Fragrance in Literature-Great Possessions, by David Grayson

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Great Possessions, by David Grayson

I have always had a kind of errant love for the improvident and
adventurous Esaus of the Earth. I think they smell a wilder fragrance
than I do, and taste sweeter things, and I have thought, therefore, of
beginning a kind of fragrant autobiography, a chronicle of all the good
odours and flavours that ever I have had in my life.

I went from clump to clump of the lilacs testing and comparing them with
great joy and satisfaction. They vary noticeably in odour; the white
varieties being the most delicate, while those tending to deep purple
are the richest. Some of the newer double varieties seem less
fragrant--and I have tested them now many times--than the old-fashioned
single varieties which are nearer the native stock. Here I fancy our
smooth Jacob has been at work, and in the lucrative process of selection
for the eye alone the cunning horticulturist has cheated us of our
rightful heritage of fragrance. I have a mind some time to practise the
art of burbankry or other kind of wizardy upon the old lilac stock and
select for odour alone, securing ravishing original varieties--indeed,
whole new gamuts of fragrance.

I have felt the same defect in the cultivated roses. While the odours
are rich, often of cloying sweetness, or even, as in certain white
roses, having a languor as of death, they never for me equal the
fragrance of the wild sweet rose that grows all about these hills, in
old tangled fence rows, in the lee of meadow boulders, or by some
unfrequented roadside. No other odour I know awakens quite such a
feeling--light like a cloud, suggesting free hills, open country, sunny
air; and none surely has, for me, such an after-call. A whiff of the
wild rose will bring back in all the poignancy of sad happiness a train
of ancient memories old faces, old scenes, old loves--and the wild
thoughts I had when a boy. The first week of the wild-rose blooming,
beginning here about the twenty-fifth of June, is always to me a
memorable time.

Just now I have come in from work, and will note freshly one of the best
odours I have had to-day. As I was working in the corn, a lazy breeze
blew across the meadows from the west, and after loitering a moment
among the blackberry bushes sought me out where I was busiest. Do you
know the scent of the blackberry? Almost all the year round it is a
treasure-house of odours, even when the leaves first come out; but it
reaches crescendo in blossom time when, indeed, I like it least, for
being too strong. It has a curious fragrance, once well called by a poet
"the hot scent of the brier," and aromatically hot it is and sharp like
the briers themselves. At times I do not like it at all, for it gives me
a kind of faintness, while at other times, as to-day, it fills me with a
strange sense of pleasure as though it were the very breath of the spicy
earth. It is also a rare friend of the sun, for the hotter and brighter
the day, the hotter and sharper the scent of the brier.


Many of the commonest and least noticed of plants, flowers, trees,
possess a truly fragrant personality if once we begin to know them. I
had an adventure in my own orchard, only this spring, and made a fine
new acquaintance in a quarter least of all expected. I had started down
the lane through the garden one morning in the most ordinary way, with
no thought of any special experience, when I suddenly caught a whiff of
pure delight that stopped me short.
"What now can _that_ be?" and I thought to myself that nature had played
some new prank on me.
I turned into the orchard, following my nose. It was not the peach buds,
nor the plums, nor the cherries, nor yet the beautiful new coloured
leaves of the grape, nor anything I could see along the grassy margin of
the pasture. There were other odours all about, old friends of mine, but
this was some shy and pleasing stranger come venturing upon my land.
A moment later I discovered a patch of low green verdure upon the
ground, and dismissed it scornfully as one of my ancient enemies. But
it is this way with enemies, once we come to know them, they often turn
out to have a fragrance that is kindly.
Well, this particular fierce enemy was a patch of chickweed. Chickweed!
Invader of the garden, cossack of the orchard! I discovered, however,
that it was in full bloom and covered with small, star-like white
blossoms.
"Well, now," said I, "are you the guilty rascal?"
So I knelt there and took my delight of it and a rare, delicate good
odour it was. For several days afterward I would not dig out the patch,
for I said to myself, "What a cheerful claim it makes these early days,
when most of the earth is still cold and dead, for a bit of
immortality."

Of all times of the day for good odours I think the early morning the
very best, although the evening just after sunset, if the air falls
still and cool, is often as good. Certain qualities or states of the
atmosphere seem to favour the distillation of good odours and I have
known times even at midday when the earth was very wonderful to smell.
There is a curious, fainting fragrance that comes only with sunshine and
still heat. Not long ago I was cutting away a thicket of wild spiraea
which was crowding in upon the cultivated land. It was a hot day and
the leaves wilted quickly, giving off such a penetrating, fainting
fragrance that I let the branches lie where they fell the afternoon
through and came often back to smell of them, for it was a fine thing
thus to discover an odour wholly new to me.

Another odour I have found animating is the odour of burning wastage in
new clearings or in old fields, especially in the evening when the smoke
drifts low along the land and takes to itself by some strange chemical
process the tang of earthy things. It is a true saying that nothing will
so bring back the emotion of a past time as a remembered odour. I have
had from a whiff of fragrance caught in a city street such a vivid
return of an old time and an old, sad scene that I have stopped,
trembling there, with an emotion long spent and I thought forgotten.

But it is not the time of the day, nor the turn of the season, nor yet
the way of the wind that matters most but the ardour and glow we
ourselves bring to the fragrant earth. It is a sad thing to reflect that
in a world so overflowing with goodness of smell, of fine sights and
sweet sounds, we pass by hastily and take so little of them. Days pass
when we see no beautiful sight, hear no sweet sound, smell no memorable
odour: when we exchange no single word of deeper understanding with a
friend. We have lived a day and added nothing to our lives! A blind,
grubbing, senseless life--that!

In that keen moment I caught, drifting, a faint but wild fragrance upon
the air, and veered northward full into the way of the wind. I could not
at first tell what this particular odour was, nor separate it from the
general good odour of the earth; but I followed it intently across the
moor-like open land. Once I thought I had lost it entirely, or that the
faint northern airs had shifted, but I soon caught it clearly again, and
just as I was saying to myself, "I've got it, I've got it!"--for it is a
great pleasure to identify a friendly odour in the fields--I saw, near
the bank of the brook, among ferns and raspberry bushes, a thorn-apple
tree in full bloom.
"So there you are!" I said.

I hastened toward it, now in the full current and glory of its
fragrance. The sun, looking over the taller trees to the east, had
crowned the top of it with gold, so that it was beautiful to see; and it
was full of honey bees as excited as I.

A score of feet onward toward the wind, beyond the thorn-apple tree, I
passed wholly out of the range of its fragrance into another world, and
began trying for some new odour. After one or two false scents, for this
pursuit has all the hazards known to the hunter, I caught an odour long
known to me, not strong, nor yet very wonderful, but distinctive. It led
me still a little distance northward to a sunny slope just beyond a bit
of marsh, and, sure enough, I found an old friend, the wild sweet
geranium, a world of it, in full bloom, and I sat down there for some
time to enjoy it fully.

Beyond that, and across a field wild with tangles of huckleberry bushes
and sheep laurel where the bluets and buttercups were blooming, and in
shady spots the shy white violet, I searched for the odour of a certain
clump of pine trees I discovered long ago. I knew that I must come upon
it soon, but could not tell just when or where. I held up a moistened
finger to make sure of the exact direction of the wind, and bearing,
then, a little eastward, soon came full upon it--as a hunter might
surprise a deer in the forest. I crossed the brook a second time and
through a little marsh, making it the rule of the game never to lose for
an instant the scent I was following--even though I stopped in a low
spot to admire a mass of thrifty blue flags, now beginning to bloom--and
came thus to the pines I was seeking. They are not great trees, nor
noble, but gnarled and angular and stunted, for the soil in that place
is poor and thin, and the winds in winter keen; but the brown blanket of
needles they spread and the shade they offer the traveller are not less
hospitable; nor the fragrance they give off less enchanting. The odour
of the pine is one I love.

For the sense of smell we have, indeed, the perfumer's art, but a poor
rudimentary art it is, giving little freedom for the artist who would
draw his inspirations freshly from nature. I can, indeed, describe
poorly in words the odours of this June morning--the mingled lilacs,
late wild cherries, new-broken soil, and the fragrance of the sun on
green verdure, for there are here both lyrical and symphonic odours--but
how inadequate it is! I can tell you what I feel and smell and taste,
and give you, perhaps, a desire another spring to spend the months of
May and June in the country, but I can scarcely make you live again the
very moment of life I have lived, which is the magic quality of the best
art. The art of the perfumer which, like all crude art, thrives upon
blatancy, does not make us go to gardens, or love the rose, but often
instils in us a kind of artificiality, so that perfumes, so far from
being an inspiration to us, increasing our lives, become often the badge
of the abnormal, used by those unsatisfied with simple, clean, natural
things.

