Lapsang Souchong Tea/Smoked Tea(Camellia sinensis) CO2 select extract(China)

Theae folium "lapsang souchong", Camellia sinensis Image Credit


Lapsang Souchong Tea/Smoked Tea(Camellia sinensis) CO2 select extract(China)

The rare co2 extract of Lapsang Souchong Tea is made from a type of Camellia sinensis leaves that are grown in the Wuyi mountain district of Fujian Province of China. The tea leaves develop their smoky aroma when being dried on racks which are suspended above smoldering fires of pine embers.

The co2 extract is an soft, orange waxy mass with a delicate, crisp, smoky, savory, roasted bouquet with a cool, sweet-woody-coniferous undertone. The smokiness is unique is in the world of smoky aromas(cade, birch tar, etc) being delicate, rich and complex

In natural perfumery would find use in amber bases, culinary perfumes, high class florals, Russian leather perfume, incense bouquets, aftershave lotions, forest notes

Dante's garden, with legends of the flowers ([1901) Cotes, Rosemary A

Dante's garden, with legends of the flowers ([1901)
Cotes, Rosemary A

http://www.archive.org/stream/dantesgardenwith00coteiala#page/n7/mode/2up
Dante's garden, with legends of the flowers
www.archive.org

Title: Incense Author: Lafcadio Hearn

Fushino chi bensaiten (Bensai Temple at Fushino Pond) Image Credit


Title: Incense
Author: Lafcadio Hearn
I see, rising out of darkness, a lotos in a vase. Most of the vase is invisible, but I know that it is of bronze, and that its glimpsing handles are bodies of dragons. Only the lotos is fully illuminated: three pure white flowers, and five great leaves of gold and green,--gold above, green on the upcurling under-surface,--an artificial lotos. It is bathed by a slanting stream of sunshine,-- the darkness beneath and beyond is the dusk of a temple-chamber. I do not see the opening through which the radiance pours, but I am aware that it is a small window shaped in the outline-form of a temple-bell.

The reason that I see the lotos--one memory of my first visit to a Buddhist sanctuary--is that there has come to me an odor of incense. Often when I smell incense, this vision defines; and usually thereafter other sensations of my first day in Japan revive in swift succession with almost painful acuteness.

It is almost ubiquitous,--this perfume of incense. It makes one element of the faint but complex and never-to-be-forgotten odor of the Far East. It haunts the dwelling-house not less than the temple,--the home of the peasant not less than the yashiki of the prince. Shinto shrines, indeed, are free from it;--incense being an abomination to the elder gods. But wherever Buddhism lives there is incense. In every house containing a Buddhist shrine or Buddhist tablets, incense is burned at certain times; and in even the rudest country solitudes you will find incense smouldering before wayside images,--little stone figures of Fudo, Jizo, or Kwannon. Many experiences of travel,--strange impressions of sound as well as of sight,--remain associated in my own memory with that fragrance:--vast silent shadowed avenues leading to weird old shrines;--mossed flights of worn steps ascending to temples that moulder above the clouds;--joyous tumult of festival nights;--sheeted funeral-trains gliding by in glimmer of lanterns; murmur of household prayer in fishermen's huts on far wild coasts;--and visions of desolate little graves marked only by threads of blue smoke ascending,--graves of pet animals or birds remembered by simple hearts in the hour of prayer to Amida, the Lord of Immeasurable Light.

But the odor of which I speak is that of cheap incense only,--the incense in general use. There are many other kinds of incense; and the range of quality is amazing. A bundle of common incense- rods--(they are about as thick as an ordinary pencil-lead, and somewhat longer)--can be bought for a few sen; while a bundle of better quality, presenting to inexperienced eyes only some difference in color, may cost several yen, and be cheap at the price. Still costlier sorts of incense,--veritable luxuries,-- take the form of lozenges, wafers, pastilles; and a small envelope of such material may be worth four or five pounds- sterling. But the commercial and industrial questions relating to Japanese incense represent the least interesting part of a remarkably curious subject.

II

Curious indeed, but enormous by reason of it infinity of tradition and detail. I am afraid even to think of the size of the volume that would be needed to cover it.... Such a work would properly begin with some brief account of the earliest knowledge and use of aromatics in Japan. I would next treat of the records and legends of the first introduction of Buddhist incense fron Korea,--when King Shomyo of Kudara, in 551 A. D., sent to the island-empire a collection of sutras, an image of the Buddha, and one complete set of furniture for a temple. Then something would have to be said about those classifications of incense which were made during the tenth century, in the periods of Engi and of Tenryaku,--and about the report of the ancient state-councillor, Kimitaka-Sangi, who visited China in the latter part of the thirteenth century, and transmitted to the Emperor Yomei the wisdom of the Chinese concerning incense. Then mention should be made of the ancient incenses still preserved in various Japanese temples, and of the famous fragments of ranjatai (publicly exhibited at Nara in the tenth year of Meiji) which furnished supplies to the three great captains, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Iyeyasu. After this should fol-low an outline of the history of mixed incenses made in Japan,--with notes on the classifications devised by the luxurious Takauji, and on the nomenclature established later by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who collected one hundred and thirty varieties of incense, and invented for the more precious of them names recognized even to this day,--such as "Blossom-Showering," "Smoke-of-Fuji," and "Flower-of-the-Pure- Law." Examples ought to be given likewise of traditions attaching to historical incenses preserved in several princely families, together with specimens of those hereditary recipes for incense- making which have been transmitted from generation to generation through hundreds of years, and are still called after their august inventors,--as "the Method of Hina-Dainagon," "the Method of Sento-In," etc. Recipes also should be given of those strange incenses made "to imitate the perfume of the lotos, the smell of the summer breeze, and the odor of the autumn wind." Some legends of the great period of incense-luxury should be cited,--such as the story of Sue Owari-no-Kami, who built for himself a palace of incense-woods, and set fire to it on the night of his revolt, when the smoke of its burning perfumed the land to a distance of twelve miles.... Of course the mere compilation of materials for a history of mixed-incenses would entail the study of a host of documents, treatises, and books,--particularly of such strange works as the Kun-Shu-Rui-Sho, or "Incense-Collector's Classifying-Manual";--containing the teachings of the Ten Schools of the Art of Mixing Incense; directions as to the best seasons for incense-making; and instructions about the "different kinds of fire" to be used for burning incense--(one kind is called "literary fire," and another "military fire"); together with rules for pressing the ashes of a censer into various artistic designs corresponding to season and occasion.... A special chapter should certainly be given to the incense-bags (kusadama) hung up in houses to drive away goblins,--and to the smaller incense-bags formerly carried about the person as a protection against evil spirits. Then a very large part of the work would have to be devoted to the religious uses and legends of incense, --a huge subject in itself. There would also have to be considered the curious history of the old "incense-assemblies," whose elaborate ceremonial could be explained only by help of numerous diagrams. One chapter at least would be required for the subject of the ancient importation of incense-materials from India, China, Annam, Siam, Cambodia, Ceylon, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and various islands of the Malay archipelago,--places all named in rare books about incense. And a final chapter should treat of the romantic literature of incense,--the poems, stories, and dramas in which incense-rites are mentioned; and especially those love-songs comparing the body to incense, and passion to the eating flame:--

Even as burns the perfume lending thy robe its fragance, Smoulders my life away, consumed by the pain of longing!

....The merest outline of the subject is terrifying! I shall attempt nothing more than a few notes about the religious, the luxurious, and the ghostly uses of incense.

III

The common incense everywhere burned by poor people before Buddhist icons is called an-soku-ko. This is very cheap. Great quantities of it are burned by pilgrims in the bronze censers set before the entrances of famous temples; and in front of roadside images you may often see bundles of it. These are for the use of pious wayfarers, who pause before every Buddhist image on their path to repeat a brief prayer and, when possible, to set a few rods smouldering at the feet of the statue. But in rich temples, and during great religious ceremonies, much more expensive incense is used. Altogether three classes of perfumes are employed in Buddhist rites: ko, or incense-proper, in many varieties--(the word literally means only "fragrant substance"); --dzuko, an odorous ointment; and makko, a fragrant powder. Ko is burned; dzuko is rubbed upon the hands of the priest as an ointment of purification; and makko is sprinkled about the sanctuary. This makko is said to be identical with the sandalwood-powder so frequently mentioned in Buddhist texts. But it is only the true incense which can be said to bear an important relation to the religious service.

"Incense," declares the Soshi-Ryaku,(1) "is the Messenger of Earnest Desire. When the rich Sudatta wished to invite the Buddha to a repast, he made use of incense. He was wont to ascend to the roof of his house on the eve of the day of the entertainment, and to remain standing there all night, holding a censer of precious incense. And as often as he did thus, the Buddha never failed to come on the following day at the exact time desired."

This text plainly implies that incense, as a burnt-offering, symbolizes the pious desires of the faithful. But it symbolizes other things also; and it has furnished many remarkable similes to Buddhist literature. Some of these, and not the least interesting, occur in prayers, of which the following, from the book called Hoji-san (2) is a striking example:--

--"Let my body remain pure like a censer!--let my thought be ever as a fire of wisdom, purely consuming the incense of sila and of dhyana, (3) that so may I do homage to all the Buddhas in the Ten Directions of the Past, the Present, and the Future!"

Sometimes in Buddhist sermons the destruction of Karma by virtuous effort is likened to the burning of incense by a pure flame,--sometimes, again, the life of man is compared to the smoke of incense. In his "Hundred Writings "(Hyaku-tsu-kiri- kami), the Shinshu priest Myoden says, quoting from the Buddhist work Kujikkajo, or "Ninety Articles ":--

"In the burning of incense we see that so long as any incense remains, so long does the burning continue, and the smoke mount skyward. Now the breath of this body of ours,--this impermanent combination of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire,--is like that smoke. And the changing of the incense into cold ashes when the flame expires is an emblem of the changing of our bodies into ashes when our funeral pyres have burnt themselves out."

