of a happy life.

Five miles of invitation of perfumed June
lie before me. The last robin of my journey
calls with its flute-note from the fringes of the
village. He hugs the town, I fear me, over-
much, and I tremble lest his morals become
corrupted ; ,but he eyes me from his barn-roof
with a curious look, as if commiserating the
moneyless traveler who must plod along the
track instead of riding on the train or going on
a robin's speeding wings. If men are not small
folks in the bird's eyes, I miss my guess. They
have a right to feel aristocrats, who have wings
and know how to fly. The skies are fair high-
ways for treading; and I piously envy all winged
things. Sometimes, I fear I love the country
more than is comely, and then I recall I do not love it so much as God
does and am content. My march this fair morning was as a king's
triumph, all royal things coming to meet me. The soft winds sweet
with rose perfumes welcomed me with a kiss full on the mouth ; vines
reached out their graceful tendrils my way ; a meadow-lark called to me
from a nodding red clover head ; a quail invisible, hid somewhere in
meadow or hedgerow, piped in his cheerful voice across a cornfield as if
to intimate he was where he had full right to be ; the talkative sparrows
chatted along the way, having their say about the traveler going past
with his arms full of flowers ; a single blackbird with his hot crimson
epaulets flung by me as in high dudgeon, though I had done him no
earthly harm. This way is poor in birds, much to my regret, and I
know not why. Blackbirds should have been here in garrulous multi-
tudes. Plovers I looked for and found none. I think perhaps this is a
bird's holiday and they are gone from home, for certainly they are not
here, and the day is fair and belongs to them. But vegetation there
was a fortune of. The spring had latter rains, and all things had the
brilliancy of perpetuated youth upon them. Leaves fairly flashed in the
light, as if sparks were smitten from them. Long miles of grasses,
rank and lush, grew nodding to the wind. On either side were fields
planted to corn, with the farmers plowing the long rows of emerald ; or
pastures of prairie grass, than which few sights are fairer to the eyes ;
or red clover fields lent modest perfume to the air, for few odors can
compare in delicacy with those wafted from the red clover meadow, so
delicate that unless the flowers are in masses of acres in breadth, you
will not get the fragrance at all. Fields of oats with their quick green
answered to the wind, and a wheatfield with a faint haze of harvest on
it felt the goings of the spring wind. Woods, there were none. Only
a willow stooped across a ravine showing where was hidden water, or a
planted elm waved its graceful curved plumes, or a cottonwood, which
tree I profess to love and have some times talked, some times written
my affection, not being content with a single declaration. One cotton-
wood I stop to listen to and indeed what one of them do I not stop to
listen to? for the rain upon their roof is very sweet to me, and their
tearful commotion is something my heart always remembers. This
tree stood along a field edge lifting its deep green into the air in a manly
fashion, as unashamed to front the sky, and through its branches ran the
drift of autumn rain, and I closed my eyes and listened, as loath to pass ;
and farther off, half across a field, a group stood together where I could
hear, as they half whispered their rainy colloquies. Spring it was, or
early summer, but they, as I gathered, were speaking about autumn and
the sere leaf and the last late rose and the departure of the swallows
and who could blame them for having tears in their voices ?

Therefore are they welcome. The elms have the earliest cloud of green
bloom visiting my woods except the willow. Willows are first comers
with their leaves. They come first, the elms follow, and later the
buckeye and hickory and walnut and sycamore. Gooseberries leaf
early and have a vivid green. The oak-trees are tardier than anybody.
They are late sleepers. Even the blue jay's voice does not wake this
drowsy sleeper, although it clings in his branches. Nobody but the
sun can wake the oak. He is thick-skinned and impervious to hints.
The sun must come and spill flame on his face or ever the oak-tree
wakes, and long after all other trees are green the oak's brown leaves
with a dogged tenacity hang to their year-long home till the new buds
thrust them from their hold. Only new life will loose the grip of death;
and when peach and cherry and apple and pear and blackberry take
their turn at blooming, O ! we have royal mornings
on my farm. And then comes the late snowfall of
falling petals of blooms from apple-trees, and the
bees drone and take my honey paying no royalty
(like a foreign publisher), and the cooing dove
makes lamentation without cause, and the bluebirds
chatter so as to warm the heart, and the blue violets
make a man wonder at the dainty doings of the
fingers of the God of beauty, and the Mayapples
hold their parasols to keep the sun from their faces
white as fresh snows, and the Sweet Williams hold
their blue flowers up like a rustic lad presenting a
nosegay to a woman, and the wild crabapple pours
its delicious odors on the springtime wind and spring
is come to my farm, and April rain drips from the
eaves of the glowing leaves, and clouds and sun-
light play hide-and-seek over my plowed fields, and
young lovers hunt four-leaf clover in my cloverfield,
and the birds woo and get married with never the in-
tervention of justice or minister, and the
frogs sing with melodious voices through the sweet
springtime night, and a hundred perfumes mix in the fields and woods
by night then my farm is an Eden meet for angels' visits.