So he gave me a good apple. It was a yellow Bellflower without a blemish, and very large and smooth. The body of it was waxy yellow, but on the side where the sun had touched it, it blushed a delicious deep red. Since October it had been in the dark, cool storage-room, and Horace, like some old monkish connoisseur of wines who knows just when to bring up the bottles of a certain vintage, had chosen the exact moment in all the year when the vintage of the Bellflower was at its best. As he passed it to me I caught, a scent as of old crushed apple blossoms, or fancied I did or it may have been the still finer aroma of friendship which passed at the touching of our fingers.

And then the barn, the cavernous dark doors, the hoofs of the horses thundering on the floor, the smell of cattle from below, the pigeons in the loft whirring startled from their perches. Then the hot, scented, dusty "pitching off" and "mowing in"—a fine process, an honest process: men sweating for what they get.

I should devise the most animating names for my creations, such as the Double Delicious, the Air of Arcady, the Sweet Zephyr, and others even more inviting, which I should enjoy inventing. Though I think surely I could make my fortune out of this interesting idea, I present it freely to a scent-hungry world—here it is, gratis!—for I have my time so fully occupied during all of this and my next two or three lives that I cannot attend to it.

"The pink blossoms of the wild crab-apple trees I see from the hill.... The reedy song of the wood thrush among the thickets of the wild cherry.... The scent of peach leaves, the odour of new-turned soil in the black fields.... The red of the maples in the marsh, the white of apple trees in bloom.... I cannot find Him out—nor know why I am here...."

I like also the first wild, sweet smell of new-cut meadow grass, not the familiar odour of new-mown hay, which comes a little later, and is worthy of its good report, but the brief, despairing odour of grass just cut down, its juices freshly exposed to the sun. One, as it richly in the fields at the mowing. I like also the midday smell of peach leaves and peach-tree bark at the summer priming: and have never let any one else cut out the old canes from the blackberry rows in my garden for the goodness of the scents which wait upon that work.

A score of feet onward toward the wind, beyond the thorn-apple tree, I passed wholly out of the range of its fragrance into another world, and began trying for some new odour. After one or two false scents, for this pursuit has all the hazards known to the hunter, I caught an odour long known to me, not strong, nor yet very wonderful, but distinctive. It led me still a little distance northward to a sunny slope just beyond a bit of marsh, and, sure enough, I found an old friend, the wild sweet geranium, a world of it, in full bloom, and I sat down there for some time to enjoy it fully.

I think this no strange or unusual instinct, for I have seen many other people doing it, especially farmers around here, who go through the fields nipping the new oats, testing the red-top, or chewing a bit of sassafras bark. I have in mind a clump of shrubbery in the town road, where an old house once stood, of the kind called here by some the "sweet-scented shrub," and the brandies of it nearest the road are quite clipped and stunted I'm being nipped at by old ladies who pass that way and take to it like cat to catnip.

So it is that, though I am no worshipper of the old, I think the older gardeners had in some ways a better practice of the art than we have, for they planted not for the eye alone but for the nose and the sense of taste and even, in growing such plants as the lamb's tongue, to gratify, curiously, the sense of touch. They loved the scented herbs, and appropriately called them simples. Some of these old simples I am greatly fond of, and like to snip a leaf as I go by to smell or taste; but many of them, I here confess, have for me a rank and culinary odour—as sage and thyme and the bold scarlet monarda, sometimes called bergamot.

I turned into the orchard, following my nose. It was not the peach buds, nor the plums, nor the cherries, nor yet the beautiful new coloured leaves of the grape, nor anything I could see along the grassy margin of the pasture. There were other odours all about, old friends of mine, but this was some shy and pleasing stranger come venturing upon my land.


But if their actual fragrance is not always pleasing, and their uses are
now grown obscure, I love well the names of many of them--whether from
ancient association or because the words themselves fall pleasantly upon
the ear, as, for example, sweet marjoram and dill, anise and summer
savoury, lavender and sweet basil. Coriander! Caraway! Cumin! And
"there's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember,...
there's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you: and here's
some for me--" All sweet names that one loves to roll under his tongue.


It is strange how much thrilling joy there is in the discovery of the
ages-old miracle of returning life in the woods: each green adventurer,
each fragrant joy, each bird-call--and the feel of the soft, warm
sunshine upon one's back after months of winter. On any terms life is
good. The only woe, the only Great Woe, is the woe of never having been
born. Sorrow, yes; failure, yes; weakness, yes the sad loss of dear
friends--yes! But oh, the good God: I still live!


One hill I know is precious to me for a peculiar reason. Upon the side
of it, along the town road, are two or three old farms with lilacs like
trees about their doorways, and ancient apple orchards with great gnarly
branches, and one has an old garden of hollyhocks, larkspurs, zinnias,
mignonette, and I know not how many other old-fashioned flowers. Wild
grapes there are along the neglected walls, and in a corner of one of
them, by a brook, a mass of sweet currant which in blossom time makes
all that bit of valley a bower of fragrance, I have gone that way often
in spring for the sheer joy of the friendly odours I had across the
ancient stone fences.


Since then I have heard something about him, and seen him once or twice. A strange old man, a wanderer upon the face of the fragrant earth. Spring and summer he wears always an old overcoat, and carries a basket with double covers, very much worn and brown with usage. His cane is of hickory with a crooked root for a handle, this also shiny with age. He gathers bitter-bark, tansy; ginseng, calamus, smartweed, and slippery elm, and from along old fences and barnyards, catnip and boneset, I suppose he lives somewhere, a hole in a log, or the limb of a tree, but no one knows where it is, or how he dries or cures his findings. No one knows his name: perhaps he has forgotten it himself. A name is no great matter anyway. He is called simply the Herbman. He drifts into our valley in the spring, is seen here and there on the hills or in the fields, like the crows or the blackbirds, and disappears in the fall with the robins and the maple leaves. Perhaps he is one of those favoured souls to whom life is all spring and summer.

I met him once in the town road, and he stopped humbly without lifting his eyes, and opening his basket let out into the air such a fragrance of ancient simples as I never smelled before. He said nothing at all; but took out dry bundles of catnip, sassafras, slippery elm, to show me. He had also pennyroyal for healing teas, and calamus and bitter-bark for miseries. I selected a choice assortment of his wares to take home to Harriet, but could get him to name no price. He took what I gave without objection and without thanks, and went his way. A true man of the hills.

It being a mild and sunny day, the door of the fruit cellar was open, and as I came around the corner I had such of whiff of fragrance as I cannot describe. It seemed as though the vials of the earth's most precious odours had been broken there in Horace's yard! The smell of ripe apples!

Of well-flavoured men, I know none better than those who live close to the soil or work in common things. Men are like roses and lilacs, which, too carefully cultivated to please the eye, lose something of their native fragrance. One of the best-flavoured men I know is my friend, the old stone mason.

One who thus takes part in the whole process of the year comes soon to have an indescribable affection for his land, his garden, his animals. There are thoughts of his in every tree: memories in every fence corner. Just now, the fourth of June, I walked down past my blackberry patch, now come gorgeously into full white bloom—and heavy with fragrance. I set out these plants with my own hands, I have fed them, cultivated them, mulched them, pruned them, trellised them, and helped every year to pick the berries. How could they be otherwise than full of associations! They bear a fruit more beautiful than can be found in any catalogue: and stranger and wilder than in any learned botany book!

So much of the best in the world seems to have come fragrant out of fields, gardens, and hillsides. So many truths spoken by the Master Poet come to us exhaling the odours of the open country. His stories were so often of sowers, husbandmen, herdsmen: his similes and illustrations so often dealt with the common and familiar beauty of the fields. "Consider the lilies how they grow." It was on a hillside that he preached his greatest Sermon, and when in the last agony he sought a place to meet his God, where did he go but to a garden? A carpenter you say? Yes, but of this one may be sure: there were gardens and fields all about: he knew gardens, and cattle, and the simple processes of the land: he must have worked in a garden and loved it well.

Well, this particular fierce enemy was a patch of chickweed. Chickweed! Invader of the garden, cossack of the orchard! I discovered, however, that it was in full bloom and covered with small, star-like white blossoms.
"Well, now," said I, "are you the guilty rascal?"
So I knelt there and took my delight of it and a rare, delicate good odour it was. For several days afterward I would not dig out the patch, for I said to myself, "What a cheerful claim it makes these early days, when most of the earth is still cold and dead, for a bit of immortality."
The bees knew the secret already, and the hens and the blackbirds! And I thought it no loss, but really a new and valuable pleasure, to divert my path down the lane for several days that I might enjoy more fully this new odour, and make a clear acquaintance with something fine upon the earth I had not known before.

Once in a foreign city, passing a latticed gateway that closed in a narrow court, I caught the odour of wild sweet balsam. I do not know now where it came from, or what could have caused it—but it stopped me short where I stood, and the solid brick walls of that city rolled aside like painted curtains, and the iron streets dissolved before my eyes, and with the curious dizziness of nostalgia, I was myself upon the hill of my youth—with the gleaming river in the valley, and a hawk sailing majestically in the high blue of the sky, and all about and everywhere the balsams—and the balsams—full of the sweet, wild odours of the north, and of dreaming boyhood.