He also tells us about that Incense-Paradise of which every believer ought to be reminded by the perfume of earthly incense: --"In the Thirty- Second Vow for the Attainment of the Paradise of Wondrous Incense," he says, "it is written: 'That Paradise is formed of hundreds of thousands of different kinds of incense, and of substances incalculably precious;--the beauty of it incomparably exceeds anything in the heavens or in the sphere of man;--the fragrance of it perfumes all the worlds of the Ten Directions of Space; and all who perceive that odor practise Buddha-deeds.' In ancient times there were men of superior wisdom and virtue who, by reason of their vow, obtained perception of the odor; but we, who are born with inferior wisdom and virtue in these later days, cannot obtain such perception. Nevertheless it will be well for us, when we smell the incense kindled before the image of Amida, to imagine that its odor is the wonderful fragrance of Paradise, and to repeat the Nembutsu in gratitude for the mercy of the Buddha."

FOOTNOTES:
[1] "Short [or Epitomized] History of Priests."
[2] "The Praise of Pious Observances."
[3] By sila is meant the observance of the rules of purity in act and thought. Dhyana (called by Japanese Buddhists Zenjo) is one of the higher forms of meditation.

IV

But the use of incense in Japan is not confined to religious rites and ceremonies: indeed the costlier kinds of incense are manufactured chiefly for social entertainments. Incense-burning has been an amusement of the aristocracy ever since the thirteenth century. Probably you have heard of the Japanese tea- ceremonies, and their curious Buddhist history; and I suppose that every foreign collector of Japanese bric-a'-brac knows something about the luxury to which these ceremonies at one period attained,--a luxury well attested by the quality of the beautiful utensils formerly employed in them. But there were, and still are, incense-ceremonies much more elaborate and costly than the tea-ceremonies,--and also much more interesting. Besides music, embroidery, poetical composition and other branches of the old-fashioned female education, the young lady of pre-Meiji days was expected to acquire three especially polite accomplishments, --the art of arranging flowers, (ikebana), the art of ceremonial tea-making (cha-no-yu or cha-no-e),(1) and the etiquette of incense-parties (ko-kwai or ko-e). Incense-parties were invented before the time of the Ashikaga shoguns, and were most in vogue during the peaceful period of the Tokugawa rule. With the fall of the shogunate they went out of fashion; but recently they have been to some extent revived. It is not likely, however, that they will again become really fashionable in the old sense,--partly because they represented rare forms of social refinement that never can be revived, and partly because of their costliness.

In translating ko-kwai as "incense-party," I use the word "party" in the meaning that it takes in such compounds as "card-party," "whist-party," "chess-party";--for a ko-kwai is a meeting held only with the object of playing a game,--a very curious game. There are several kinds of incense-games; but in all of them the contest depends upon the ability to remember and to name different kinds of incense by the perfume alone. That variety of ko-kwai called Jitchu-ko ("ten-burning-incense") is generally conceded to be the most amusing; and I shall try to tell you how it is played.

The numeral "ten," in the Japanese, or rather Chinese name of this diversion, does not refer to ten kinds, but only to ten packages of incense; for Jitchu-ko, besides being the most amusing, is the very simplest of incense-games, and is played with only four kinds of incense. One kind must be supplied by the guests invited to the party; and three are furnished by the person who gives the entertainment. Each of the latter three supplies of incense--usually prepared in packages containing one hundred wafers is divided into four parts; and each part is put into a separate paper numbered or marked so as to indicate the quality. Thus four packages are prepared of the incense classed as No. 1, four of incense No. 2, and four of incense No. 3,--or twelve in all. But the incense given by the guests,--always called "guest-incense"--is not divided: it is only put into a wrapper marked with an abbreviation of the Chinese character signifying "guest." Accordingly we have a total of thirteen packages to start with; but three are to be used in the preliminary sampling, or "experimenting"--as the Japanese term it,--after the following manner.

We shall suppose the game to be arranged for a party of six,-- though there is no rule limiting the number of players. The six take their places in line, or in a half-circle--if the room be small; but they do not sit close together, for reasons which will presently appear. Then the host, or the person appointed to act as incense-burner, prepares a package of the incense classed as No 1, kindles it in a censer, and passes the censer to the guest occupying the first seat, (2) with the announcement--"This is incense No 1" The guest receives the censer according to the graceful etiquette required in the ko-kwai, inhales the perfume, and passes on the vessel to his neighbor, who receives it in like manner and passes it to the third guest, who presents it to the fourth,--and so on. When the censer has gone the round of the party, it is returned to the incense-burner. One package of incense No. 2, and one of No. 3, are similarly prepared, announced, and tested. But with the "guest-incense" no experiment is made. The player should be able to remember the different odors of the incenses tested; and he is expected to identify the guest-incense at the proper time merely by the unfamiliar quality of its fragrance.

The original thirteen packages having thus by "experimenting" been reduced to ten, each player is given one set of ten small tablets--usually of gold-lacquer,--every set being differently ornamented. The backs only of these tablets are decorated; and the decoration is nearly always a floral design of some sort:-- thus one set might be decorated with chrysanthemums in gold, another with tufts of iris-plants, another with a spray of plum- blossoms, etc. But the faces of the tablets bear numbers or marks; and each set comprises three tablets numbered "1," three numbered "2," three numbered "3," and one marked with the character signifying "guest." After these tablet-sets have been distributed, a box called the "tablet-box" is placed before the first player; and all is ready for the real game.

The incense-burner retires behind a little screen, shuffles the flat packages like so many cards, takes the uppermost, prepares its contents in the censer, and then, returning to the party, sends the censer upon its round. This time, of course, he does not announce what kind of incense he has used. As the censer passes from hand to hand, each player, after inhaling the fume, puts into the tablet-box one tablet bearing that mark or number which he supposes to be the mark or number of the incense he has smelled. If, for example, he thinks the incense to be "guest- incense," he drops into the box that one of his tablets marked with the ideograph meaning "guest;" or if he believes that he has inhaled the perfume of No. 2, he puts into the box a tablet numbered "2." When the round is over, tablet-box and censer are both returned to the incense-burner. He takes the six tablets out of the box, and wraps them up in the paper which contained the incense guessed about. The tablets themselves keep the personal as well as the general record,--since each player remembers the particular design upon his own set.

The remaining nine packages of incense art consumed and judged in the same way, according to the chance order in which the shuffling has placed them. When all the incense has been used, the tablets are taken out of their wrappings, the record is officially put into writing, and the victor of the day is announced. I here offer the translation of such a record: it will serve to explain, almost at a glance, all the complications of the game.

According to this record the player who used the tablets decorated with the design called "Young Pine," made but two mistakes; while the holder of the "White-Lily" set made only one correct guess. But it is quite a feat to make ten correct judgments in succession. The olfactory nerves are apt to become somewhat numbed long before the game is concluded; and, therefore it is customary during the Ko-kwai to rinse the mouth at intervals with pure vinegar, by which operation the sensitivity is partially restored.

RECORD OF A KO-KWAI.

Order in which the ten packages of incense were
used:--
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Names given
to the six No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
tablets used, III I GUEST II I III II I III II
according to
decorative
designs on
the back: Guesses recorded by nos. on tablet; correct
being marked *
No. of
correct
guesses
"Gold
Chrysanthemum" 1 3 1 2* Guest 1 2* 2 3* 3 3

"Young Bamboo" 3* 1* 1 2* 1* Guest 3 2 1 3 4

"Red Peony" Guest 1* 2 2* 3 1 3 2 3* 1 3

"White Lily" 1 3 1 3 2 2 1 3 Guest 2* 1

"Young Pine" 3* 1* Guest* 3 1* 2 2* 1* 3* 2* 8(Winner

"Cherry-Blossom
-in-a-Mist" 1 3 Guest* 2* 1* 3* 1 2 3* 2* 6

NAMES OF INCENSE USED.

I. "Tasogare" ("Who-Is-there?" I. e. "Evening-Dusk").
II. "Baikwa" ("Plum Flower").
III. "Wakakusa" ("Young Grass").
IV. ("Guest Incense") "Yamaji-no-Tsuyu"

("Dew-on-the-Mountain-Path"). To the Japanese original of the foregoing record were appended the names of the players, the date of the entertainment, and the name of the place where the party was held. It is the custom In some families to enter all such records in a book especially made for the purpose, and furnished with an index which enables the Ko-kwai player to refer immediately to any interesting fact belonging to the history of any past game.

The reader will have noticed that the four kinds of incense used were designated by very pretty names. The incense first mentioned, for example, is called by the poets' name for the gloaming,--Tasogare (lit: "Who is there?" or " Who is it?")--a word which in this relation hints of the toilet-perfume that reveals some charming presence to the lover waiting in the dusk. Perhaps some curiosity will be felt regarding the composition of these incenses. I can give the Japanese recipes for two sorts; but I have not been able to identify all of the materials named:--

Recipe for Yamaji-no-Tsuyu.

Ingredients Proportions.
about
Jinko (aloes-wood) 4 momme (1/2 oz.)
Choji (cloves) 4 " "
Kunroku (olibanum) 4 " "
Hakko (artemisia Schmidtiana) 4 " "
Jako (musk) 1 bu (1/8 oz.)
Koko(?) 4 momme (1/2 oz.)

To 21 pastilles

Recipe for Baikwa.

Ingredients Proportions.
about
Jinko (aloes) 20 momme (2 1/2 oz.)
Choji (cloves) 12 " (1 1/2 oz.)
Koko(?) 8 1/3 " (1 1/40 oz.)
Byakudan (sandal-wood) 4 " (1/2 oz.)
Kansho (spikenard) 2 bu (1/4 oz.)
Kwakko (Bishop's-wort?) 1 bu 2 sbu (3/16 oz.)
Kunroku (olibanum) 3 " 3 " (15/22 oz.)
Shomokko (?) 2 " (1/4 oz.)
Jako (musk) 3 " 2 sbu (7/16 oz.)
Ryuno (refined Borneo Camphor) 3 sbu (3/8 oz.)