Here summer comes and sweats with toil of growing cabbages, and
peas, and lettuce, and pears, and onions (that perfumery for the humble),
and cherries, and strawberries. Now stop. Strawberries? Why didn't
you come, friend, when my strawberries were ripe? I had tame and
wild ones, though for me I like wild ones better. But any will do.
And when the tenant's cow gives cream instead of skimmed milk, and
the strawberries are ripe and luscious well, all I say is you had better
happen around. And when summer gets down to hard work, and ripens
the oats, and makes the corn grow so fast you can fairly see it grow if
you stay half an hour, and turns wheatfields from green to gold, and
makes my clover bloom, and has the sun work long hours and keep the
stars out late o' nights if they want to shine a spell then summer is

In summer, when I lie, surcharged with indolence, down by my
spring in the shadows, with the water standing in pools, and catching
leaf and sky and cloud in its mirror, and holding them up like signals
to the clouds sailing over my farm, life grows glad. We are a hos-
pitable lot, the farm and the spring and I, and, like Abraham at his
tent door, hail all who go along our way to stop and be sociable (all
except the assessor. Not the farm, nor the spring, nor the ravine,
nor the corn growing in rows or standing in shock, none of us nor all of
us like the assessor. He invades our quiet and disturbs our receipts,
and reminds us we are not in Arcadia, which, prior to his coming, was
our settled belief). And while I lie in the shade beside my spring on
the north line of my estate and on the lowest levels my farm reaches,
it is sweet to half drowse, half wake in the quiet while the wooded
hills high above shut out all boisterousness of wind, so that here truly
summer quiet lies. The day dreams. It is noon. A crow intermit-
tently and lazily calls his " caw, caw," but the birds seem tired out, and a
quiet and languid breeze is all that puffs summer perfumes in my face.
And the slow clouds float by like icebergs seen afar, but by and by
even the clouds fall wholly asleep. Watching them through the leaves
they affect me as having forgotten action long ago, or push lazily for-
ward, like a drifting boat, and then sink back into slumber again.

A wild crab stands on the hill where years ago they . quarried stanes
for a college hard by. The quarry is now overgrown, a reminiscence. I
am glad it is so, for I like its dishevelment, feeling its way back to
nature. A huge thorn-tree stands on the quarry's edge, and in the
quarry are thickets of roses where birds nest in the sweet summer; and
leaves in autumn gather in the disused quarry as in a pool where waters
had drifted them, and in the quarry stands the wild crab. There it
stands quite alone, but never lonely. In winter, its brawn of brazen
muscle sneers at the tempests and looks rigid as death. No hint at
smiling. I would as lief think a brazen pillar would bloom as to think
this wild crab would flash into flower. Howbeit, when spring is come
and sets up housekeeping, this crab lights a lamp like the pleasant
flame of an evening sky, not crimson, but a gentle flame a man might
warm him by, but would never burn his hands. This is a spring fire this
crab in bloom. How I love its tender twilight of crimson! I warm my
eyes here and my heart; for hearts need warming as hands do on a
chilly morning. And then, saturating the air like the perfume of a fair
woman's garments as she comes to meet her lover, is a whiff of this
aromatic flame. I did not know when I bought this farm that it grew
spices, but it does. This is my spice grove which I will not exchange
for sandalwood. Who could have thought in the bare winter that this
crab-tree was an alabaster box holding precious ointment? I never
dreamed it. How could I ? But now, when spring has come like fair
Mary, lover of the Christ, and has broken the alabaster box, lo! the air
is faint with fragrance as if Christ were here and the sacred odors laved
his sacred feet. And were he here, he would say in gentle voice,
" Whence brought you this ointment, very precious ? I have not known
its like for fragrance." Friend, come to my farm when my spice grove
of one wild crab-tree is in bloom and you will grow glad as a happy child.

IKE many another word freighted with
beauty, this word "goings" comes from
the Bible. Those old King James trans-
lators were poets to a man, which accounts
for our Bible being both the classic of
Hebrew literature and English literature.
One translator gets the sense in a cold
; literality like a dead tree trunk; another
suffuses his translation with poetry, as a
tree is shaded by its own leaves. "When
thou hearest the goings in the tops of
the mulberry-trees" is a poet's way of
telling a wind is blowing through tree
tops. "Goings" are sound mixed with
movement, the marching of the wind's