As for the odour of the burning wastage of the fields at evening I scarcely know if I dare say it. I find it produces in the blood of me a kind of primitive emotion, as though it stirred memories older than my present life. Some drowsy cells of the brain awaken to a familiar stimulus—the odour of the lodge-fire of the savage, the wigwam of the Indian. Racial memories!

Fragrance in Childhood Literature-Being a Boy, by Charles Dudley Warner

Being a Boy, by Charles Dudley Warner

Going after the cows was a serious thing in my day. I had to climb a
hill, which was covered with wild strawberries in the season. Could any
boy pass by those ripe berries? And then in the fragrant hill pasture
there were beds of wintergreen with red berries, tufts of columbine,
roots of sassafras to be dug, and dozens of things good to eat or to
smell, that I could not resist. It sometimes even lay in my way to climb
a tree to look for a crow's nest, or to swing in the top, and to try if
I could see the steeple of the village church. It became very
important sometimes for me to see that steeple; and in the midst of my
investigations the tin horn would blow a great blast from the farmhouse,
which would send a cold chill down my back in the hottest days. I knew
what it meant. It had a frightfully impatient quaver in it, not at all
like the sweet note that called us to dinner from the hay-field. It
said, "Why on earth does n't that boy come home? It is almost dark, and
the cows ain't milked!" And that was the time the cows had to start into
a brisk pace and make up for lost time. I wonder if any boy ever drove
the cows home late, who did not say that the cows were at the very
farther end of the pasture, and that "Old Brindle" was hidden in the
woods, and he couldn't find her for ever so long! The brindle cow is the
boy's scapegoat, many a time.

For days and days before Thanksgiving the boy was kept at work evenings,
pounding and paring and cutting up and mixing (not being allowed to
taste much), until the world seemed to him to be made of fragrant
spices, green fruit, raisins, and pastry,--a world that he was only yet
allowed to enjoy through his nose. How filled the house was with the
most delicious smells! The mince-pies that were made! If John had been
shut in solid walls with them piled about him, he could n't have eaten
his way out in four weeks. There were dainties enough cooked in those
two weeks to have made the entire year luscious with good living, if
they had been scattered along in it.

I used the word "aromatic" in relation to the New England soil. John
knew very well all its sweet, aromatic, pungent, and medicinal products,
and liked to search for the scented herbs and the wild fruits and
exquisite flowers; but he did not then know, and few do know, that there
is no part of the globe where the subtle chemistry of the earth produces
more that is agreeable to the senses than a New England hill-pasture and
the green meadow at its foot. The poets have succeeded in turning our
attention from it to the comparatively barren Orient as the land of
sweet-smelling spices and odorous gums. And it is indeed a constant
surprise that this poor and stony soil elaborates and grows so many
delicate and aromatic products.

John, it is true, did not care much for anything that did not appeal to
his taste and smell and delight in brilliant color; and he trod down the
exquisite ferns and the wonderful mosses--without compunction. But he
gathered from the crevices of the rocks the columbine and the eglantine
and the blue harebell; he picked the high-flavored alpine strawberry,
the blueberry, the boxberry, wild currants and gooseberries, and
fox-grapes; he brought home armfuls of the pink-and-white laurel and the
wild honeysuckle; he dug the roots of the fragrant sassafras and of
the sweet-flag; he ate the tender leaves of the wintergreen and its red
berries; he gathered the peppermint and the spearmint; he gnawed
the twigs of the black birch; there was a stout fern which he called
"brake," which he pulled up, and found that the soft end "tasted good;"
he dug the amber gum from the spruce-tree, and liked to smell, though he
could not chew, the gum of the wild cherry; it was his melancholy duty
to bring home such medicinal herbs for the garret as the gold-thread,
the tansy, and the loathsome "boneset;" and he laid in for the winter,
like a squirrel, stores of beechnuts, hazel-nuts, hickory-nuts,
chestnuts, and butternuts. But that which lives most vividly in his
memory and most strongly draws him back to the New England hills is the
aromatic sweet-fern; he likes to eat its spicy seeds, and to crush in
his hands its fragrant leaves; their odor is the unique essence of New
England.

At noon was Sunday-school, and after that, before the afternoon service,
in summer, the boys had a little time to eat their luncheon together
at the watering-trough, where some of the elders were likely to be
gathered, talking very solemnly about cattle; or they went over to
a neighboring barn to see the calves; or they slipped off down the
roadside to a place where they could dig sassafras or the root of the
sweet-flag, roots very fragrant in the mind of many a boy with religious
associations to this day. There was often an odor of sassafras in the
afternoon service. It used to stand in my mind as a substitute for the
Old Testament incense of the Jews. Something in the same way the big
bass-viol in the choir took the place of "David's harp of solemn sound."

When the "revival" came, therefore, one summer, John was in a quandary.
Sunday meeting and Sunday-school he did n't mind; they were a part of
regular life, and only temporarily interrupted a boy's pleasures. But
when there began to be evening meetings at the different houses, a
new element came into affairs. There was a kind of solemnity over the
community, and a seriousness in all faces. At first these twilight
assemblies offered a little relief to the monotony of farm life; and
John liked to meet the boys and girls, and to watch the older people
coming in, dressed in their second best. I think John's imagination was
worked upon by the sweet and mournful hymns that were discordantly sung
in the stiff old parlors. There was a suggestion of Sunday, and sanctity
too, in the odor of caraway-seed that pervaded the room. The windows
were wide open also, and the scent of June roses came in, with all the
languishing sounds of a summer night. All the little boys had a scared
look, but the little girls were never so pretty and demure as in this
their susceptible seriousness. If John saw a boy who did not come to the
evening meeting, but was wandering off with his sling down the
meadow, looking for frogs, maybe, that boy seemed to him a monster of
wickedness.

But now John was invited to a regular party. There was the invitation,
in a three-cornered billet, sealed with a transparent wafer: "Miss C.
Rudd requests the pleasure of the company of," etc., all in blue ink,
and the finest kind of pin-scratching writing. What a precious document
it was to John! It even exhaled a faint sort of perfume, whether of
lavender or caraway-seed he could not tell. He read it over a hundred
times, and showed it confidentially to his favorite cousin, who had
beaux of her own and had even "sat up" with them in the parlor. And from
this sympathetic cousin John got advice as to what he should wear and
how he should conduct himself at the party.

Fragrance in Travel Literature- From Edinburgh to India & Burmah, by William G. Burn Murdoch

From Edinburgh to India and Burmah by William Murdoch

Outside the little town were charming country scenes, and the village streets, busy on either side with all sorts of trades, were positively fascinating. In Bombay you have all the trades of one kind together, the brass-workers in one street, and another trade occupies the whole of the next street, and the houses are tall. Here are all sorts of trades side by side, and two-storied and one-storied houses, with the palms leaning over them. We bought for a penny or two an armful of curious grey-black pottery with a silver sheen on its coarse surface. The designs were classic and familiar; the cruisie, for instance, I saw in use the other day in Kintyre, shining on a string of fresh herring, and you see it in museums amongst Greek and Assyrian remains. At one booth were people engaged making garlands of flowers, petals of roses, and marigolds sewn together, and heavy with added perfume; at the next were a hundred and one kinds of grain in tiny bowls, and at a third vegetables, beans, and fruit.

Through the Arabesque wood carvings of the arcade roof, away up the flight of steps, shafts of light came through brown fretted teak-wood and fell on gold or lacquered vermilion pillars and touched the stall-holders and their bright wares in the shadows on either side of the steps, and lit up groups of figures that went slowly up and down the irregular steep stairs, their sandals in one hand and cheroot in the other. Some carried flowers and dainty tokens in coloured papers, others little bundles of gold leaf, or small bundles of red and yellow twisted candles to burn. Their clothes were of silks and white linen, the colours of sweet peas in sun and in shadow, and the air was scented with incense and roses and the very mild tobacco in the white cheroots.

We go to the pagoda and climb slowly up the steps, for they are high and steep, and at every flight there are exquisite views out over the jungle of trees, palms, and bamboo, and knolly "Argyll hills," and looking up or down the stairs are more pictures; on both sides are double rows of red and gold pillars, supporting an elaborately panelled teak roof, with carvings in teak picked out with gold and colour. Groups of people with sweet expressions,[Pg 261] priests, men, women, and children pass up and down. On the platform there is heat and a feeling of great peace, the subdued chant of one or two people praying, the cluck of a hen, the fragrance of incense, and now and then the deep soft throb of one of the great bells, touched by a passing worshipper with the crown of a stag's horn. There are spaces of intense light, and cool shadows and shrines of glass mosaic, inside them Buddhas in marble or bronze—the bronzes are beautiful pieces of cire perdu castings—flowers droop before them, and candles are melting, their flame almost invisible in the sunlight, and two little children play with the guttering wax.

The hot air is slightly scented with incense and sandalwood, and there is a musical droning from a few worshippers who repeat verses from the Koran in the cool white interior mingled with the cooing of innumerable pigeons, and the faint "kiree, kiree" of a kite a mile above, in the blue zenith.