To 50 pastilles

The incense used at a Ko-kwai ranges in value, according to the style of the entertainment, from $2.50 to $30.00 per envelope of 100 wafers--wafers usually not more than one-fourth of an inch in diameter. Sometimes an incense is used worth even more than $30.00 per envelope: this contains ranjatai, an aromatic of which the perfume is compared to that of "musk mingled with orchid- flowers." But there is some incense,--never sold,--which is much more precious than ranjatai,--incense valued less for its com- position than for its history: I mean the incense brought centuries ago from China or from India by the Buddhist missionaries, and presented to princes or to other persons of high rank. Several ancient Japanese temples also include such foreign incense among their treasures. And very rarely a little of this priceless material is contributed to an incense-party,-- much as in Europe, on very extraordinary occasions, some banquet is glorified by the production of a wine several hundred years old.

Like the tea-ceremonies, the Ko-kwai exact observance of a very complex and ancient etiquette. But this subject could interest few readers; and I shall only mention some of the rules regarding preparations and precautions. First of all, it is required that the person invited to an incense-party shall attend the same in as odorless a condition as possible: a lady, for instance, must not use hair-oil, or put on any dress that has been kept in a perfumed chest-of-drawers. Furthermore, the guest should prepare for the contest by taking a prolonged hot bath, and should eat only the lightest and least odorous kind of food before going to the rendezvous. It is forbidden to leave the room during the game, or to open any door or window, or to indulge in needless conversation. Finally I may observe that, while judging the incense, a player is expected to take not less than three inhalations, or more than five.

In this economical era, the Ko-kwai takes of necessity a much humbler form than it assumed in the time of the great daimyo, of the princely abbots, and of the military aristocracy. A full set of the utensils required for the game can now be had for about $50.00; but the materials are of the poorest kind. The old- fashioned sets were fantastically expensive. Some were worth thousands of dollars. The incense-burner's desk,--the writing- box, paper-box, tablet-box, etc.,--the various stands or dai,-- were of the costliest gold-lacquer;--the pincers and other instruments were of gold, curiously worked;--and the censer-- whether of precious metal, bronze, or porcelain,--was always a chef-d'oeuvre, designed by some artist of renown.

FOOTNOTES:
[1] Girls are still trained in the art of arranging flowers, and in the etiquette of the dainty, though somewhat tedious, cha-no-yu. Buddhist priests have long enjoyed a reputation as teachers of the latter. When the pupil has reached a certain degree of proficiency, she is given a diploma or certificate. The tea used in these ceremonies is a powdered tea of remarkable fragrance,-- the best qualities of which fetch very high prices.

[2] The places occupied by guests in a Japanese zashiki, or reception room are numbered from the alcove of the apartment. The place of the most honored is immediately before the alcove: this is the first seat, and the rest are numbered from it, usually to the left.

V

Although the original signification of incense in Buddhist ceremonies was chiefly symbolical, there is good reason to suppose that various beliefs older than Buddhism,--some, perhaps, peculiar to the race; others probably of Chinese or Korean derivation,--began at an early period to influence the popular use of incense in Japan. Incense is still burned in the presence of a corpse with the idea that its fragrance shields both corpse and newly-parted soul from malevolent demons; and by the peasants it is often burned also to drive away goblins and the evil powers presiding over diseases. But formerly it was used to summon spirits as well as to banish them. Allusions to its employment in various weird rites may be found in some of the old dramas and romances. One particular sort of incense, imported from China, was said to have the power of calling up human spirits. This was the wizard-incense referred to in such ancient love-songs as the following:--

"I have heard of the magical incense that summons the souls of the absent: Would I had some to burn, in the nights when I wait alone!"

There is an interesting mention of this incense in the Chinese book, Shang-hai-king. It was called Fwan-hwan-hiang (by Japanese pronunciation, Hangon-ko), or "Spirit-Recalling-Incense;" and it was made in Tso-Chau, or the District of the Ancestors, situated by the Eastern Sea. To summon the ghost of any dead person--or even that of a living person, according to some authorities,--it was only necessary to kindle some of the incense, and to pronounce certain words, while keeping the mind fixed upon the memory of that person. Then, in the smoke of the incense, the remembered face and form would appear.

In many old Japanese and Chinese books mention is made of a famous story about this incense,--a story of the Chinese Emperor Wu, of the Han dynasty. When the Emperor had lost his beautiful favorite, the Lady Li, he sorrowed so much that fears were entertained for his reason. But all efforts made to divert his mind from the thought of her proved unavailing. One day he ordered some Spirit-Recalling-Incense to be procured, that he might summon her from the dead. His counsellors prayed him to forego his purpose, declaring that the vision could only intensify his grief. But he gave no heed to their advice, and himself performed the rite,--kindling the incense, and keeping his mind fixed upon the memory of the Lady Li. Presently, within the thick blue smoke arising from the incense, the outline, of a feminine form became visible. It defined, took tints of life, slowly became luminous, and the Emperor recognized the form of his beloved At first the apparition was faint; but it soon became distinct as a living person, and seemed with each moment to grow more beautiful. The Emperor whispered to the vision, but received no answer. He called aloud, and the presence made no sign. Then unable to control himself, he approached the censer. But the instant that he touched the smoke, the phantom trembled and vanished.

Japanese artists are still occasionally inspired by the legends of the Hangon-ho. Only last year, in Tokyo, at an exhibition of new kakemono, I saw a picture of a young wife kneeling before an alcove wherein the smoke of the magical incense was shaping the shadow of the absent husband.(1)

Although the power of making visible the forms of the dead has been claimed for one sort of incense only, the burning of any kind of incense is supposed to summon viewless spirits in multitude. These come to devour the smoke. They are called Jiki- ko-ki, or "incense-eating goblins;" and they belong to the fourteenth of the thirty-six classes of Gaki (pretas) recognized by Japanese Buddhism. They are the ghosts of men who anciently, for the sake of gain, made or sold bad incense; and by the evil karma of that action they now find themselves in the state of hunger-suffering spirits, and compelled to seek their only food in the smoke of incense.

[Footnote 1: Among the curious Tokyo inventions of 1898 was a new variety of cigarettes called Hangon-so, or "Herb of Hangon,"--a name suggesting that their smoke operated like the spirit-summoning incense. As a matter of fact, the chemical action of the tobacco- smoke would define, upon a paper fitted into the mouth-piece of each cigarette, the photographic image of a dancing-girl.]

The Garden by J. W. Wright

Convallaria majalis, Rusaceae, Lily of the Valley, habitus; Karlsruhe, Germany. Image Credit



The Garden by J. W. Wright

_ It was the spirit of the garden that crept into my boy-heart and left its fragrance, to endure through the years. What the garden stood for--what it expressed--left a mysterious but certain impress. Grandmother's touch hallowed it and made it a thing apart, and the rare soul of her seemed to be reflected in the Lilies of the Valley that bloomed sweetly year by year in the shady plot under her favorite window in the sitting-room. Because the garden was her special province, it expressed her own sturdy, kindly nature. Little wonder, then, that we cherished it; that I loved to roam idly there feeling the enfoldment of that same protection and loving-kindness which drew me to the shelter of her gingham-aproned lap when the griefs of Boyhood pressed too hard upon me; and that we walked in it so contentedly in the cool of the evening, after the Four O'clocks had folded their purple petals for the night.

Grandmother's garden, like all real gardens, wasn't just flowers and fragrance.

There was a brick walk leading from the front gate to the sitting-room entrance--red brick, all moss-grown, and with the tiny weeds and grasses pushing up between the bricks. In the garden proper the paths were of earth, bordered and well-defined by inch-wide boards that provided jolly tight-rope practice until grandmother came anxiously out with her oft-repeated: "Willie don't walk on those boards; you'll, break them down." And just after the warm spring showers these earthwalks always held tiny mud-puddles where the rain-bleached worms congregated until the robins came that way.

There's something distinctive and individual about the paths in a garden--they either "belong," or they do not. Imagine cement walks in grandmother's garden! Its walks are as much to a garden as its flowers or its birds or its beetles, and express that dear, indescribable intimacy that makes the Phlox a friend and the Johnny-Jump-Up a play-fellow.

* * * * *

The best place for angle-worms was underneath the white Syringa bush--the tallest bloomer in the garden except the great Red Rose that climbed over the entire wall of the house, tacked to it by strips of red flannel, and whose blossoms were annually counted and reported to the weekly newspaper.

Another good place was under the Snowball bush, where the ground was covered with white petals dropped from the countless blossom-balls that made passers-by stop in admiration.

Still another good digging-ground was in the Lilac corner where the purple and white bushes exhaled their incomparable perfume. Grandmother forbade digging in the flower-beds--it was all right to go into the vegetable garden, but the tender flower-roots must not be exposed to the sun by ruthless boy hands intent only on the quest of bait.

* * * * *

Into the lapel of my dress coat She fastened a delicate orchid last night. It must have cost a pretty penny, at this season--enough, no doubt, to buy the seeds that would reproduce a half-dozen of my grandmother's gardens. And as we moved away in the limousine She asked me why I was so silent. She could not know that when she slipped its rare stem into place upon my coat, the long years dropped away--and I stood again where the Yellow Rose, all thorn-covered, lifted its sunny top above the picket fence--plucked its choicest blossom, put it almost apologetically and ashamed into the buttonhole of my jacket--stuffed my hands into my pockets and went whistling down the street, with the yellow rose-tint and the sunlight and the curls on my child head all shining in harmony. The first boutonniere of my life--from the bush that became my confidant through all those wondrous years before they packed my trunk and sent me off to college!

