Treasures of Aromatic Literature(authors)-Rosamund Marriot Watson

Rosamund Marriott Watson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


THE WIND OF DREAMs
BY ROSAMUND MARRIOTT WATSON
Wind of the Downs, from upland spaces blowing,
Salt with the fragrance of the southland sea,
Sweet with wild herbs in smoothest greensward growing,
You bring the harvest of my dreams to me.
Wraiths that the scented breath of summer raises,
Ghosts of dead hours and flowers that once were fair. . . .
Sorrel and nodding grass and white moon daisies. . . .
Glimmer and fade upon the fragrant air.
I hear the harvest-wagons homeward driven
Through dusky lanes by hedgerows dark with leaves. .
The low gold moon, hung in a sapphire heaven,
Looks on the wide fields and the gathered sheaves.
Wind of the Downs—from cloud-swept upland spaces,
Moorland and orchard-close and water-lea.
You bring the voices and the vanished faces—
Dreams of old dreams and days long lost to me.

Later on you may hear the dry whit-whit of the robin as he bustles about within the deeper twilight of the shrubbery, preparing for the night as darkness closes down over the garden, and the pale primrose lamps of the tall CEnothera are lighted one by one. The frail night-scented stocks give out almost too heavy a perfume for my unqualified liking; to my mind it smacks over-much of those airs that float over the perfumer's threshold as you pass by. It seems not a little odd to catch nature out in ever so small an error of taste—can it be that she is playing to the gallery? Perish the thought; no, I prefer to hold that she has so over-pampered one with all manner of subtle and exquisite dreams of fragrance that nothing but the best will serve.
Farther down the walk comes a divine breath from a great bush of sweet brier invisible in the blue gloom; and those dim, clustered blots of white and pale rose and lavender that glimmer forth from the mysterious dusk of the broad border, the delicate ten-week stocks: there is fragrance indeed.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

The hoar frost and the snow have been weaving their white magic over the garden, a wonder that never stales, but would seem to hang out fresh signals to the sense at every visitation. When you awake in the clear shining of the sun to discovery of the night's enchanted work, wrought with such swiftness, in such silence, it is as though you walked in a new world, in some strange kingdom of faery with trees of silver and flowers and fruits of diamond and pearl. Every foot's pace bears you on to more revelations in this enchanted pleasaunce. Winter is indeed a rare artificer: there is not a leaf, or a blade, or growing spray or mass of plant-forms that he does not take pains to transfigure almost out of all knowledge. This is surely the apotheosis, the magic hour of every humble unblossomed herb and green thing the garden grows. Spring and summer may bring no largesse for these, autumn no splendid stains and dyes; but here is winter, another King Cophetua, one might say, scattering his jewels broadcast with so royal a bounty that each unconsidered twig, each sober leaf of evergreen, is clothed with glories as great as, or greater, than the rose. Where there is already, as in the clustered ivy or Portugal laurel, a fine grace of outline and of form, it is intensified and made manifest a thousandfold; while, so marvellous is this pure wealth of pearl and crystal set against the sun's clear gold, that it obliterates imperfection and exalts the commonplace. The scentless yellow jasmine trails upon the trellis like frosted amber, the dark leaves of the hellebore gleam all bediamonded about their pale roses. As I pass my herb-plot's bejewelled tangle, forgotten and left to wildness in the press of other work, I cannot find it in my heart to repent my omission, for had it been properly "redd up" and set in due order I must needs have missed this faint, sweet incense, the ghost of a perfume, that breathes from it to-day. How and why I know not, but some mysterious alchemy of sun and snow has drawn forth a fragrance of myrrh and thyme commingled, that sets you thinking of Solomon's Song and the beds of spices when the wind blew from Lebanon.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