We go along at a good rate, with two good horses, and two further on waiting to change; our landau runs smoothly, though it must date to before the Mutiny. Its springs are good, and the road we follow, which Akbar made, is smooth of surface. There is pale moonlight, and the air is fragrant. The hours before dawn dreamily pass, and we nod, and look up now and then to see clay walls and trees dusky against the night sky, and our thoughts go back to the grand old buildings we leave behind us to the north in Agra. The red stone Fort, and Palace, and Taj, and the marble courts seem to become again alive, and full of people and colour and movement, a gallant array, and the fountains bubble, and Akbar plays living chess with his lovely wives, in colour and jewels, on his marble courts.

We have to drop anchor at sunset in mid-stream, somewhere below Kyonkmyoung, to wait for the mail, and because we have no searchlight we cannot go on at night. The mountains are closer now, and towards evening they are reflected in voilet and rose in the wide river.
… The lights go on, and I assure you our open air saloon, with its table set for dinner with silver, white waxy champak flowers, and white roses in silver bowls are delightful against the blue night outside. The scent of the champak would be too heavy, but for a pleasant air from up-stream, which we hope will help to clear out the piratical longshore crew of Mandalay mosquitoes which we brought with us. We are only a few miles short of our proper destination for the night, but no matter, we are not in a hurry; the Burmans up-stream, waiting for their market, are not either, they will just have to camp out for the night.

Kyankyet—We take on more wood faggots here to fill our bunkers. The wood smoke gives rather a pleasant scent in the air—pretty much like last halting place, same sunny dusty banks, plus a few rocks, and similar village of dainty cottages and of weather-bleached cane and teak showing out of green jungle. Above the place we stop at, a spit of sand runs into the river with a hillock and on it, there is a little golden pagoda amongst a few trees and palms: a flight of narrow white steps leads up to it, and below in the swirl of the stream are wavering reflections of gold, and white, and green foliage. And as usual there are figures coming to the ship along the shore, each a harmony of colours, each with a sharp shadow on the sand.

Whilst the wood goes on board we wander through the village and look at people weaving fringes of grass for thatch, much as grooms weave straw for the edges of stalls; then[Pg 305] to the pagoda on the hillock, and up the narrow flight of steps. It is not in very first-class repair, the river is eating away its base. To obtain merit the Burman prefers to build anew rather than to restore, and this one has done its turn. We saw several bronze and marble Buddhas under a carved teak shed; some fading orchids lay before them. Two men were making wood carvings very freely and easily in teak. Miss B. and G. coveted a little piece of furniture in brown teak, covered with lozenges of greeny-blue stone. It looked like a half-grown bedstead, the colour very pretty. If we had had an interpreter, we might have saved it from the ruin. What I carried away was a memory of the blue above, the gliding river below, hot sun and stillness, and the hum of a large, irridescent black beetle that went blundering through scarlet poinsettia leaves into the white, scented blossoms of a leafless, grey-stemmed champak tree.

I wish I remembered more of the Pwé—how I wish I could see it over and over again, till I could remember part of one of these quiet reedy tunes, so that I could recall this scene and the charm of Burmah whenever I pleased—for me, not even a scent, or colour, or form, can recall past scenes so vividly as a few notes of an air, the rhythm of some folk-song—a few minor notes, an Alla—Allah, and you breathe the hot air of desert, and feel the monotony of black men, and sand, and sun—Thrum—thrum—thrum, and you are in the soft, busy night, in Spain, and again a few minor notes, strung together, perhaps, by Greig, in the Saeter, and you feel the scent of the pines in the valley rising to the snow—a concertina takes me back to warm golden sunsets in the dog watches in the Doldrums!—guess, I am fortunate receiving sweet suggestions from a concertina!

We are in a cup-shaped wooden glen, our rest-house eighty feet up the hillside above the track, and a brawling burn that meets the Taiping a few hundred yards beyond our halting place. The burn suggests good fishing, and the Taiping looks like a magnificent salmon river. It is 7 P.M. and Krishna busy setting dinner, and your servant writing these notes to the sound of many waters and by a candle dimly burning, for the sun has gone below the wooded hills and left us in a soft gloom. Several camp fires begin to twinkle along the road where the caravans we overtook, and others from the east, are preparing for the night. Our Chinese coolies too have their fires going near us, the smoke helping to soften the already blurred evening effect. We have had, for us, a long afternoon's ride—a little tiring and hot in the bottom of the valley when the path came down to the Taiping river,—a winding and twisting path, round little glens to cross foaming burns, level enough for a hundred yards canter, then down, and up, hill sides in zigzags, here and there wet and muddy with uncertain footing, through groves of[Pg 355] bamboos and under splendid forest trees, some creepers hanging a hundred feet straight as plumb lines, others twisted like wrecked ships' cables, and flowering trees, with delicious scent every hundred yards or so. We felt inclined to stop and look, and sketch vistas of sunlit foliage through shadowy aisles of feathery bamboos, or splendid open forest views with mighty trees, and the[Pg 356] river and its great salmon pools.

It is pleasant in the meantime; there are sweet scents in the air, and pleasant colours. Our little camp kitchen, one hundred yards down the river, wreaths the trees with wisps of blue smoke. The Burmese girl and her brother[Pg 364] wear bright red and white, and near us there are wild capsicums and lemon trees dangling all over with yellow fruit and sweet-scented blossoms. The fruit has rather a coarse skin, but the juice is pleasant enough under the circumstances.

If the ride in the morning was pleasant, that in the afternoon and evening was even more so. As we came down the glens to Kalychet,—the gold of the evening faded in front of us, and left us in soft sweetly-scented darkness. The fire-flies lit up, and their little golden lamps flickering alongside through the intricacies of the dark bamboo stems helped to show us the track.

17th February.—I vow that there is this morning, at the same time, a suggestion in the air of both spring and autumn. There is a touch of autumn grey, and the plants in the garden droop a little as they do at home before or after frost. A level line of cloud rests half-way up the steel blue hills, it has hung there motionless for hours since the sun rose, and the air is very pure, with a sweet scent of stephanotis and wood-smoke and roses. Possibly it is the stephanotis and the wood-smoke combined[Pg 370] that makes me think of spring—spring in Paris; but more probably Paris is brought to my mind this morning by the interview we had yesterday with M. Ava about our berths on the cargo boat down to Mandalay; he is the Bhamo Agent for the Flotilla Company. M. Ava left Paris at the time of the birth of the Prince Imperial, and came to Burmah with his own yacht, and has stayed here ever since. I wish he would write a book on the changes of life he has seen; about the court life of the Empire, and his semi-official yachting tour, and of his long residence with Thebaw and his queens, of the intrigue and ceremonies in their golden palaces, the thrilling episodes of which he was witness, and of the many changes of fortune he has himself experienced.

Some of the tall trees have shed their leaves, and are now a mass of blossom. One high tree had dropped a mat of purple flowers, as large as tulips, across the dried grass and brown leaves at its foot. Another tree with silvery bark had every leafless branch ablaze with orange vermilion flowers. "Fire of the Forest," or "Flame of Forest," I heard it called in India,—its colour so dazzling, you see everything grey for seconds after looking at it. Then there were brakes of flowering shrubs like tobacco plants with star like white flowers, and the scent of orange blossom; and others with velvety petals of heliotrope tint, and masses of creepers with flowers like myrtle, and a fresh scent of violets and daisies—the air so pure and pleasant that each scent came to one separately; and, as the most of the foliage is dry and thin just now, these flowers and green bushes were the more effective.

To night the air is damp and warm from the S.E., and we smell Spain—true bill—several of us noticed the aromatic smell. Scents at sea carry great distances.[Pg 18] "I know a man" who smelt burning wood or heather, 250 nautical miles from land, and said so and was laughed at; but he laughed last, for two or three days after his vessel beat up to some islands, from which towered a vast column of brown and white smoke from burning peat, and this floated south on a frosty northerly breeze, and the chart showed the smoke was dead to windward at the time he spoke.

The first of these functions was the laying of the foundation of a museum of science and art; it sounds prosaic, but it was a pageant of pageantry and pucca tomasha too; the greater part, I daresay, just the ordinary gorgeousness of this country, fevered with stirring loyalty. The ceremony was in the centre of an open space of grass, surrounded by town buildings of half Oriental and half Western design, and blocks of private flats, each flat with a deep verandah and all bedecked with flags, and gay figures on the roofs and in the verandahs. In the centre of the grass were shears with a stone hanging from them on block and tackle. To our left was a raised dais with red and yellow striped tent roof supported on pillars topped with spears and flags and the three golden feathers of the Prince of Wales. In front of the circle of chairs opposite this and to our right sat the Indian princes; they had rather handsome brown faces and fat figures, and wore coats of delicate silks and satins, patent leather shoes and loose socks, big silver bangles and anklets; their turbans and swords sparkled with jewels, and the air in their neighbourhood was laden with the scents of Araby.