To be sure, I loved the bright-faced Pansies which smiled cheerily up at me from their round bed--and the dear old Pinks, of a strange fragrance all their own--and the Sweet William, and even the grewsome Bleeding Heart that drooped so sad and forlorn in its alloted corner. Yet it is significant that last night's orchid took me straight back over memory's pathway to that simple yellow rosebush by the fence!

* * * * *

Tonight, with the forgotten orchid in my lapel, and all the weight of the great struggle lying heavy against my heart, I stand where the night-fog veils the scraggly eucalyptus, and the dense silence blots out all the noises that have intervened between the Then and the Now--and I can see again the gorgeous Peonies, pink and white, where they toss their shaggy heads, and gather as of old the flaming Cock's Comb by the little path. I hear the honeybees droning in the Crab Apple tree by the back gate, and watch the robins crowding the branches of the Mountain Ash, where the bright red berries cluster. I see the terrible bumble-bee bear down the Poppy on its slender stem and go buzzing threateningly away, all pollen-covered.

And shining clear and true through the mist I see her who was the Spirit of the Garden. There she stands, on the broad step beside the bed where the Lilies of the Valley grew, leaning firmly upon her one crutch, looking out across her garden to each loved group of her flower-friends--smiling out upon them as she did each day through fifty years--turning at last into the house and taking with her, in her heart, the glory of the Hollyhocks against the brick wall, the perfume of the Narcissus in the border, the wing-song of the humming-bird among, the Honey-suckle, and the warmth of the glad June sunshine. _

Fragrance Quote for February 29th, 2012-The living age ..., Volume 243

Moonlit sky, Cherry Springs State Park, Potter County. Image Credit

l looked out of my little room that opened on to the patio. The arch of heaven was swept and garnished, and from "depths blown clear of cloud" great stars were shining whitely. The breeze of early morning stirred, penetrating our barred outer gates, and bringing a subtle fragrance from the beflowered groves that lie beyond the city. lt had a freshness that demanded from one, in tones too seductive for denial, prompt action. Moreover, we had been rising before daylight for some days past, in order that we might cover a respectable distance before the Enemy should begin to blaze intolerably above our heads, commanding us to seek the shade of some chance fig tree or saint's tomb.
The living age ..., Volume 243

Peppermints by Walter Prichard Eaton


A boy looking at a candy cane in a store window on a promotional card by William B Steenberge image credit

Title: Peppermints
Author: Walter Prichard Eaton [More Titles by Eaton]

I have just purchased a little bag of peppermints, and returned with them to my rooms above the Square. I did not purchase them at the promptings of a sweet tooth, but of a hungry heart. They take me back into the forgotten Aprils of my life, where I often love to loiter, not from any resentment that I have been unable to emulate Peter Pan and remain a boy forever, but because this great town is drab and dusty and imprisoning, and it is sweet to escape down the green lanes of April, even if only in a memory. A physical sensation--the sound of a voice, a hand patting us to the rhythm of "Tell Aunt Rhody", an odor--can plunge us deeper and swifter down to the buried places of our memory than any process of deliberate recollection. No robin sings against my window of a morning here--only the noisy sparrows twitter and quarrel, reminding me of the curb market. No lilac sheds its perfume on the still air. I am perforce reduced to peppermints. The taste of peppermints on my tongue, the pungent fragrance of them in my nostrils, have the power, however, to transport me far from this maze of mortared canyons, back across the years, to a land where the robins sang against the spacious sky and a little boy dreamed great dreams.

So now I am sitting high up above the Square, with my little bag of peppermints before me (somewhat diminished in quantity already), and think, between slow, sipping nibbles, of that little boy.

In his day, in the land where he came from, peppermints were almost a symbol of life's best things--of grandmothers and other dear old ladies who kept cookies in cool stone crocks in sweet-smelling "butt'ries" (sometimes foolishly called pantries by those who put on airs); of Christmastides when to the joy of peppermint sticks was added the unspeakable delight of sucking barley toys,--red dogs, golden camels that lost their humps and elephants that lost their trunks as the tongue went succulently 'round and 'round them; of the wonderful village "notion" store, presided over by a terrible female person with a deep bass voice, who asked you over the counter as you entered, "Which side, young man?" It was bad enough to be called "Bubbie", but to be called "young man" in this ironic bass was almost insufferable. Yet you bore it nobly, for the sake of the pound of shot for your air-gun or the blood-alley or the great pink and white peppermints, two for a cent, that reposed in a glass jar on the left side of the shop. Was Miss Emily so terrible a person, I wonder now? She was always looked upon a little askance by the ladies of our village because she was "so masculine". But if she did not conceal a softness for children under her stern exterior why did she keep a stock of so many things dear to the childish heart, from paper soldiers (purchased by the yard) to sleds and shot? Perhaps that fantastic stock of hers was her curious expression of the Eternal Motherly. After she died, every year on the 30th of May the "Vet'rans," as they marched two by two in annually dwindling lines about the cemetery, placed a fresh print flag and a basket of geraniums on her grave, because she had sent a substitute to the War. To us youngsters this substitute used to explain why she kept shot for sale; she was by nature a bellicose person, and, we were sure, her great grief was her sex.

In my own family peppermints were directly connected, by legend, with feminine attractiveness. A great grandmother on my mother's side had been in her day a famous beauty. And when asked the secret of her charm, as she frequently was (to my infant imagination she appeared as a superhumanly radiant vision who walked about the streets in a hoop-skirt with an admiring throng in her wake, constantly being forced to explain why she was beautiful), she did not utter testimonials for anybody's soap, nor for a patent dietary system, nor even for outdoor exercise. She replied simply, "Peppermints". Great grandmamma died when my mother was a girl, and to mother fell the task of going through the old lady's possessions. She says it was a task; probably it was a privilege. At any rate, my mother records that she found peppermints everywhere, in every kind of wrapper, stowed in the different receptacles, in boxes, bags, trunks, in bureau drawers and writing desks and "secretaries". They were among letters and laces, in the folds of silk gowns and even the table linen. Some of the peppermints had crumbled and almost evaporated. Some had "ossified", as mother says. "And," she used to add, telling the tale to large-eyed, hungry-mouthed little me, "I have not seen so many peppermints outside a candy shop since that day."

"But did the peppermints really make great grandmamma beautiful?" I would ask.

"She always said so," my mother would reply, "and she was certainly very beautiful."

"Is that why you eat peppermints?" I then inquired, on a day when I had detected her with a bag of the confection.

At this point there was a masculine chuckle from the armchair by the bookcase. Also, a peppermint was promptly produced for my personal consumption. I had a great fondness for the memory of my beautiful ancestor.

Peppermints, too, are intimately connected with the religious experiences of my childhood; or, perhaps I should say, with the religious observances of my childhood. Our minister's whiskers always interested me more than his discourses. As I nibble a peppermint from the bag before me--lingeringly, for the supply is being fast depleted--and the frail yet pungent odor fills my nostrils, I am once more in that half-filled church, on a Sabbath morning in early Spring, dozing through the sermon, with my head tumbling sleepily now and then against my father's shoulder. Slowly the scene comes back, in every least detail, the smallest sights and sounds of that morning all here, but all thin and faint and frail, spun of the gossamer web of memory. Can I hold them till they are set down? I shall have to eat another precious white lozenge from my bag.

My cheek had bumped my father's shoulder again when I caught a sudden whiff of peppermint drops and raised my head just in time to see an old lady across the aisle whisk her dress down over her petticoat pocket. For a few moments I watched her in envy, for her mouth was moving ever so little and I could fancy the delicious taste. But how could she enjoy the candy and not make her mouth go more than that, I wondered. I did not shut my eyes again, but sat very still against my father's arm and let my eyes wander around the church.

Ours was one of the "new" churches. The beautiful old "meeting house" at the head of the village green, with its exquisite white spire and its pillard pulpit and windows of "common" glass, purpling with age, was the property of the Methodists--which in some manner I could not then understand (and do not clearly yet) was always a source of resentment in our congregation. Our church had stained windows, a chocolate brown field with white stars in the centre and around the edges tiny squares of many colors, atrocious reds, blues and yellows. These windows were opened a little at the top, and through the openings came soft sounds of Spring, the wind racing among the budding branches, the sudden call of a bird, and occasionally the crooning, sleepy cackle of hens from a distance. Now and then a cloud drifted by, across the sun, dimming the interior for a moment, so that the minister's voice seemed to come from farther off. The sunlight through the stained glass projected colored splotches here and there. I wondered if the people knew how homely they looked with those splotches on their faces, like great birth-marks. That suggested a pastime to relieve the monotony.

Starting with the choir (which consisted of four people, boxed in before the organ at the right of the pulpit) I began to count people with colored spots. First there was the tenor with a purple spot on his left cheek and on his sandy hair and beard. But the organist and soprano were splashed with scarlet. Then I forget to count, because I noticed that the 'alto had a new violet hat, which eclipsed the soprano's old green one. I wondered whether she had gone to Boston to buy it, or had "patronized home industries"--a phrase I had just discovered with pride in our local paper. The bass was nodding and letting his hymn book slip toward a fall. I hoped slily that it would fall, and braced my nerves for the crash. But he woke with a funny jerk, like my jack-in-the-box, just in time to catch it, and began listening intently to the sermon as if he had been awake all the while. The soprano smiled at someone in the congregation, whispered to the tenor, and then sat silent again.

My gaze wandered to the minister's pleasant face, with its great square-cut gray beard, which always suggested to me--why, I don't know--one of the minor prophets; and then past him to the gilded cross that was painted on the apsidal wall behind him. I knew that if I looked at this cross, with its gilded rays spreading out in all directions, long enough the rays would begin to melt together and then to turn 'round and 'round in a kind of dizzy dance. So I looked steadily, till I had to shake the sleep out of my eyes with a great effort. Then I fell to speculating on the tablets painted at the left of the pulpit, to balance the organ. These tablets were encased in a design that suggested a twin tombstone. On one of them were the words, "God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth," a sentence which had always given me great difficulty. But this morning I interpreted it at last to my satisfaction. It meant, I decided, that a man must first die and become a ghost, a spirit, before he could tell what church he really ought to go to. I wondered if, in that spirit region, there would be any Methodists.