The key of it, as it hangs upon the bunch among the other garden keys, looks in no wise different from its neighbours, the same modest regard distinguishes them all; you would hardly imagine that this prosaic little object was the Open Sesame of a veritable treasure house. But climb with me up the steep flight of wooden stairs, pass through the white-walled anteroom, and turn the key in its proper padlock, and I will honestly engage to forfeit the fine flower of my choicest shelves if you pronounce me to have been extravagant of praise.
You would think, as the heavy door turns on its hinges, that the fragrance of many and many a long fine summer must inhabit here, embalmed in this brown gloaming, and not fragrance alone, but the infinite charm of rich and varied colour. Side by side, upon the long and narrow shelves that rise, tier above ghostly tier, through the scented twilight of the fruit gallery, repose the garnered treasures of the orchard—"all March begun with, April's endeavour," and still for all these many years that I have watched the same miracle unfold afresh, it remains for me as full as ever of wonder and rejoicing. From blunt bronze or silvery ruit-bud to faery seas of blossom, and thence to these ruddy and golden globes—believe me, the miracle is a miracle yet. Blown by all the winds that pass, and wet with all the showers, how should this harvest not be impregnated through and through with the very spirit and soul of summer, the divine breath of the open air.
Here, as everywhere, there are differences and distinctions; more, it may be, than the casual purchaser who falls under the easy spell of the fruiterer's gay window-pane may realise.
An apple on the basket's rim, a yellow (or rosy) apple is to him, and it is nothing more. But we know better, you and I, as, basket on arm, we stand in serene contemplation between the laden shelves; this huge primrose-hued pear, for instance, of long and graceful shape, is the famous Marie Louise, and this is the precise period when it is at its best. My friend the Expert will tell you, and rightly, that it is the queen of dessert pears, while the dainty, rosy, little Louise Bonne de Jersey, which plays soubrette, so to speak, to this great lady, comes next in order of merit among those that are ripe now. And, theoretically speaking, I hold him to be absolutely in the right; it is only that I have myself so cowardly a palate as to shrink somewhat from the very slight and delicate acidity which to connoisseurs forms one of Marie Louise's chiefest charms, and to willingly decline upon the softer, more suave attractions of Louise Bonne, and others of humbler degree.
You would say, perhaps, that their hour was not yet come; but sometimes still appearances deceive, and should you take heart to brave the experience, you will seem to be feasting upon a species of ambrosia served through a medium of scented snow. The next tier is full almost to overflowing with slender forms of the nut-brown Calabash, or Beurre Busc, to my way of thinking one of the sweetest pears that grows, and its cousin, the Belle Julie, whose dark rind is flushed with a strain of gold, and whose flavour is, perhaps, of a somewhat fuller quality. Here, again, is the delightful Beurre Hardy, whose honeyed savour touches the imagination to thoughts of imprisoned sunlight and dew, and the breath of late-blowing roses.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

Just opposite are stored the apples, in dull, rich mosaics of amaranth and rose and gold; the old Ribston Pippin, with dusky complexion and golden-tinged crystalline flesh, set by for Christmas; the Claygate Pearmain, with rougher and more russet skin, but otherwise almost the Ribston's twin for form and quality; and the bright-cheeked King of the Pippins, so like the Ribston save in the glossy sheen of its rind and the difFerently modelled apex. Further on shine the little lemon yellow Ingestres, the gorgeously golden Flower of Kent, with many another beside; and, last of all, the homely Rymer, darkly green and streaked with faded red, which is to furnish me with all the pies I may need until next blossom-time.
But, indeed, this pleasant loft is not my only happy hunting-ground; I have another resort for such times when my mind is set upon a wider range of choice. There is a certain ancient high-walled garden neighbouring my own, and in the midst of it is set a long, low building, whose dim and fragrant aisles are filled with all sorts and conditions of fruit, rare and ordinary, new and old. My friend the Expert is custodian here, and it is here that I come to supply a vacancy, to solve a difficulty, to decide the doubtful point. Here is the great reserve of Cox's Orange Pippin, dull-speckled bronze without, golden within, best of all apples for dessert; here, too, lie serried rows of, I can but believe, every apple under the sun, to say nothing of the pears.
My own pride shrinks as I pass between the shelves that rise one above another from floor to ceiling. Here is wealth indeed—wealth and a moral—and the moral of this is, in the formula of Alice's immemorial Duchess, that "handsome is as handsome does," for it is but seldom the comeliest fruit that triumphs through taste and fidelity.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson


There is, as yet, but little change in the general aspect of the garden; the parterre is still gay in gala dress with its many-coloured autumn flowers, the wilderness blossoms in a brilliant rout of blue and gold and purple; but the tits have begun their airy assaults upon the seeding sunflowers, the swallows are holding their restless Parliaments round the high gables, while in every plot, however watched and tended, you will find some symbol of the fall. Here a dry pod, there a casque discrowned, and now again those little mocking brown skulls that lurk behind the antirrhinums' fair flower-faces show themselves, furtively eloquent of the end. I smell the mould above the rose; the year hasreceived its warning. To be sure, in the country the signals of decay are hardly manifest, for here the seasons come belated, and winter makes a tardier approach than in the town. Leaves are not yet discoloured, although the heavier gloom of the great elms forebodes the year's mourning, and the hedgerows are still fresh to the eye, studded with red rose berries and hung with green garlands of that Msenad of the wild, the vine-like briny.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