The Princess, in robes and creations that chilled words, walked ankle-deep in white flower petals and golden clippings, pearls rained, and on all sides were grouped the most beautiful Eastern ladies in most exquisite silks of every tint of the rainbow, with diamonds, pearls, and emeralds and trailing draperies, skirts, and soft veils, and silken trousers; sweet scents and sounds there were too, in this Oriental dream of heaven, and everything showed to the utmost advantage in the mellow trembling light that fell from two thousand five hundred candles, and one hundred and ninety-nine glittering and bejewelled candelabra. And in the middle, there was a golden throne of bejewelled[Pg 73] peacocks, and punkahs and umbrellas of gold and rose—a dream of beauty—and not one man in the whole show!

The Canal.—If I had not seen Mr Talbot Kelly's book on Egypt I could hardly have believed it possible that the delicate schemes of colour we see in the desert as we pass through the canal could be painted and reproduced in colour in a book. He has got the very bloom of the desert, and the beauty of Egypt without its ugliness; the heat and sparkle and brightness in his pictures are so vivid one can almost breathe the exhilarating desert air—and smell the Bazaars!

Fragrance in Travel Literature-Golden tips. A description of Ceylon and its great tea industry (1900) by Henry Cave

Golden tips. A description of Ceylon and its great tea industry (1900)
Cave, Henry, 1854-


An evening
drive through this part of Colombo is a botanical
feast of the most exhilarating nature. In the part
now known as the Victoria Park one may wander
under the shade of palms and figs, or rest beneath
clumps of graceful bamboo, surrounded by blossoms
and perfumes of the most enchanting kind. The
huge purple bells of the Thunbergia creep over
the archways, and gorgeous passion flowers, orchids,
pitcher plants, bright-leaved caladiums and multi-
tudes of other tropical plants everywhere flourish
and abound.

The Temple and the Pattirippuwa, which is the
name of the octagonal building on the right of the
main entrance, are enclosed by a very ornamental
stone wall and a moat. The Temple itself is con-
cealed by the other buildings within the enclosure.
Upon entering we pass through a small quadrangle
and turn to the right up a flight of stone steps to the
Temple itself. The most noticeable features are
grotesque carvings, highly-coloured frescoes, repre-
senting torments in store for various classes of sinners,
and images of Buddha. A most torturous noise
is kept up by tom-tom beating, and the sound of
various native instruments. On either side are flower
sellers, and the atmosphere is heavy with perfume
of the lovely white blossoms. Each worshipper in
the Temple brings an offering of some fragrant flower.
The beautiful Plumiera, with its pure creamy petals
and yellow heart, is the most popular sacrificial
blossom, and this, together with jasmine and oleander,
is everywhere strewn by devout Singhalese. The
numbers of yellow-robed priests, the Kandyan chiefs
in their rich white and gold dresses and curious
jewel-bespangled hats, and the various richly-coloured
costumes of the crowds of reverent worshippers of
both sexes, form a scene striking in the extreme.

We are glad soon to retreat from this small
chamber, so hot, and filled with almost overpowering
perfume of the Plumiera blossoms, and to visit the
Oriental Library in the Octagon. In the balcony
we pause awhile and become refreshed as we look
around upon the motley crowd below. The chief
priest with great courtesy now shows us a very rare
and valuable collection of manuscripts of great anti-
quity. Most of them are in Pali and Sanskrit
characters, not written but pricked with a stylus on
narrow strips of palm leaf about three inches wide
and sixteen or twenty inches long. These strips
form the leaves of the books, and are strung
together between two boards which form the covers.
Many of the covers are ornamented elaborately with
embossed metal, and some are even set with jewels.
Besides the sacred and historical writings, there
are works on astronomy, mathematics and other
subjects.

But grand and beautiful as are the prospects
presented by day from the heights above Rambodde,
they are surpassed by the scenes in the gorge below
by night. The Moon thrice as brilliant as in north-
ern Europe, yet having a slight tinge of gold that
gives a softness to her rays ; the air, pure and cool,
perfumed with the sweet fragrance of lemon grass ;
all nature silent, save the mighty tones of distant
cataracts, and the music of mountain streams ; tree
ferns, wonderful in beauty and variety, exhibiting
every curve and pattern of their lovely fronds that
fringe the silvery torrents which leap on both sides
into the valley ; the weird shadows of the dark rocks
on the opposing slopes ; the grand flow of outline
along the ridges, centered in the distance by a lofty
double cone these are some of the features of a
moonlight scene in the pass of Rambodde. But I
am forgetting that it is now twenty-four years since
I was a solitary witness of this scene, and that in
more recent years the hill sides have been still
further denuded of their beautiful forests to make
way for the extension of tea cultivation ; still the
beauty of the district has not entirely disappeared
and even now many miles of the landscape are
lovely beyond description.


Our view of Queen Street (central) shows the Mer-
cantile Bank beneath the trees on the right, and
beyond it a handsome block of buildings, the com-
mercial house of the Caves, founded by the author
in the seventies. We have referred to, and illus-
trated, the Post Office which is in the same street.
Opposite this is the Queen's House, too much em-
bowered in foliage for a photograph ; and adjoining
it is a fine terraced garden, the Jubilee gift of the
Hon. Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon (now Lord
Stanmore). This is the brightest spot in the Fort;
for there all manner of feathery palms, gorgeous
crotons, and rosy oleanders combine to lend colour
and fragrance to a charming corner of the European
quarter. There are other fine buildings in this
broad and handsome street, notably the Hong-
kong and Shanghai Bank and the offices of the
Government.

The landscape in this direction varies little, how-
ever far we go, yet it is never wearisome. Every
visitor is delighted with it : the naturalist is en-
chanted by the abundance of interesting objects
at every turn ; while to the enthusiastic botanist
this highway, densely bordered on either side with
an inexhaustible variety of leaf and blossom, is a
treasury unsurpassed in any other country. The
brown thatched huts, groups of gaily-clad natives,
animals, birds all these add life to a scene that
baffles description. Garlands of creepers festooned
from tree to tree ; huge banyans stretching in arch-
ways completely over the road, with the stems
all overgrown by ferns, orchids, and other parasitic
plants ; here and there a blaze of the flame-coloured
gloriosa, golden orchids, various kinds of orange
and lemon trees covered with fragrant blossoms,
climbing lillies, an undergrowth of exquisite ferns
of infinite variety, all crowned by slender palms
of ninety or a hundred feet in height it is vain
to attempt a full description of such a scene.

The leaf is next spread out in wooden frames, and
having been covered by wet cloths is allowed to
ferment until it attains a bright copper tint such as
the infused leaves have in the tea-pot ; or at least
should have, for the brighter they appear the better
the tea. The rolling process, by breaking the cells
of the leaf, induces fermentation which is a very
necessary stage of the manufacture, the character of
the tea when made depending greatly on the degree
to which fermentation is allowed to continue. When
the commodity known as green tea is required, the
fermentation is checked at once so that no change of
colour may take place ; but to produce black tea the
process must be carried on for a considerable time,
the sufficiency of which is determined by the smell
and appearance of the leaf points that require
considerable experience and care, since over-fermen-
tation completely spoils the quality.*

Fragrance in Travel Literature-Scenes and shrines in Tuscany by Dorothy Nevile Lees

Scenes and shrines in Tuscany by Dorothy Nevile Lees

But if the gods have dowered you with this power, and
you have ever looked down on the city lifting her brows in
some blue dawn to the light which strikes from far beyond
Vallombrosa; or in the magical moment of her trans-
figuration at sunset, when the yellow of her buildings
blazes till she seems a city of pure gold ; or on some
enchanted night of summer, when the dark has veiled all
that is trumpery and modern, and you see only her soaring
dome and her towers springing towards the stars, while
the breeze stin*ing the lemon-trees bears you a breath of
fragrance, and from somewhere in the darkness comes the
throbbing, sweet and a little piteous, of mandolines: if
you have once seen her so, you can never again forget her,
for she is tenacious of her old power in her age as in her
youth, never losing her hold on hearts ; and she will win
your heart and keep it, and you can never again forget
her until you forget all things, and, called by death,
mothered by the warm red earth, you turn from the light
and look no more upon the sun.

Many such there are still, in far-off English cities full
of noise and smoke, who would think the doors of Paradise
were opening did the way lie clear for them to pass the
great mountain-gates which are set to the northward of
this lovely land : and I, I have been made free of all this
beauty, dowered with this unspeakable privilege for
how many rounded years ? Certainly, if I am not happy, I
ought to be ! Life, which gives orriy thorns to some, has
given me, with my thorns, many roses, which will retain a
lingering fragrance to solace me even in those still years
of age which now seem very far away.

There is the great Villa, quiet and spacious, a house of
old romance : across the valley, clothing the hills, are the
still, fragrant pine-woods, where I can lie all day and
watch the sky : beside me I hear the splash of the
fountain in its mossy " vasca " : around spreads the garden
where roses and asparagus, lilies and strawberries, thrive
side by side. Yes, it is certainly well that I am happy,
for I should be dreadfully — and rightly — ashamed of
myself if I were not.