Directly below the tablets, in a front pew, sat Miss Emily, she of a bass voice and the "notion" store. Her Paisley shawl was folded tightly around her broad, bony shoulders, and made the lower half of a diamond down her back, the pattern exactly in the middle. If the pattern had not been exactly in the middle I am sure the service would have stopped automatically, till it was adjusted. She sat very straight and looked with partly turned head, showing her masculine profile, sternly at the minister, as if defying him to be unorthodox. I tried to picture her asking _him_, as he entered her shop, "Which side, old man?" Would she dare, I wondered? And what would he reply? A few pews behind Miss Emily sat "the spilled-over old lady". My sister had first called her the spilled-over old lady, because she seemed to have been crowded out by the six old ladies in the pew behind, and to have been permanently soured by the slight. Her hair was done up in a tight, emphatic pug, her profile suggested vinegar--or perhaps it was her complexion. At any rate, when I looked at her I thought of vinegar. I wondered if she ever ate peppermints, and if they tasted the same to her as to other people.

Presently I leaned forward and extracted a hymn book from the rack attached to the back of the pew in front. This rack contained, besides hymn books, a pair of old gloves done into a wad wrong side out, two fans, "leaflets" of all sorts, and little envelopes for the collection. Most of the "leaflets" were appeals for charity, I fancy. At any rate, many of them were full of pictures of poor little city children suffering from all sorts of diseases, and oppressed me horribly. But I could always rely on the hymn book. My first consciousness that there is any difference between prose and poetry except in the matter of rhyme came from reading the hymn book, from Whittier's,--


I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.


I had no idea what kind of a palm a fronded palm is, but I fancied it something much grander and taller than other palms; and the whole hymn filled my mind with a large, expansive imagery, breathed over my little spirit an ineffable serenity. This hymn I now read while the minister talked away behind his minor-prophet whiskers;--this, and Wesley's,--


A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify;
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.


This stanza always made me want to get up and shout. I read and re-read it, repeating it, with noiseless lips. The tune it went to seemed inadequate, the more so as in our church tunes were always dragged to the limit of non-conformist dolorousness. The stanza seemed to me, even then, happy, hopeful, staccato, jubilant. I wonder what I should have thought had I known its author was a Methodist? Could good come out of Nazareth, after all? Instead, I fell to wondering about the after life in the sky. Heaven I pictured as a city builded on a cloud. If, on a very clear day, the cloud should dry up what, I speculated, would the angels walk on? Then it occurred to me that they do not walk, they fly. So they would go flying about streets out of which the bottoms had dropped, and look right through far down to the earth, which to their sight would doubtless resemble the raised map of America in our school, that stood on a table in the corner and always had chalk dust, like snow, in the inch-deep ravines of the Rocky Mountains. I wondered if the lower stories of the houses would have any floors. The cellars wouldn't, anyway. What kept the furnaces in position? Perhaps they didn't need furnaces in heaven; it was the other place where the furnaces were. Then I dozed.

In our church Sunday School began at noon, immediately following the church service, in a large room at the rear, known as the vestry. The first small boy on his way to school stamped by on the walk outside, with what sounded like defiant aggressiveness. I roused from my doze in time to see the old man in front of me wake up with a start at the sound and reach quickly for his hymn book, as if he supposed the sermon were over. Then the stamping of other children was heard on the walk. The scholars passed in groups, talking shrilly. I knew it must be nearly twelve o'clock. In the congregation there was a rustle of gathering restlessness; women put on their gloves, tried to glance back at the clock without seeming to do so, stirred in their seats. The last vestige of sleep mysteriously yielded to this influence and left me. At last the minister came to the conclusion of his discourse, and instantly there was a sound all over the church as of waters released and hurrying over dead leaves. It was the congregation shifting their positions, expelling their breaths, and turning the pages of their hymn books. I listened curiously for the next sound. It was the clearing of a hundred throats, getting ready to sing. I too arose and in my tuneless treble made a joyful noise unto the Lord. Then church was over.

And my peppermints are all eaten, too, and the gossamer web of memory dissolves, the picture fades, and I see before me this room of mine, littered with some learned literature but more pipes and prints and miscellaneous rubbish, and I hear outside in the Square, not the spring wind racing among the budding branches, but the coughing of a consumptive motor car, the penetrating squeak of a trolley rounding a curve on a dry track, the irritating jolt of heavy drays, and a great, subdued, never-ceasing rumble and roar, the key-note of the giant city. Only the little bag remains. Shall I blow it up and "bust" it? That act, with a final pop, will bring back a flash of my childhood. Here goes....

It didn't pop nicely at all. It exploded in a kind of a spudgy collapse, with very little noise. Ah, well, you cannot eat your peppermints and have them too--nor the bag! But it has been very pleasant to eat them, to wake up with a whiff and a nibble the memory of those vanished days, those voices and peaceful paths of life very far from here and now. It may be true that we mount on our dead selves to higher things, but it is well to hold little Memorial Days now and then, and on the graves of our dead, especially of those who died young in the flower of innocence, to leave a peppermint, as the soldiers leave on the grave of Miss Emily a print flag and a basket of geraniums. A cemetery need not be a mournful place. Maids were wooed and won in _our_ cemetery, and the high school pupils ate their lunches out of collapsable tin boxes every noon on the tomb of Major Barton, he of Revolutionary fame, who horse-whipped the British captive when he refused to eat beans. Noble New Englander! And perhaps my own peppermint feasts are not so much memorial banquet, after all, as ceremonial rites in honor of my native land. For I cannot think of this great city of New York as my home, I cannot fit into the rushing, roaring cogs and grooves of its machinery without a protest, without a hope that some day I may hear the wheels no longer roar at their cruel revolutions. Thus my peppermints speak to me of home, of quiet, of certain green places and a lilac hedge; there is about them the taste and odor of the ideal. They are for the future as well as for the past. Perhaps in some subtle way they do after all have potency for beauty. I fancy that some day I too shall stow away bags of them amid my worthless precious junk, and when prying hands disturb the dust the nostrils of a youngster now unborn will be greeted by a frail yet pungent aroma. I can only trust that he will know well what it is.

Incense by Lafcadio Hearn

Gate at Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan Image Credit
Title: Incense
Author: Lafcadio Hearn

I see, rising out of darkness, a lotos in a vase. Most of the vase is invisible, but I know that it is of bronze, and that its glimpsing handles are bodies of dragons. Only the lotos is fully illuminated: three pure white flowers, and five great leaves of gold and green,--gold above, green on the upcurling under-surface,--an artificial lotos. It is bathed by a slanting stream of sunshine,-- the darkness beneath and beyond is the dusk of a temple-chamber. I do not see the opening through which the radiance pours, but I am aware that it is a small window shaped in the outline-form of a temple-bell.

The reason that I see the lotos--one memory of my first visit to a Buddhist sanctuary--is that there has come to me an odor of incense. Often when I smell incense, this vision defines; and usually thereafter other sensations of my first day in Japan revive in swift succession with almost painful acuteness.

It is almost ubiquitous,--this perfume of incense. It makes one element of the faint but complex and never-to-be-forgotten odor of the Far East. It haunts the dwelling-house not less than the temple,--the home of the peasant not less than the yashiki of the prince. Shinto shrines, indeed, are free from it;--incense being an abomination to the elder gods. But wherever Buddhism lives there is incense. In every house containing a Buddhist shrine or Buddhist tablets, incense is burned at certain times; and in even the rudest country solitudes you will find incense smouldering before wayside images,--little stone figures of Fudo, Jizo, or Kwannon. Many experiences of travel,--strange impressions of sound as well as of sight,--remain associated in my own memory with that fragrance:--vast silent shadowed avenues leading to weird old shrines;--mossed flights of worn steps ascending to temples that moulder above the clouds;--joyous tumult of festival nights;--sheeted funeral-trains gliding by in glimmer of lanterns; murmur of household prayer in fishermen's huts on far wild coasts;--and visions of desolate little graves marked only by threads of blue smoke ascending,--graves of pet animals or birds remembered by simple hearts in the hour of prayer to Amida, the Lord of Immeasurable Light.

But the odor of which I speak is that of cheap incense only,--the incense in general use. There are many other kinds of incense; and the range of quality is amazing. A bundle of common incense- rods--(they are about as thick as an ordinary pencil-lead, and somewhat longer)--can be bought for a few sen; while a bundle of better quality, presenting to inexperienced eyes only some difference in color, may cost several yen, and be cheap at the price. Still costlier sorts of incense,--veritable luxuries,-- take the form of lozenges, wafers, pastilles; and a small envelope of such material may be worth four or five pounds- sterling. But the commercial and industrial questions relating to Japanese incense represent the least interesting part of a remarkably curious subject.