I do not think that I could set my affections very steadfastly upon any rose that was not what rosarians call " a good autumnal," or, perhaps, remembering the brief glories of those whose sole season is early summer, I should rather say I like the good autumnals best, far best. The Jacqueminot's rich dark beauty and deep fragrance seem to charm more wisely than ever here at the imminent parting of the ways; they set me wondering as to whether that extinct and long-forgotten rose, the Red Glory, was justified of its fine title, which, to my mind at least, would grace my favourite full well. Fit, though few, are the late blossoms of the Gloire Lyonnaise, but Madame Gabriel Luizet makes ample amends for the less lavish givers with her profusion of clearest rose-tendre flowers, so charmingly imbricated, so sound of heart, that, however widely they may open, their widest candour brings no sense of disenchantment. Long trails of Gloire de Dijon climb the pergola and cling about the western wall, and as my eye dwells— somewhat coldly, I admit—upon its portly blooms, I am moved once more to marvel at the great rosarian's choice. It was, if I remember rightly, Dean Hole who decided that, were he condemned to the companionship of but one rose in perpetuity, he would plead to be endowed with a strong plant of this same Gloire de Dijon, and even to this day I cannot fathom why it has been singled out for such high honour. It is enormously prolific, splendidly robust, magnificently generous of—what? For the most part, I maintain, of flowers amorphous as to form and indifferently coloured. It goes sadly against the grain to speak ill of any rose, but indeed I find little save the virtues of surety and quantity to recommend this over-rated tree. Towards the very end of the season, it is true, you may find that it has managed to produce some few elegantly-shaped, richly tinted buds; while all the rest of its time is busily employed in bringing to birth a profusion of large, ill-shapen sallow flowers for which I am profoundly ungrateful. No, rather let me leave that problematical dock with a lusty plant of the fair, pearly-pink Viscountess Folkestone; or, should the nature of my punishment forbid a choice so highly placed, give me the delicate Princesse du Pays de Porcelaine, the dainty Monthly Rose. It is chiefly, I think, as a parent that the Gloire de Dijon is most worthy of respect.
Although I am no great lover of dwarf varieties in any form, there are certain Polyantha roses of dwarf habit that are positively irresistible. I have planted a small oblong bed near the hedge of white Rugosa with alternate trees of Perle d'Or and Ma Paquerette, and the broidery of pure dense white and nankeen yellow clusters, woven, as it were, upon their field of luxuriant tiny green leafage, is very comely and reviving. Of the Bourbon Roses, the Souvenir de la Malmaison is still the one I like best. Its vigorous growth, its faintly blushing colour, and the sweet fragrance that exhales, like the breath of faded romance, from the shell-like petals, all serve to endear to me this placid, fragile survival from a strange and stormy time. The Man of Destiny and the exotic lady of his love are but mere names now—portions and parcels of the dreadful past, while the roses that her garden grew grow in mine to-day.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

There are others beside, but these I believe to be the best; while, in spite of pessimistic prophecies as to the apple yield, I find my dessert shelves not ill-provided, after all. My cooking varieties are somewhat to seek, with the exception of the waxen pink and white Hawthornden, so like the Emperor Alexander; and the great green Alfriston; to say nothing of my faithful Rymers and Cellinis. But the fine flower of all dessert lapples, Cox's Orange Pippin, with its sober bronzed rind and heart of crisp gold and crystal, has been boutiful to me this season; and of the scarce less delectable old Ribstone Pippin, the excellent Claygate Pearmain, and the useful Braddick's Nonpareil, I have no reason for complaint. But the radiant rose and golden King of the Pippins has played me false for once. As the heavy wooden door closes, a strange belated waft of summer comes to trouble the chill air with memories of jasmine, of syringa. No —nor is it of magnolia quite that this faint fragrance is eloquent; one must needs go back and see. Here from this shallow tray of pear-shaped yellow fruit floats the And greatly as I prize the light and elegant effect of the branching sprays and starry blossom-clusters of the decoratively grown, I could not love them near so much but for the aerial setting they offer to my most gorgeous specimen flowers. Save with the exclusively decorative species, it is all a matter of timely deletion; so I have arranged to have grandiose "specimens" of all my favourites, together with examples grown on a slightly less exclusive scheme beside. I could never weary of the perfections of some of these. Custom cannot stale the delicate lilac-rose beauty of Vivian Morel, nor the luxuriant charm of Madame Carnot's wealth of rose or ivory locks; while, apart from their proper excellences, these are two of the most valuable stocks extant: as, for instance, the beautiful Lady Hanham, Charles Davis— whose flakes of apricot and tawny gold would make sunshine in a shady place—and Mrs. J. Kitson, all are sports from Vivian Morel; and other scarce less celebrated beauties, among which we may number Madame Louis Boussillon, claim descent as sports or "seedlings from Madame Carnot. Of a different and more massive type is the splendid Pride of Madford, whose large curving amaranthine petals disclose, as it were, scimitars of pale silver as their reverse; close beside it stands President Borel, of another distinguished parent-stock, with petals like deep-glowing garnets set about with dull gold.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