St Anthony, as everyone knows, is the patron and
protector of horses and stable-men. On his festa the
cabmen of the various stands send their patrons bread
shaped into crowns, hearts, and various designs, with a
large woodcut of " Sant' Antonio Abate "" with his pig, —
expecting, one need not say, a " mancia " in return. At
the city stables and mews vested priests are to be seen,
with lights and clouds of incense, sprinkling the horses
with holy water ; and in country places cows and sheep, as
well as horses, are gathered to receive this blessing in the
open space before the church, unless the priest — for a
consideration — goes up the winding ways to the old farms
among the olives, and blesses them in the fold and stall.

We took the road winding up through the pine-woods,
past the grotto, now a chapel, where San Zenobi used,
they say, to retire from his episcopal cares in Florence for
meditation and prayer. Only once a year is this lonely
oratory opened ; and then, on May 25, the feast of the
saint, while down in the cathedral roses are being blessed
for the people by the touch of his relics, the priest from
the little church by the Villa goes, followed by his
acolyte, up the shaded road, and celebrates Mass upon
the chilly altar ; and once more, after long silence, the old
sacred words are heard there, and incense rises to the
rounded roof.

The sun shone upon the emerald turf and undergrowth ;
the dying oak thickets glowed like bronze; blue mists
lingered among the distant tree-trunks; the ground in
sheltered places was rosy with cyclamens ; the pine-needles
filled the air with their spicy fragrance. Far down on
the plain lay Florence, with its belfries and cupolas,
and the great dome which Brunelleschi set, dwarfed by
distance to the size of an egg-shell, rising in the midst.
Beyond rose the mountains, and it was pleasant to be
assured by the aspect of Monte Morello that we were
in no danger of rain.

It was with a sense of relief, of being set free from some
strain, that we saw the light, warm and golden, steal back
across the land ; and, after the gloom of the pine- woods, it
was pleasant to pass into the bright little convent garden,
fragrant with lavender and rosemary, gay with old-
fashioned flowers. Down the middle ran a pergola
covered with morning-glories ; in one corner stood a row
of primitive bee-hives ; a sun-dial marked the uneventful
hours ; an old stone bench under a moss-grown wall offered
a fitting place for musing and rest.

In every church a "Sepolcro" is an-anged — a chapel
filled with plants, flowers, and a silvery grass grown in the
darkness of convent vaults, to represent a garden. Some
of the decorations in churches where the parishioners are
wealthy are exquisite in their cool fragrance of massed
ferns and flowers, but nothing is rejected, and the tiny
pot of primroses, the bunch of gillies, of the poor, finds a
place equal in honour beside the roses and orchids of the
rich. In the Sepulchre is sometimes laid a figure of the
dead Christ, surrounded by the instruments of His suffer-
ing, and watched over by the Blessed Virgin, her heart
pierced by the seven swords of her sorrow ; but to me there
is something too painfully realistic, too emotional, in such
an exhibition : I love better the little quiet gardens, where,
since the Blessed Sacrament is reserved behind the altar,
the Body of Christ is in very truth buried mystically in
the Tomb.

As the supreme moment drew near a gilded faldstool
was set in the centre of the altar-steps. The Archbishop
was led to it from his throne, and knelt there, bowed
almost to the earth, his robes sweeping about him in
heavy folds. Behind him, a row of Bishops and Canons,
the priests and deacons, the choir, and his two servants in
black liveries, knelt with bent heads. There was a long
pause ; the air was dim with incense, sweet with plaintive
music, which seemed to come from very far away. It was
a hush vibrating with holy things. Then the organ burst
out suddenly in a triumphant peal of music, which filled
the whole building : all was movement again ; the Arch-
bishop was led back to his seat ; the great silver candle-
sticks were carried away ; the service went on.

At the High Altar many priests were celebrating, with
elaborate ritual and singing, with many lights, gorgeous
vestments and much incense, the mystery of the Mass.
The sun came in, a little subdued by cotton blinds,
through the white glass of the clerestory windows, and
paled the candle flames.

It was nearly six o'clock on a March evening when,
attracted by the streams of people entering, I turned into
the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Novella. The
light inside the building was already growing dim, and
seemed the more so owing to the black, tent-like canopy
which had been erected above the nave, midway between
the ground and the vaulted roof, to concentrate the sound,
and which had the gloomy effect of a pall extended above
the people's heads. The last light of the setting sun,
creeping in through the lancet windows of the clerestory,
touched the dust and lingering mist of incense in the air
until it glowed like golden haze ; and, stealing into side-
chapels, caught the gold of old pictures, and flushed the
stone mouldings and painted glass.

Turning to the right, we took a narrow cart-track
through the pine-woods, where the air was hushed and
fragrant as in some minster aisle. The dying bracken
and brushwood was touched by the sun to russet,
bronze and gold ; the slender trunks of the umbrella
pines rose, like church columns, to the roof of living
green. The heather carpeted the ground with pink
and purple. Far down, seen in glimpses between the
rank of columns, lay the Valley of the Arno, a mystery
of space and light and air, of delicate line and colour,
over which were scattered, pearl-like, white villas and
little towns.

Why do we not all rise with the sun ? I wondered, as
I leaned over the low wall of the garden and looked down
the slopes of podere and up the opposite pine-clothed
hills.

A small green lizard lay upon the broad ledge at a
little distance, basking in the sun, while half a dozen of
the same fraternity darted in and out of the crevices in
the crumbling stone. In the fields below the maples
were clothed with tender foliage, draped with fair tendrils
by the clinging vines ; the cherry trees were decked like
dainty brides, in a splendour of white blossom ; the olives
glittered silver in the early sunlight, their grey, twisted
trunks rising from an emerald sea of young corn among
which the scarlet poppies leapt like flame. The grassy
banks were bright with a myriad buttercups and dandelions;
in places the ground was carpeted by patches of deep
crimson clover ; along the green paths among the olives
grew hedges of pink roses and stately ranks of iris, — the
Florentine emblem, — blue and purple, with sharp sword-
like leaves. The laburnums dangled their golden chains ;
the lilacs, a mass of white and purple, filled the garden
with perfume ; the acacias were in flower, — frail tassels of
white bloom fringed with lace-like green ; pale clusters of
wistaria hung thickly against the wan, time-stained plaster
of the Villa, and mingled with the long festoons of Banksia
rose, white and yellow, which drooped about pergola and
wall, clung to old moss-grown statues, and even wound
about the cypress trees. Far above, the larks were
pouring out their joy in the soft illimitable blue ; around
the loggia the newly returned swallows were skimming ;
in the garden the insects were busy about the freshly
opened buds. Everywhere there were roses, roses. Down
in the Plorentine streets the flower-sellers would be
offering them, yellow, pink, cream and crimson; on the
altars of Madonna in the cool dim churches they would
be laid, since to-day was the first of the month of Mary.
Everywhere, alike in town and country, there was song
and scent and joy and loveliness, and to me, at least, the
world was " very Heaven "" upon this first of May.
Strolling across the shimmering garden, between the
glossy-leafed and golden-fruited lemon-trees, which, in
their great earthen pots, had been carried out from their
winter quarters to border the terraces and walks, I came,
near the house, upon Adolfo, the gardener, padding about
on bare brown feet, filling the old majolica pots for the
salotti with roses and lilac.

It was a pretty picture which met our eyes at the top
of the hill. The clean, slender trunks of the pine-trees
rose up to the green umbrella-like tops, from a carpet of
fading heather and yellowing fern ; the air was sweet with
the aromatic scent of resin ; and the contadini, adding by
their bright costumes to the picturesqueness of the
scene, were busy, with much laughter and chatter, in
gathering the cones which came thumping down from the
trees.

Fragrance in Travel Literature-In the west country by Francis Knight

In the west country
Knight, Francis A. (Francis Arnold), b. 1852


THE whirr of the iron mower has ceased at
length. Hour after hour the clashing
blades swept in still narrowing circles round and
round the spacious meadow. Now the last swath
has fallen. Now in the centre of the field the
machine stands silent ; the tired horses taking
toll of the sweet grass that is strewn about their
feet.
The men lie motionless, their sunburned faces
buried in the fragrant coolness. A few short
hours ago this broad field was a sea of nodding
grasses, whose tasselled points lent soft and
changing tints of purple to the long waves
that betrayed the light movements of the air.
Sheets of great moon-daisies whitened it. Here
it was golden w r ith dyer's weed and lingering
buttercups ; and there it was crimson with fiery
touches of red sorrel. Under the hot noonday
sun each waft of air that stirred across it was
fragrant with mingled perfumes, of the scent of
hawkweed and lotus and sweet clover blooms.
Its cool depths were stirred by honey- hunting
bees. Wandering butterflies floated over it.
Burnet moths in black and crimson sailed across
it on their silken wings. Now the close shaven
sward is strewn with drying grass and fading
flowers. Bee nor butterfly will visit it more.
To-morrow night not a touch of colour will
remain of all its mingled beauty, ruined now past
all hope ; not a petal of its oxeye daisies, not a
hawkweed unwithered, not a lingering clover
bloom.