II

Curious indeed, but enormous by reason of it infinity of tradition and detail. I am afraid even to think of the size of the volume that would be needed to cover it.... Such a work would properly begin with some brief account of the earliest knowledge and use of aromatics in Japan. I would next treat of the records and legends of the first introduction of Buddhist incense fron Korea,--when King Shomyo of Kudara, in 551 A. D., sent to the island-empire a collection of sutras, an image of the Buddha, and one complete set of furniture for a temple. Then something would have to be said about those classifications of incense which were made during the tenth century, in the periods of Engi and of Tenryaku,--and about the report of the ancient state-councillor, Kimitaka-Sangi, who visited China in the latter part of the thirteenth century, and transmitted to the Emperor Yomei the wisdom of the Chinese concerning incense. Then mention should be made of the ancient incenses still preserved in various Japanese temples, and of the famous fragments of ranjatai (publicly exhibited at Nara in the tenth year of Meiji) which furnished supplies to the three great captains, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Iyeyasu. After this should fol-low an outline of the history of mixed incenses made in Japan,--with notes on the classifications devised by the luxurious Takauji, and on the nomenclature established later by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who collected one hundred and thirty varieties of incense, and invented for the more precious of them names recognized even to this day,--such as "Blossom-Showering," "Smoke-of-Fuji," and "Flower-of-the-Pure- Law." Examples ought to be given likewise of traditions attaching to historical incenses preserved in several princely families, together with specimens of those hereditary recipes for incense- making which have been transmitted from generation to generation through hundreds of years, and are still called after their august inventors,--as "the Method of Hina-Dainagon," "the Method of Sento-In," etc. Recipes also should be given of those strange incenses made "to imitate the perfume of the lotos, the smell of the summer breeze, and the odor of the autumn wind." Some legends of the great period of incense-luxury should be cited,--such as the story of Sue Owari-no-Kami, who built for himself a palace of incense-woods, and set fire to it on the night of his revolt, when the smoke of its burning perfumed the land to a distance of twelve miles.... Of course the mere compilation of materials for a history of mixed-incenses would entail the study of a host of documents, treatises, and books,--particularly of such strange works as the Kun-Shu-Rui-Sho, or "Incense-Collector's Classifying-Manual";--containing the teachings of the Ten Schools of the Art of Mixing Incense; directions as to the best seasons for incense-making; and instructions about the "different kinds of fire" to be used for burning incense--(one kind is called "literary fire," and another "military fire"); together with rules for pressing the ashes of a censer into various artistic designs corresponding to season and occasion.... A special chapter should certainly be given to the incense-bags (kusadama) hung up in houses to drive away goblins,--and to the smaller incense-bags formerly carried about the person as a protection against evil spirits. Then a very large part of the work would have to be devoted to the religious uses and legends of incense, --a huge subject in itself. There would also have to be considered the curious history of the old "incense-assemblies," whose elaborate ceremonial could be explained only by help of numerous diagrams. One chapter at least would be required for the subject of the ancient importation of incense-materials from India, China, Annam, Siam, Cambodia, Ceylon, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and various islands of the Malay archipelago,--places all named in rare books about incense. And a final chapter should treat of the romantic literature of incense,--the poems, stories, and dramas in which incense-rites are mentioned; and especially those love-songs comparing the body to incense, and passion to the eating flame:--

Even as burns the perfume lending thy robe its fragance, Smoulders my life away, consumed by the pain of longing!

....The merest outline of the subject is terrifying! I shall attempt nothing more than a few notes about the religious, the luxurious, and the ghostly uses of incense.

III

The common incense everywhere burned by poor people before Buddhist icons is called an-soku-ko. This is very cheap. Great quantities of it are burned by pilgrims in the bronze censers set before the entrances of famous temples; and in front of roadside images you may often see bundles of it. These are for the use of pious wayfarers, who pause before every Buddhist image on their path to repeat a brief prayer and, when possible, to set a few rods smouldering at the feet of the statue. But in rich temples, and during great religious ceremonies, much more expensive incense is used. Altogether three classes of perfumes are employed in Buddhist rites: ko, or incense-proper, in many varieties--(the word literally means only "fragrant substance"); --dzuko, an odorous ointment; and makko, a fragrant powder. Ko is burned; dzuko is rubbed upon the hands of the priest as an ointment of purification; and makko is sprinkled about the sanctuary. This makko is said to be identical with the sandalwood-powder so frequently mentioned in Buddhist texts. But it is only the true incense which can be said to bear an important relation to the religious service.

"Incense," declares the Soshi-Ryaku,(1) "is the Messenger of Earnest Desire. When the rich Sudatta wished to invite the Buddha to a repast, he made use of incense. He was wont to ascend to the roof of his house on the eve of the day of the entertainment, and to remain standing there all night, holding a censer of precious incense. And as often as he did thus, the Buddha never failed to come on the following day at the exact time desired."

This text plainly implies that incense, as a burnt-offering, symbolizes the pious desires of the faithful. But it symbolizes other things also; and it has furnished many remarkable similes to Buddhist literature. Some of these, and not the least interesting, occur in prayers, of which the following, from the book called Hoji-san (2) is a striking example:--

--"Let my body remain pure like a censer!--let my thought be ever as a fire of wisdom, purely consuming the incense of sila and of dhyana, (3) that so may I do homage to all the Buddhas in the Ten Directions of the Past, the Present, and the Future!"

Sometimes in Buddhist sermons the destruction of Karma by virtuous effort is likened to the burning of incense by a pure flame,--sometimes, again, the life of man is compared to the smoke of incense. In his "Hundred Writings "(Hyaku-tsu-kiri- kami), the Shinshu priest Myoden says, quoting from the Buddhist work Kujikkajo, or "Ninety Articles ":--

"In the burning of incense we see that so long as any incense remains, so long does the burning continue, and the smoke mount skyward. Now the breath of this body of ours,--this impermanent combination of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire,--is like that smoke. And the changing of the incense into cold ashes when the flame expires is an emblem of the changing of our bodies into ashes when our funeral pyres have burnt themselves out."

He also tells us about that Incense-Paradise of which every believer ought to be reminded by the perfume of earthly incense: --"In the Thirty- Second Vow for the Attainment of the Paradise of Wondrous Incense," he says, "it is written: 'That Paradise is formed of hundreds of thousands of different kinds of incense, and of substances incalculably precious;--the beauty of it incomparably exceeds anything in the heavens or in the sphere of man;--the fragrance of it perfumes all the worlds of the Ten Directions of Space; and all who perceive that odor practise Buddha-deeds.' In ancient times there were men of superior wisdom and virtue who, by reason of their vow, obtained perception of the odor; but we, who are born with inferior wisdom and virtue in these later days, cannot obtain such perception. Nevertheless it will be well for us, when we smell the incense kindled before the image of Amida, to imagine that its odor is the wonderful fragrance of Paradise, and to repeat the Nembutsu in gratitude for the mercy of the Buddha."

FOOTNOTES:
[1] "Short [or Epitomized] History of Priests."
[2] "The Praise of Pious Observances."
[3] By sila is meant the observance of the rules of purity in act and thought. Dhyana (called by Japanese Buddhists Zenjo) is one of the higher forms of meditation.

IV

But the use of incense in Japan is not confined to religious rites and ceremonies: indeed the costlier kinds of incense are manufactured chiefly for social entertainments. Incense-burning has been an amusement of the aristocracy ever since the thirteenth century. Probably you have heard of the Japanese tea- ceremonies, and their curious Buddhist history; and I suppose that every foreign collector of Japanese bric-a'-brac knows something about the luxury to which these ceremonies at one period attained,--a luxury well attested by the quality of the beautiful utensils formerly employed in them. But there were, and still are, incense-ceremonies much more elaborate and costly than the tea-ceremonies,--and also much more interesting. Besides music, embroidery, poetical composition and other branches of the old-fashioned female education, the young lady of pre-Meiji days was expected to acquire three especially polite accomplishments, --the art of arranging flowers, (ikebana), the art of ceremonial tea-making (cha-no-yu or cha-no-e),(1) and the etiquette of incense-parties (ko-kwai or ko-e). Incense-parties were invented before the time of the Ashikaga shoguns, and were most in vogue during the peaceful period of the Tokugawa rule. With the fall of the shogunate they went out of fashion; but recently they have been to some extent revived. It is not likely, however, that they will again become really fashionable in the old sense,--partly because they represented rare forms of social refinement that never can be revived, and partly because of their costliness.

In translating ko-kwai as "incense-party," I use the word "party" in the meaning that it takes in such compounds as "card-party," "whist-party," "chess-party";--for a ko-kwai is a meeting held only with the object of playing a game,--a very curious game. There are several kinds of incense-games; but in all of them the contest depends upon the ability to remember and to name different kinds of incense by the perfume alone. That variety of ko-kwai called Jitchu-ko ("ten-burning-incense") is generally conceded to be the most amusing; and I shall try to tell you how it is played.

The numeral "ten," in the Japanese, or rather Chinese name of this diversion, does not refer to ten kinds, but only to ten packages of incense; for Jitchu-ko, besides being the most amusing, is the very simplest of incense-games, and is played with only four kinds of incense. One kind must be supplied by the guests invited to the party; and three are furnished by the person who gives the entertainment. Each of the latter three supplies of incense--usually prepared in packages containing one hundred wafers is divided into four parts; and each part is put into a separate paper numbered or marked so as to indicate the quality. Thus four packages are prepared of the incense classed as No. 1, four of incense No. 2, and four of incense No. 3,--or twelve in all. But the incense given by the guests,--always called "guest-incense"--is not divided: it is only put into a wrapper marked with an abbreviation of the Chinese character signifying "guest." Accordingly we have a total of thirteen packages to start with; but three are to be used in the preliminary sampling, or "experimenting"--as the Japanese term it,--after the following manner.

We shall suppose the game to be arranged for a party of six,-- though there is no rule limiting the number of players. The six take their places in line, or in a half-circle--if the room be small; but they do not sit close together, for reasons which will presently appear. Then the host, or the person appointed to act as incense-burner, prepares a package of the incense classed as No 1, kindles it in a censer, and passes the censer to the guest occupying the first seat, (2) with the announcement--"This is incense No 1" The guest receives the censer according to the graceful etiquette required in the ko-kwai, inhales the perfume, and passes on the vessel to his neighbor, who receives it in like manner and passes it to the third guest, who presents it to the fourth,--and so on. When the censer has gone the round of the party, it is returned to the incense-burner. One package of incense No. 2, and one of No. 3, are similarly prepared, announced, and tested. But with the "guest-incense" no experiment is made. The player should be able to remember the different odors of the incenses tested; and he is expected to identify the guest-incense at the proper time merely by the unfamiliar quality of its fragrance.

