Fragrant Quote for May 1st, 2012 from On the edge of the world By Edmund Candler


Fragrant Quote for May 1st, 2012 from On the edge of the world
By Edmund Candler

We rode the two next stages from Sopor, still in the hot valley, through grassy lanes, between avenues of poplar, willow, and mulberry, fragrant with the sweet earthy smell of the rise. There were little bubbling water-channels on either side, which meant a double border of flowers; by the edge of the road a line of homely English wayside herbs, agrimony, succory, vervain, mullein, bird'sfoot trefoil; and on the banks of the streamlet familiar marsh-plants, water plantain, arrowhead, willow-herb, forget-me-not, loosestrife. But the most beautiful thing we saw was the starry chains of light blue succory spread over the maze of intersecting bunds between the rice-fields, like a web of stringed turquoises. Every now and then we came to villages embowered in groves of walnut and elm and chenar, apple-orchards and clumps of hawthorn. Masses of briar in seed and faded irises spread over the humble graveyards told us that the valley must have been even more beautiful in spring. Then the road would lead up to a stony ghat, and the lush water-flowers would give place to the dianthus, white and pink, and the deep blue salvia.

When the marches were not too long we halted for two or three hours in the middle of the day. I packed " L'Immortel " and " Cosmopolis " in the tiffin basket for the first half of the journey. There is a double zest in a book with a scene remote from one's surroundings, especially when one's surroundings fit one's mood. At Bunji I read "Under the Greenwood Tree." Longden's yakdhan was heavy with literature. By different rills and streams he digested four volumes of Economic History.

When we left the shade of the grass lanes the heat was intense. The only relief was a subconscious one in the babble of the network of watercourses which spread everywhere, feeding the ricefields and turning little mills like rabbit-hutches laid across the stream, from which some old Semitic crone or naked little wide-eyed girl would peep at us curiously and salaam. We reached the foot of the mountains at a village called Marhamma. The walnut trees here were the largest I have seen. The grass under them was starred with balsam and larkspur and a white umbelliferous plant like sheep's parsley. Looking up through the leaves we saw the blue hills we were circumventing, and down the path the white and grey of the willows and poplars and the vivid green of the young seedling rice. We pitched our tents on a narrow plot between the graves of the village fathers and the house of an aged mullah who prayed and intoned all the while we were there, now playing the imam to a group of reverent elders, now the instructor of. equally reverent, but more abstracted youth.

These pastoral scenes have an indescribable charm to one on the road to or from the snows. If one hears more of the beauty of Kashmir than of other parts of the Himalayas, it is because the pastoral bent is as strong in most wanderers as the love of wild scenery, and no one can resist the blend of the two. The moods play upon one alternately— Pan's flute and the alpenhorn calling one up to the echoes of the moraine; the shade of a fruit-tree by a rippling stream and the cloud-shadows racing over a mountain-tarn where the tall gentian and primula peep out of their crevice in the rock.