The hour is late. Along the low hills that
bound the valley hangs the haze of sunset. There
is a faint flush of rose colour on the soft clouds
that drift slowly overhead. The air is still filled
with fragrance. Instead of the sweet incense
of the clover, there is the scent of new-mown
hay.
For the breath of the lost flowers of the
meadow there are all the perfumes of the one
garden that gives upon the field — of roses all
in bloom on arch and trellis, of clumps of tall
sweet peas, white and red and rich imperial
purple, of the delicate wild pinks, rooted at will
in the old garden wall. And, although the last
blossom has faded from the hawthorns round
the meadow, slowly, and as with reluctance,
delicate dog-roses are scattered broadcast all
along the hedge-rows, and the woodbine sprays
are rich already with pale sweet clusters.


THERE are many symbols on the dial of
Nature to mark the changing of the year.
Such signs are the brightening colours of the
meadows, and the growing hosts of insect life.
Such a sign is the strange, noonday silence of the
woodland ; and such, too, is the change in the
cuckoo's cry — faltering, even before the longest
day. Such signs are the gathering of the swallows,
the purple mist on the plumed reeds by the river,
the blackberry clusters ripening fast along the
hedge-row, the butterflies that flutter in through
the open windows, seeking already some dark
nook in which to hide themselves in good time
before the setting in of winter.
But plainer even than these, for most of us at
any rate, is the altered tone of the hedge-rows —
ever ready to answer to the influence of the
sunshine. It is under the hedge-row that
spring leaves her fairest traces — violets white
and blue, and primroses, with their soft, delicate
perfume. May crowns the thickets with the
foamy fragrance of the hawthorn. June studs
the long briar sprays with sweet wild roses,
fairest of all flowers of summer. And now,
again, these hot summer days are lending new
beauty to the country lanes ; not of flowers or
of fresh young foliage, but of mellow leaves
and gleaming berries.


THE man who knows Exmoor only in the
pride of its summer beauty, who has, it
may be, followed the staghounds over its far-
reaching slopes through a splendour of heath and
ling and blossomed furze, who has never seen the
broad shoulders of Dunkerv save when they were
wrapped about with royal purple, would find the
moorland now in very different mood, would think
it even now, far on towards the summer, desolate
and sad-coloured and forlorn. The gorse, indeed,
is in its prime. Its fragrant gold is as full of
beauty as when the mingled mob of horse and foot
and carriages gathers, for the first Meet of the
season, on the smooth crown of Cloutsham Ball.
The gorse is a flower of the year. It is in bloom
even in January. There is an old saw that
declares it to be, like kissing, never out of season.
But the heather that covers so much of the slopes
of Dunkery wears at this moment its very
somberest of hues. Standing on the fringe of the
moorland, on the brink of one of the deep glens
that run into the heart of the hills, and looking up
the slope towards the dark summit, one might
think that winter was not over even yet. There
is a touch of vivid green here and there, round the
birthplace of some mountain stream. There is
colour on the young birches that one by one are
feeling their way up out of the hollow. But in the
sober brown of the heather, in the pearl grey of
the peat moss, in the dark hue of the gaunt and
twisted pines scattered at far intervals in front of
the advancing forest, there is no sign of the sweet
influences of the spring.

Beyond the white cart-track, that just shows for
a moment before it sinks behind a rising in the
heath, runs a deep valley — a great hollow filled
almost to the brim with oaks and beeches and tall
larch trees ; — they, at least, are in the full pride
of their magnificent young beauty, with long
branches thickly hung with tufts of fragrant green.
It is a valley of streams, that, drawn in silver
threads from every hill-slope near, set all along
with alder and willow, with ferns and rushes, and
cool water plants, go plunging through at last out
of the narrow gateway of the glen, to widen
farther down into a broad, smooth flood, that
sweeps in silence among the worn stepping-stones
of a village way.

The valley is full of life ; full as the moorland
here is bare of it. In the great bank that skirts
the wood badgers have their holt. Hard by it is
a famous "earth," to which every hunted fox
for miles round flees for sanctuary. The wood-
men have been busy here. The ground is strewn
with red larch chips, whose sweet, resinous
fragrance hangs heavy on the air. And from the
welcome rest of some new-felled tree, whose shorn
plumes lie heaped about it in well-ordered faggots,
you may listen to the pleasant voices of the doves,
and the blithe notes of warblers in the boughs
above you. You may watch the pheasants stalking
solemnly among the underwood, may see the
brown squirrels romping on the grass, or playing
follow the leader up and down the smooth-stemmed
beech trees. A charmed spot.

Dream-like, too, is the quiet that broods over
this peaceful valley — a quiet even deepened by
those Voices Three, of the wind, and the birds, and
the river. No sound of toil or traffic rises from
the village, save the clink of iron in the smithy,
the thud of a woodman's axe among the young
alders by the water, or, still more rarely, the
lumbering of a cart along one of the deep lanes
that slope upward to the moor, or that wander
with the winding streams. The wind that sways
the oak boughs overhead has a stormy sound.
But this sheltered corner under the hill, with its
screen of thick-growing fir and holly, is full of the
warm south, of soft and gentle airs, scented with
the sweet resinous fragrance of the pines.

To the lover of the sights and sounds of Nature,
life has few better things to offer than a quiet
hour, some bright spring morning, under the
shadow of a green arch of blossomed boughs, in
company with gentle, beautiful, sweet-voiced
poets of the air, glad, like him, in the sunshine
and the fragrance. Is it a mere flight of fancy
that the feathered architects, no less than the
ballad singers, of this out-of-the-way corner of
the world are masters of their art above the
birds of less favoured regions ? Look at this
chaffinch's nest, cradled in the end of an
apple-bough, so dexterously woven in among
the twigs in which it rests, so daintily touched
with silvery points of lichen, so perfect a harmony
with its surroundings that one might well fancy
it had grown there, some strange product of
the tree. While just above it, an apple bough
in bloom, the rich gold of clustered stamens
just showing through the white and pink of
still half-open flowers, lends the crowning touch
of beauty.

A cool and quiet spot. Like the poet who found
it pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
" To see the tumult and not feel the stir," we
too, from the kindly shadow of these great chest-
nut trees, can look out on the woodland in its
pride of summer glory, with its flowers and its
fragrance and its greenness, nor feel the heat and
glare and the pitiless weight of the sunshine.
Day after day, week after week, there has been
" . . that nameless splendour everywhere
That makes the passers in the city street
Congratulate each other as they meet."

There are few points of brighter colour among
the world of green. Not many brilliant flowers
grow well in the very heart of the woods. Along
the paths there is a fringe of hawkweed and crow-
foot and yellow cistus. And where the sunlight is
less broken by the trees there are patches of red
lychnis and tall crowns of white cow parsley. In
the clearings strawberries run riot, in flower still,
but with scantier harvest than usual of the small
sweet fruit, in whose pleasant flavour is a dash of
woodland wildness. There is honeysuckle every-
where, trailing on the ground, creeping among the
bushes, and climbing up out of the green tangle,
laying hold of trees and saplings to help it to
the light. And as it climbs it twines with fatal
clasp about the friendly stems, slowly tightening its
embrace, sometimes cutting deep into the wood,
sometimes even killing- the branch outright, and
going up until at times a green canopy of it crowns
boughs thirty feet above the ground, while its
flowery clusters scent the woodland. And as
evening darkens, "What time the blackbird pipes
"to vespers from his perch," when the heat of the
long summer day gives place to the cooler, sweeter
air of night, the fragrance grows until the whole
glade is conscious of its subtle charm. Briar
bushes there are in plenty, and some of them
are lightly set with delicate blossoms. But
the dog'-roses are at their best, not here, but
on the skirts of the wood, where the long,
swaying sprays are crowded with those sweetest
flowers of June.

The mist of bluebells, that lingered here so late,
has vanished. The fiery spikes of early orchis
are all spent and faded. The ' lords and ladies '
have given place to little clusters of green berries,
that these sunny days will swiftly ripen to red
beads of coral. Yet there are other flowers, with
even more of beauty, that love the greater heat of
summer. Few are more lovely than the white
butterfly orchis ; fewer still more fragrant. It
has allies that mimic with marvellous faithfulness
the forms of bees and flies and spiders. They are
plants of the heath, of the sunny meadow, and the
open hill. But here is one, perhaps the least
striking of the clan, that will flourish in the
shadow, and that grows well even here in the half
twilight of the trees. The quiet-coloured petals
of the tway-blade are not like fly or bee or any
insect. Each floweret on its plain, unscented
spike is the little green figure of a man, a
man with outstretched arms. One might almost
fancy that the plant was copying shapes long
lost to our dulled vision ; that this quiet nook
was not alone
" . . . . for pretty cares
With mate and nest,
A lurking-place of tender airs
From south and west ; "
but that it was peopled still by the green-clad
gnomes of old belief; that these woodland aisles
were even now a place
" Where elves hold midnight revel,
And fairies linger still."