The original thirteen packages having thus by "experimenting" been reduced to ten, each player is given one set of ten small tablets--usually of gold-lacquer,--every set being differently ornamented. The backs only of these tablets are decorated; and the decoration is nearly always a floral design of some sort:-- thus one set might be decorated with chrysanthemums in gold, another with tufts of iris-plants, another with a spray of plum- blossoms, etc. But the faces of the tablets bear numbers or marks; and each set comprises three tablets numbered "1," three numbered "2," three numbered "3," and one marked with the character signifying "guest." After these tablet-sets have been distributed, a box called the "tablet-box" is placed before the first player; and all is ready for the real game.

The incense-burner retires behind a little screen, shuffles the flat packages like so many cards, takes the uppermost, prepares its contents in the censer, and then, returning to the party, sends the censer upon its round. This time, of course, he does not announce what kind of incense he has used. As the censer passes from hand to hand, each player, after inhaling the fume, puts into the tablet-box one tablet bearing that mark or number which he supposes to be the mark or number of the incense he has smelled. If, for example, he thinks the incense to be "guest- incense," he drops into the box that one of his tablets marked with the ideograph meaning "guest;" or if he believes that he has inhaled the perfume of No. 2, he puts into the box a tablet numbered "2." When the round is over, tablet-box and censer are both returned to the incense-burner. He takes the six tablets out of the box, and wraps them up in the paper which contained the incense guessed about. The tablets themselves keep the personal as well as the general record,--since each player remembers the particular design upon his own set.

The remaining nine packages of incense art consumed and judged in the same way, according to the chance order in which the shuffling has placed them. When all the incense has been used, the tablets are taken out of their wrappings, the record is officially put into writing, and the victor of the day is announced. I here offer the translation of such a record: it will serve to explain, almost at a glance, all the complications of the game.

According to this record the player who used the tablets decorated with the design called "Young Pine," made but two mistakes; while the holder of the "White-Lily" set made only one correct guess. But it is quite a feat to make ten correct judgments in succession. The olfactory nerves are apt to become somewhat numbed long before the game is concluded; and, therefore it is customary during the Ko-kwai to rinse the mouth at intervals with pure vinegar, by which operation the sensitivity is partially restored.

RECORD OF A KO-KWAI.

Order in which the ten packages of incense were
used:--
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Names given
to the six No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
tablets used, III I GUEST II I III II I III II
according to
decorative
designs on
the back: Guesses recorded by nos. on tablet; correct
being marked *
No. of
correct
guesses
"Gold
Chrysanthemum" 1 3 1 2* Guest 1 2* 2 3* 3 3

"Young Bamboo" 3* 1* 1 2* 1* Guest 3 2 1 3 4

"Red Peony" Guest 1* 2 2* 3 1 3 2 3* 1 3

"White Lily" 1 3 1 3 2 2 1 3 Guest 2* 1

"Young Pine" 3* 1* Guest* 3 1* 2 2* 1* 3* 2* 8(Winner

"Cherry-Blossom
-in-a-Mist" 1 3 Guest* 2* 1* 3* 1 2 3* 2* 6

NAMES OF INCENSE USED.

I. "Tasogare" ("Who-Is-there?" I. e. "Evening-Dusk").
II. "Baikwa" ("Plum Flower").
III. "Wakakusa" ("Young Grass").
IV. ("Guest Incense") "Yamaji-no-Tsuyu"

("Dew-on-the-Mountain-Path"). To the Japanese original of the foregoing record were appended the names of the players, the date of the entertainment, and the name of the place where the party was held. It is the custom In some families to enter all such records in a book especially made for the purpose, and furnished with an index which enables the Ko-kwai player to refer immediately to any interesting fact belonging to the history of any past game.

The reader will have noticed that the four kinds of incense used were designated by very pretty names. The incense first mentioned, for example, is called by the poets' name for the gloaming,--Tasogare (lit: "Who is there?" or " Who is it?")--a word which in this relation hints of the toilet-perfume that reveals some charming presence to the lover waiting in the dusk. Perhaps some curiosity will be felt regarding the composition of these incenses. I can give the Japanese recipes for two sorts; but I have not been able to identify all of the materials named:--

Recipe for Yamaji-no-Tsuyu.

Ingredients Proportions.
about
Jinko (aloes-wood) 4 momme (1/2 oz.)
Choji (cloves) 4 " "
Kunroku (olibanum) 4 " "
Hakko (artemisia Schmidtiana) 4 " "
Jako (musk) 1 bu (1/8 oz.)
Koko(?) 4 momme (1/2 oz.)

To 21 pastilles

Recipe for Baikwa.

Ingredients Proportions.
about
Jinko (aloes) 20 momme (2 1/2 oz.)
Choji (cloves) 12 " (1 1/2 oz.)
Koko(?) 8 1/3 " (1 1/40 oz.)
Byakudan (sandal-wood) 4 " (1/2 oz.)
Kansho (spikenard) 2 bu (1/4 oz.)
Kwakko (Bishop's-wort?) 1 bu 2 sbu (3/16 oz.)
Kunroku (olibanum) 3 " 3 " (15/22 oz.)
Shomokko (?) 2 " (1/4 oz.)
Jako (musk) 3 " 2 sbu (7/16 oz.)
Ryuno (refined Borneo Camphor) 3 sbu (3/8 oz.)

To 50 pastilles

The incense used at a Ko-kwai ranges in value, according to the style of the entertainment, from $2.50 to $30.00 per envelope of 100 wafers--wafers usually not more than one-fourth of an inch in diameter. Sometimes an incense is used worth even more than $30.00 per envelope: this contains ranjatai, an aromatic of which the perfume is compared to that of "musk mingled with orchid- flowers." But there is some incense,--never sold,--which is much more precious than ranjatai,--incense valued less for its com- position than for its history: I mean the incense brought centuries ago from China or from India by the Buddhist missionaries, and presented to princes or to other persons of high rank. Several ancient Japanese temples also include such foreign incense among their treasures. And very rarely a little of this priceless material is contributed to an incense-party,-- much as in Europe, on very extraordinary occasions, some banquet is glorified by the production of a wine several hundred years old.

Like the tea-ceremonies, the Ko-kwai exact observance of a very complex and ancient etiquette. But this subject could interest few readers; and I shall only mention some of the rules regarding preparations and precautions. First of all, it is required that the person invited to an incense-party shall attend the same in as odorless a condition as possible: a lady, for instance, must not use hair-oil, or put on any dress that has been kept in a perfumed chest-of-drawers. Furthermore, the guest should prepare for the contest by taking a prolonged hot bath, and should eat only the lightest and least odorous kind of food before going to the rendezvous. It is forbidden to leave the room during the game, or to open any door or window, or to indulge in needless conversation. Finally I may observe that, while judging the incense, a player is expected to take not less than three inhalations, or more than five.

In this economical era, the Ko-kwai takes of necessity a much humbler form than it assumed in the time of the great daimyo, of the princely abbots, and of the military aristocracy. A full set of the utensils required for the game can now be had for about $50.00; but the materials are of the poorest kind. The old- fashioned sets were fantastically expensive. Some were worth thousands of dollars. The incense-burner's desk,--the writing- box, paper-box, tablet-box, etc.,--the various stands or dai,-- were of the costliest gold-lacquer;--the pincers and other instruments were of gold, curiously worked;--and the censer-- whether of precious metal, bronze, or porcelain,--was always a chef-d'oeuvre, designed by some artist of renown.

FOOTNOTES:
[1] Girls are still trained in the art of arranging flowers, and in the etiquette of the dainty, though somewhat tedious, cha-no-yu. Buddhist priests have long enjoyed a reputation as teachers of the latter. When the pupil has reached a certain degree of proficiency, she is given a diploma or certificate. The tea used in these ceremonies is a powdered tea of remarkable fragrance,-- the best qualities of which fetch very high prices.

[2] The places occupied by guests in a Japanese zashiki, or reception room are numbered from the alcove of the apartment. The place of the most honored is immediately before the alcove: this is the first seat, and the rest are numbered from it, usually to the left.

V

Although the original signification of incense in Buddhist ceremonies was chiefly symbolical, there is good reason to suppose that various beliefs older than Buddhism,--some, perhaps, peculiar to the race; others probably of Chinese or Korean derivation,--began at an early period to influence the popular use of incense in Japan. Incense is still burned in the presence of a corpse with the idea that its fragrance shields both corpse and newly-parted soul from malevolent demons; and by the peasants it is often burned also to drive away goblins and the evil powers presiding over diseases. But formerly it was used to summon spirits as well as to banish them. Allusions to its employment in various weird rites may be found in some of the old dramas and romances. One particular sort of incense, imported from China, was said to have the power of calling up human spirits. This was the wizard-incense referred to in such ancient love-songs as the following:--

"I have heard of the magical incense that summons the souls of the absent: Would I had some to burn, in the nights when I wait alone!"

There is an interesting mention of this incense in the Chinese book, Shang-hai-king. It was called Fwan-hwan-hiang (by Japanese pronunciation, Hangon-ko), or "Spirit-Recalling-Incense;" and it was made in Tso-Chau, or the District of the Ancestors, situated by the Eastern Sea. To summon the ghost of any dead person--or even that of a living person, according to some authorities,--it was only necessary to kindle some of the incense, and to pronounce certain words, while keeping the mind fixed upon the memory of that person. Then, in the smoke of the incense, the remembered face and form would appear.