feet along the pathways of the tree tops; and what is or can be sweeter!
I have often wondered if God could forget; whether he ever had
obliviscent moods; whether any syllable ever fell out of his words as
they do from ours; whether he ever could forget anything belonging
to the calendar of beauty. I think he does not. Else how is every
beautiful possibility present? In making the world God thought of
everything ministrant to a blessed life. Can we think of any omitted
mercy? Did he not put beauty in the green sward and in the blue
sky? What colors could have been devised to rest the eyes and com-
fort the heart like this bewildering green upon the earth and this
bewildering blue in the sky? Did he forget grace when he was
making the cypress or pine, or the larch, or the quivering aspen, or
the doughty oak, or the leaning willow? He could have made all
plants flowerless, as he did the ferns, or he could have dyed all flow-
ers with one pigment, or he might have left odors out in compounding
his flowers and leaves and grasses and earths; but thanks to his good
Providence, he forgot not the sandalwood's clinging fragrance, nor the
scents of roses and wheat stubble nor new-mown hay nor green wal-
nuts, nor forgot to make dews at night, to distill odors from woodlands
and plains, nor neglected that sweet inrush of earth and air smells
which puffs in the face some unexpected morning and sings to the
soul Springtime! God ransacked his treasuries when he made this
world; nor was it in spirit of haste or obliviousness, when, on the day
he finished the building of his world he said, "I have found all things
good." If the wind fans a hot cheek to blow its fever out, or fills the
flapping sails of innumerable ships, I count that to be a lesser blessing
than its gift of touch and music. The wind's touch can be as tender
as a loving woman's caress and its music as gentle and sweet as mem-
ories fetched from a happy past. To miss the blowing of the trumpets
of the winds is to suffer loss. The wind's voices are inexpressible
music. I love their laughter and their weeping, their wailing of autumn
and their leaf-patter, like the sound of spring showers. I was reared in
Kansas, where winds have what some esteem a vicious supremacy, but
to me their trumpetings and stormy chargings to and fro, their shrill
falsettos through leafless trees; their summer sweep, which wrecks
the fleets of clouds as if they, were ships blown on ragged ocean rocks;
their whine at the casement, like a patient dog pleading for its master,
and their wholly tender touch of a June evening wind I love them all.
Not one will I willingly leave out of my memory or deny room at the
fireside of my life. They are part of me. It may be because my
father's folk for unknown generations were sea captains and lovers of
the raging waters, tempest-swirled and were all drowned at sea, that
tempests are mixed with my blood and are part of my soul's dear
possessions. But certain I am that winds do not vex me and that I
am lonely apart from them as missing one of my home folks. Their
ardor warms my spirit and their gentle quiet is like a call to prayer.

A mercy to the heart is the ubiquity of this loveliness. Some beauty
abides everywhere. Deserts are 'flowerless; but night and moonlight on
the far-stretching sands are so beautiful as fairly to stoop beneath their
load. Beauty blooms unseen in shaded woodlands; in corn-rows; in field
corners; on barbed wires, where wild vines tangle and blur the green of
leaves with the surprise of flowers; on garbage heaps; among cinders;
on rocky ledges; in quiet pools as lilies; in quiet skies as stars; purpling
the hollows in remote mountains, and making the far hills blue as the far
sea; voyaging as clouds; stationary as trees; wandering as a child with
tangled hair and laughing face; vines visible, drooping over tumbling
sheds or modest cottage or on stake-and-rider fences, shading windows
of poverty; thrilling mornings with singing and soaring larks, and in
twilight with the vespers of the whip-poor-will; the plover's cry; a
child's laughter and a child's face; a fair woman with her lovelit eyes;
a boy with dirty and gleeful face ; a leafless tree in a bare pasture ; the
distilled odors of night and dews, so beauty blooms and such things are
daily companionships; and we scarcely know that they are fair.

In winter is the time when most people get acquainted, I think.
The long evenings, and the shut-in firelight are conciliatory to friend-
ship and made for confidences. So it is natural in winter to grow
confidential with the trees. They then reveal their secret. Surly as
they look, you will not find them so if you will be companionable. Then
go out of town (trees stay in town because they are galley slaves
chained there). Go into the empty forest where a river runs (if Provi-
dence favor you so highly), and spend a day there, building a fire on
the sheltered side of some bank where the smoke curls on you, and the
delicious odors of the wood exhale, and the flame dances in the twist-
ing winds Let the day be gray. Cloudy days are the appropriate days
for making friendship with the trees. On open days the sky is too high,
too illuminated, there is no background for the trees; and besides the
sunlight makes shadow and gives wrong impression of twig, bark, and
limb The artists in their studios shut sunlight out. We who love the
trees must be as wise as they. When the gray clouds are just above
the tree tops, it is as if you looked at every tree against a background
of gray granite. A tree has its chance to declare itself as in a confes-
sional. There is no shadow ; and no light flames with its torch to make
wrong proportion, but it is as if twilight lit your lamp for you. On such
a day, wander, lover-like, among the trees, and they will be confidential
with you like women talking of their lovers. Give me a gray day with
its all-day twilight, and the naked might of forest, and I will not envy
kings their coronation.