Pleasant it is to watch from this sheltered
corner the evolutions of the skaters. The wind
that blows so keen over the miles of frozen
marshland, and that lends a heightened colour
to their glowing faces, cannot reach you here.
Pleasant, too, is the scent of the hay and the
breath of cattle from the byres. But pleasanter
still is the ingle nook within the cottage, in a
tiny room, so low that the beam across its
ceiling is a trap for even the shortest of the group
on the old settle, by the fragrant fire of peat.
By such a fire it was that Alfred sat. Yet there
is a long gap between the half-shaped bow of the
old story and the gun, ancient as it is, hanging
yonder on the wall ; and if there are cakes about
this hearth, you will not hear the tall, blue-eyed,
winsome damsel who dispenses them
" . . . scold with kindling eye,
In good broad Somerset,"
as the neatherd's wife, a thousand years since,
scolded the Royal fugitive in these very marshes.

For the breath of the lost flowers of the
meadow there are all the perfumes of the one
garden that gives upon the field — of roses all
in bloom on arch and trellis, of clumps of tall
sweet peas, white and red and rich imperial
purple, of the delicate wild pinks, rooted at will
in the old garden wall. And, although the last
blossom has faded from the hawthorns round
the meadow, slowly, and as with reluctance,
delicate dog-roses are scattered broadcast all
along the hedge-rows, and the woodbine sprays
are rich already with pale sweet clusters.

The old hedge-rows round the orchard are
but wintry still for the most part, save for a
few buds of hawthorn just breaking into leaf,
or an elder bush already tinged with green.
But on the banks of the tiny stream that wanders
leisurely along the lane below, celandine and
sweet violet are in bloom ; and primroses, no
longer pale and stunted, as in the rougher days of
March, lend their rare perfume to the air.
Meadowsweet and brooklime are springing by the
oozy shore, and on the dark boughs of the alders
that lean over it the catkins cluster thick.

There is nothing
for it but to sit down a few yards away, hidden by
a dwarf blackthorn bush, and wait patiently for
his re-appearing. How quiet it all is. The
hamlet on the hill-slope yonder —

" One of those little places that have run
Half up the hill beneath a burning sun.
And then sat down to rest, as if to say.
'I climb no further upward, come what may'" —
looms faintly through the haze. The white
houses scattered through the valley melt away
into the mist. But the sun is still warm. The
cones of the old firs crackle in the sunshine.
Still sweeter grows the faint perfume of the gorse,
still more beautiful its radiant gold. A bullfinch
settles in a tree hard by. There is no colour in
Nature more beautiful than the exquisite flush of
crimson on his breast. Quite in keeping with
his beauty is the soft sweetness of the tender love
note that now and then he whispers to his mate,
who, in colours far less bright than his, sits just
below him on a lichened apple bough.

Through the open windows the warm air brings
all pleasant scents and sounds. The low of cattle,
on distant farms, the mellow chiming of the old
church bells, the rich strains of thrush and black-
bird, the sweet song" of the swallow, clink of oxeye,
call of cuckoo, jay's harsh cry, and wood-pecker's
light-hearted laughter, mingle with the perfume
of the roses and the woodruff. The swallows that
sing on the brown gable of the barn beyond
the precincts may have their nests plundered by
prowling schoolboys. The hollow trees in the
orchard, the chinks in the old wall of the lane,
are not wholly safe from the village birds' -nester.
But here is sanctuary inviolate, from which no
bird was ever driven.

You may watch the shrike yonder, perched
motionless on his favourite hawthorn, in whose
shadow his mate is doubtless already brooding
on her eggs. You may listen to the goldfinch
singing in the green mist of meeting branches
overhead ; see the grey cuckoo alight on the
topmost crest of the great elm that towers
above the meadow ; watch the busy starlings as
they pass and repass with hurried flight. And,
as through the great masses of lilac, now
beginning to abate their rare perfume, you catch
glimpses of hills and meadows, of the white
houses of the village, with its orchards and its
elms, and, crowning these, the grey tower of the
church, looking down like a watchful sentinel on
the hamlet lying at its feet, you feel it was to no
fairer spot than this that the poet called his friend,
when he sang :
" Or if thou tarry, come with the summer
That welcome comer
Welcome as he.
When noontide sunshine beats on the meadow
A seat in shadow,
We'll keep for thee.'

The sun low down in the west, showing for
a brief space through the trees his face of
fiery gold barred with the dark branches, throws
far across the grass the shadows of a group
of tall elms out in the meadow, whose green
heads tower a hundred feet into the clear, pale
blue. Motionless they stand, or seem to stand.
The light wafts of scented air may flutter the
leaves upon their lofty crests, but have no
power to sway their giant branches. From far up
among their green crown of foliage floats a gold-
finch's song — a pleasant sound, a note of summer
and green fields and open country. Pleasant, too,
is the slow clink of a whetted scythe, sounding
faintly from a distant meadow, where some tired
haymaker, perhaps for the last time in the long
summer day, is putting a better edge upon his
worn old blade.


Round the old farm yonder, whose weather-
stained roofs and walls half ruinous just show
among its clustering trees, there is a picture of
quiet autumn life. In the spacious stack-yard a
party of labourers, whose sunburnt faces glow
against the green background of the trees like so
many round red autumn suns, are standing about
a great waggon, tossing hay to men at work on
the fast-growing ricks of new, sweet-smelling
aftermath. It is an ancient homestead. A
thousand summers, it may be, has hay been
cleared from these broad meadows.' A thousand
times, at the season of mists and mellow fruitful-
ness have the sheaves been piled in this old
stack-yard. The hamlet of three houses is little
changed, either in name or character, since the
days of Edward the Confessor, when Brictric
held it, paying - geld for one hide of land ; when
two villeins, with as many boors and serfs, made
up all its scanty population. A pleasant place,
this warm autumn afternoon, is the hollow at
the back of the farm ; a broad space of level
grass land, once an orchard, and with a few
forlorn old apple trees still standing in it ;
bordered on one side by a green lane, and
on the other by a broken line of hedge-row,
through whose wide gaps the thistles and brake-
fern are marching down like caterans from the
hills, bent on reconquering the pasture-land and
turning it once more into a wilderness.

It is almost more strange that here a pair of
chaffinches have made a sanctuary of this porch,
and have built their nest just over the door,
within arm's reach of every passer-by. It is an
exquisite work of art, whose moss and lichen,
felted with cobwebs and fine strands of wool fitted
deftly on the curve of a level larch pole, and
woven among the young shoots of the climbing
rose tree, whose leaves hang down as if to hide
it, might have escaped notice altogether were it
not that the little builders are busy all day upon
the grass before the windows, now taking short
flights among the laurels or the branches of the
old arbutus, or the great bay tree that overhangs
the lawn, scenting all the air with its abundant
bloom, and that now and then they fly up to their
nest over the doorway.

Beyond the bridge, through a purple mist of
branches, show silver glimpses of the river, then a
broad stretch of meadow with dark pine woods
above it, among which the young larch foliage
floats in feathery clouds of green, and above these
again, the brown and desolate moorland. Near
the bridge a little party of wanderers have made
their camp. The blue smoke of their fire drifts
slowly this way, with the pleasant scent of burning
pine wood, the pleasanter voices of girls and the
shouts of children. It is a perfect day for camping
in the open ; with warm air, and blue sky, and
soft white clouds sailing slowly over, — a day of
clear shining after rain.

Yet perhaps the full beauty of such weather, its
wealth of flowers and foliage, its abundance of
bird and insect life, above all its half-tropic heat,
is for the country rather than the town. Among
stone walls and pavements summer days are too
often weariness, and summer nights but stifling.
In the country the glare of noon is tempered by
cool winds, softened by grass and foliage. There,
too, the hot air of night is sweetened with the
breath of honeysuckle and jasmine ; and through
wide open windows the scent of the roses floats
up to us
"Like sweet thoughts in a dream."

Though the flowers of May have passed into a
proverb, it is June after all that gives to the fields
and by ways their crowning grace and beauty.
May draped all the trees with fresh young foliage,
deepened April's mist of bluebells, and whitened
the hedge-rows with blossoming hawthorn. May
was a month of broad effects and lavish colouring.
Here she silvered a whole field with daisies, as
with a light fall of snow. And here, like a cunning-
alchemist, she changed with her buttercups the
green of a rich pasture-land to a blaze of living
gold. But there is yet more of beauty in the fields
of June. Even in the Tropics, travellers tell us,
there is nothing so superbly beautiful as an
English midsummer meadow — whether an upland
pasture, with its hawkweed and lotus, its scented
grasses and sweet clover blooms ; or a low- lying
field along some loitering stream, where, in the
swampy soil, among the tasselled sedges, spring
fiery spikes of orchis, foamy meadow-sweet, and
tall flower-de-luce.