In many old Japanese and Chinese books mention is made of a famous story about this incense,--a story of the Chinese Emperor Wu, of the Han dynasty. When the Emperor had lost his beautiful favorite, the Lady Li, he sorrowed so much that fears were entertained for his reason. But all efforts made to divert his mind from the thought of her proved unavailing. One day he ordered some Spirit-Recalling-Incense to be procured, that he might summon her from the dead. His counsellors prayed him to forego his purpose, declaring that the vision could only intensify his grief. But he gave no heed to their advice, and himself performed the rite,--kindling the incense, and keeping his mind fixed upon the memory of the Lady Li. Presently, within the thick blue smoke arising from the incense, the outline, of a feminine form became visible. It defined, took tints of life, slowly became luminous, and the Emperor recognized the form of his beloved At first the apparition was faint; but it soon became distinct as a living person, and seemed with each moment to grow more beautiful. The Emperor whispered to the vision, but received no answer. He called aloud, and the presence made no sign. Then unable to control himself, he approached the censer. But the instant that he touched the smoke, the phantom trembled and vanished.

Japanese artists are still occasionally inspired by the legends of the Hangon-ho. Only last year, in Tokyo, at an exhibition of new kakemono, I saw a picture of a young wife kneeling before an alcove wherein the smoke of the magical incense was shaping the shadow of the absent husband.(1)

Although the power of making visible the forms of the dead has been claimed for one sort of incense only, the burning of any kind of incense is supposed to summon viewless spirits in multitude. These come to devour the smoke. They are called Jiki- ko-ki, or "incense-eating goblins;" and they belong to the fourteenth of the thirty-six classes of Gaki (pretas) recognized by Japanese Buddhism. They are the ghosts of men who anciently, for the sake of gain, made or sold bad incense; and by the evil karma of that action they now find themselves in the state of hunger-suffering spirits, and compelled to seek their only food in the smoke of incense.

[Footnote 1: Among the curious Tokyo inventions of 1898 was a new variety of cigarettes called Hangon-so, or "Herb of Hangon,"--a name suggesting that their smoke operated like the spirit-summoning incense. As a matter of fact, the chemical action of the tobacco- smoke would define, upon a paper fitted into the mouth-piece of each cigarette, the photographic image of a dancing-girl.]

Fragrance Quote for February 28th, 2012-From the Haunted Wood-The living age ..., Volume 243

Basket of berries Image credit
Fragrance Quote for February 28th, 2012-From the Haunted Wood-The living age ..., Volume 243
At noon the Haunted Wood lay bare its charm to the golden prime of an August day. The myriad-leaved underwood, flecked with too early yellow, veiled as in a light mirage the full glory of the sun. Rushes and sedge, and moss low-lying on the earth, had drunk so deep of sunshine that stalks and leaves burned green as though illumined with an inner fire of life. Sitting in an alcove of wild raspberries, reddening in their own shade of white-lined leaves, and smelling already of raspberry jam—the silence and the sunshine and the ripe fruit called back to mind a certain dear old house of former days. Up the long passages, in those old hot Julys, fragrant whiffs of raspberry jam from the kitchen would sometimes steal right into the wainscotted parlor. Mingling with the smell of sun-warmed fruit thrilled a sense of something sweeter far. An aroma as of white jasmine with ten thousand wild-flowers of the woods, the rarest fragrance of the sweetest flower, dear memory's keenest stimulant, the marsh-loving Butterfly Orchis, came wafted from some secret corner of the wild. Yet hardly like the dreamy fragrance of an orchis, it was but a suggested fragrance—a momentary thoughtscent such as bracken in the rain gives out, wafted from some woodland far away. A scent that made the faces of long-lost friends shine out of dim mists of other days, and the sound of their voices seem nigh at hand.
From the Haunted Wood-The living age ..., Volume 243

Fragrant Quote for February 27th, 2012 from Rachael Carlson

black-throated green warbler image credit



“And indeed the woods there on the hillside were bright with the moving, flitting forms of many warblers—the exquisite powder-blue parula with his breast band of orange and magenta; the Blackburnian, like flickering flames in the spruces; the myrtle, flashing his yellow rump patch. But most numerous of all was the trim little
black-throated green warbler, whose dreamy, nostalgic song drifted all day long through the woods, little wisps of song lingering like bits of fog in the tree tops. Perhaps because I so invariably heard it in those woods, when I now recall the song in memory, it always brings with it a vivid picture of that sunny hill splashed with the dark shadows of the evergreens, and the scent of all the heady, aromatic, bitter-sweet fragrances compounded of pine and spruce and bayberry, warmed by the sun through
the hours of a July day.”
Fragrant Quote for February 27th, 2012 from Rachael Carlson

Fragrant Quote for February 26th, 2012 from EVENING IN THE ORCHARD By EDITH C. M. DART

Apple orchards in Kolomenskoye Image Credit
EVENING IN THE ORCHARD
By EDITH C. M. DART

The sunlight lingers as 'twere loth to pass
From the long swaths of daisied orchard-grass:
And when the sunset slips at last away,
Blue shadows steal, just shadows of the day,
Lying so lightly on the pleasant glade,
That buttercups gleam golden in their shade;
And by the ditch, beside the broken wall,
Cow-parsley stalks stretch faery-like and tall,
Slim wraiths of white 'gainst dock leaves broad and green,
And all is beauty—quiet as some dream.

Late-flowering apple blossoms here and there
Drop loosened petals on the evening air,
That in the faint breath of this summer night
Upon the grasses tremulous alight.
And every tuft and root of weed and flower
Yields its damp fragrance to the dusky hour.
The world lies scent and shadow-twilight-dew,
Above, stars glimmer in the failing blue:
And like the sunlight I am loth to pass
From the long swathes of daisied orchard-grass.

Fragrance Quote for February 24th, 2012-Return of the King- JRR Tolkien

Early morning at cold spring Image Credit
Fragrance Quote for February 24th, 2012-Return of the King- JRR Tolkien

Now Aragorn knelt beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn's face grew grey with weariness, and every anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing, as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost.
And at last Bergil caome running in, and he bore six leaves in a cloth. 'It is kingsfoil, Sir,' he said; 'but not fresh, I fear. It must have been culled two weeks ago at the least. I hope it will serve, Sir?' Then looking at Faramir, he burst into tears.
But Aragorn smiled. 'It will serve,' he said. 'The worst is now over. Stay and be comforted!' Then taking two leaves, he laid them on his hands and breathed on them, and then he crushed them, and straightaway a living freshness filled the room, as if the air itself awoke and tingled, sparkling with joy. And then he cast the leaves into the bowels of steaming water that were brought to him, and at once all heart were lightened. For the fragrance that came to each was like a memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun in some land of which the fair world in Spring is itself but a fleeting memory. But Aragorn stood up as one refreshed, and his eyes smiled as he held a bowel before Faramir's dreaming face."

Return of the King- JRR Tolkien

PARFUM DE JEUNESSE'-Lafcadio Hearn

Spring blossom Image Credit



PARFUM DE JEUNESSE by Lafcadio Hearn

"I Remember" — said an old friend, telling me the romance of his youth — "that I could always find her cloak in the cloakroom without a light, when it was time to take her home. I used to know it in the dark, because it had the smell of sweet new milk"

Which set me somehow to thinking of English dawns, the scent of hayfields, the fragrance of hawthorn days; — and cluster after cluster of memories lighted up in succession through a great arc of remembrance that flashed over half a lifetime even before my friend's last words had ceased to sound in my ears. And then recollection smouldered into reverie — a reverie about the riddle of the odor of youth.

That quality of the parfum de jeunesse which my friend described is not uncommon — though I fancy that it belongs to Northern rather than to Southern races. It signifies perfect health and splendid vigor. But there are other and more delicate varieties of the attraction. Sometimes it may cause you to think of precious gums or spices from the uttermost tropics; sometimes it is a thin, thin sweetness — like a ghost of musk. It is not personal (though physical personality certainly has an odor): it is the fragrance of a season — of the springtime of life. But even as the fragrance of spring, though everywhere a passing delight, varies with country and climate, so varies the fragrance of youth.

Whether it be of one sex more than of another were difficult to say. We notice it chiefly in girls and in children with long hair, probably because it dwells especially in the hair. But it is always independent of artifice as the sweetness of the wild violet is. It belongs to the youth of the savage not less than to the youth of the civilized — to the adolescence of the peasant not less than to that of the prince. It is not found in the sickly and the feeble, but only in perfect joyous health. Perhaps, like beauty, it may have some vague general relation to conditions ethical. Individual odors assuredly have — as the discrimination of the dog gives witness.

Evolutionists have suggested that the pleasure we find in the perfume of a flower may be an emotional reflection from aeons enormously remote, when such odor announced, to forms of ancestral life far lower than human, the presence of savory food. To what organic memory of association might be due, upon the same hypothesis, our pleasure in the perfume of youth?

Perhaps there were ages in which that perfume had significances more definite and special than any which we can now attach to it. Like the pleasure yielded by the fragrance of flowers, the pleasure given by the healthy fragrance of a young body may be, partly at least, a survival from some era in which odorous impressions made direct appeal to the simplest of life-serving impulses. Long dissociated from such possible primitive relation, odor of blossom and odor of youth alike have now become for us excitants of the higher emotional life — of vague but voluminous and supremely delicate aesthetic feeling.

Like the feeling awakened by beauty, the pleasure of odor is a pleasure of remembrance — is the magical appeal of a sensation to countless memories of countless lives. And even as the scent of a blossom evokes the ghosts of feelings experienced in millions of millions of unrecorded springs — so the fragrance of youth bestirs within us the spectral survival of sensations associated with every vernal cycle of all the human existence that has vanished behind us.

And this fragrance of fresh being likewise makes invocation to ideal sentiment — to parental scarcely less than to amorous tenderness — because conjoined through immeasurable time with the charm and the beauty of childhood. Out of night and death is summoned by its necromancy more than a shadowy thrill from the rapture of perished passion — more than a phantom-reflex from the delight of countless bridals; — even something also of the ecstasy of pressing lips of caress to the silky head of the firstborn — faint refluence from the forgotten joy of myriad millions of buried mothers.