Past the pleasaunce, and through the wilderness, and so out through a wicket that gives on the coverts is the best of all possible ways to wander on such a day as this. There are no leaves yet, of course, but as you pass through the straight ride that intersects the copse there are glimpses of pale primroses in sheltered shallows of the ground, small havens that harbour this most faithful and persistent flower. While on either hand through the tangle of underwood slips the sun from shining twig to twig, from slender trunk to trunk, turning the limpid moisture which suffuses all to crystalline fires that flash or gleam as the wind comes and goes. The fragrance of the soil, the subtle colour that is neither brown, nor purple, nor grey, but lightly touched to tones of all; the leafless stems and branches—leafless and yet so visibly alive; the implicit leaf-buds that look as though they might unfurl on the instant and reveal their sea-green treasures—is this not spring indeed? A silver shaft of song from the robin strikes its chill sweetness athwart the dream that, after all, is truly better than reality, for this is a stolen, or rather a purely gratuitous happiness. When the spring shall come in due season, who shall say what mood she may be in? Peevish, capricious, harsh, as like as not, for all her pretty promises and pledges; but this waif from her dominions is graciousness itself. We have not begun to draw on our store of legitimate spring days, so grudgingly paid away as one group of blossoms follows another into the abyss. Regret, reluctance, lingering farewells, these have no place in our oasis. To-day is to be devoutly enjoyed; to-morrow still to be expected with all the rainbow glamour of hope. What, indeed, is there more to be desired, and do we not, for the moment, as the old saw says, eat our cake and have it too? The sun goes down in pomp of primrose and saffron behind the dark pines; and, whatever the realities may bring at their appointed time, we have been given at least one illicit and exquisite day before the phantom of false morning died. "I am half convinced," wrote Hawthorne, "that the reflection is indeed the reality, the real thing which nature imperfectly images to our grosser sense. At any rate, the disembodied shadow is nearest to the soul." Never has the true inwardness of all life and art found more explicit and illuminating expression; who shall say, even when this cycle of hours has been long a memory, that the disembodied shadow was not nearer to the soul than armaments of realities.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

Later on you may hear the dry whit-whit of the robin as he bustles about within the deeper twilight of the shrubbery, preparing for the night as darkness closes down over the garden, and the pale primrose lamps of the tall CEnothera are lighted one by one. The frail night-scented stocks give out almost too heavy a perfume for my unqualified liking; to my mind it smacks over-much of those airs that float over the perfumer's threshold as you pass by. It seems not a little odd to catch nature out in ever so small an error of taste—can it be that she is playing to the gallery? Perish the thought; no, I prefer to hold that she has so over-pampered one with all manner of subtle and exquisite dreams of fragrance that nothing but the best will serve.
Farther down the walk comes a divine breath from a great bush of sweet brier invisible in the blue gloom; and those dim, clustered blots of white and pale rose and lavender that glimmer forth from the mysterious dusk of the broad border, the delicate ten-week stocks: there is fragrance indeed.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson

The herbaceous borders have not, of course, come yet into their full inheritance of bloom, but there is in them just so much implicit promise and exquisite performance as touches close upon that golden mean which embraces near hope and present happiness in one. My single anemones glow like jewels in enamelled lines of purple, blue, and vermilion; of amethyst, pearl, and opal, against their curled green field of foliage. Although these have no fragrance, they are informed with so satisfying a beauty that it is only a waft from the almond-scented masses of the gillyflowers that brings to mind the one thing wanting—and, even so, the wallflowers are rich enough in perfume for all. A little farther on, at irregular intervals, between the young starry leafage and dimly purpling spires of the lupins that are to blossom later, glitter innumerable rayed gilt suns of the leopard's-bane, most generous and gay of early flowers, whose ceremonial title is given as doronicum. For my part, I think the old is better, although I have never come at the true inwardness of its original meaning: it is a diversion, say some, from this or that obsolete name, remotely significant of ancient usages; but few of my theorists agree, and I myself am best content with the vague derivation that is propped upon romance. In the shelter of the high western wall that goes to meet the pergola grows a spacious group of those cool grey-green wands set on either side with their double rows of long strangely fashioned leaves, and hung with white waxen bells stained snowdrop-wise with faint white, sulphur, and lilac, some of the well-beloved of the florist's " selfs," which signifies, as you are aware, all of the one colour, together with others that are lightly flushed and stained with various tints, and these last are best liked of me. But all are delightful, and remind one of nothing so much as an airy host of butterflies resting from flight, yet fluttering ready to take wing. Happily, however, this pretty habit is but an idle boast; for both violas and pansies alike are very constant to the places they adorn, and will bud and bloom and wither over and over again with unfailing faithfulness, provided only that there is some one to mark the full-flown blossom directly it begins to flag, and delete it swiftly before it has time to turn itself into a seed-vessel. Had I, as had the ladies of Hogarth's time, a little "woollyheaded blackamoor" for page, this work of excision should be chief among his summer tasks.

The Heart of a Garden

By Rosamund Marriott Watson