Fragrance in the Writings of Bayard Taylor

Fragrance in the Writings of Bayard Taylor

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Eldorado, or, Adventures in the Path of Empire: Comprising a ..., Volume 2
By Bayard Taylor
The whole landscape was like a garden. For leagues around the town it was one constant alternation of field, grove and garden—the fields of the freshest green, the groves white with blossoms, and ringing with the songs of birds, and the gardens loading the air with delicious perfume. Stately haciendas were perched on the vernal slopes, and in the fields; on the roads and winding mule-paths of the hills we saw everywhere a gay and light-hearted people.

We could not stroll among the gardens or sit under the urns of the Alameda, but the towers and balconies were left us; the landscape, though faint and blurred by the filmy rain, was nearly as beautiful, and the perfume could not be washed out of the air. So passed the day, and with the night we
betook ourselves early to rest, for the Diligence was to leave at three o'clock on the morrow.

I drove him forward up ravines, buried in foliage and fragrant with blossoms; the golden globes of the oranges spangled the " embalmed darkness," as twilight settled on the mountains.

While the grooms were changing teams, we supplied ourselves with oranges, bananas, zapotes chicos and granaditas de China. The latter fruit is about the size of an egg, with a brittle shell of a bright scarlet colour, inside of which is a soft white sack. Breaking this open, the tender, fragrant pulp is revealed—the most dainty, exquisite thing that nature ever compounded. We also bought an armful of sugar-cane, which we hung on the umbrella hooks, and chopped up and chewed as thirst required.

The adjoining block is built on the same plan, and occupied entirely by shops of all kinds. Shielded alike from rain and sun, it is a favourite promenade, and always wears a gay and busy aspect. The intervals between the pillars, next the street, are filled with cases of toys, pictures, gilt images of saints, or gaudy slippers, sarapes and rebosas. Here the rancheros may be seen in abundance, buying ornaments for the next festivals. Vendors of fruit sit at the corners, their mats filled with fragrant and gleaming pyramids, and the long shelves of cool barley-water, and tepache, ranged in glasses of alternate white and purple, attract the thirsty idler.

After two leagues of this enchanting travel we came to Jalapa, a city of about twenty thousand inhabitants, on the slope of the hills, half-way between the sea and the tableland, overlooking the one and dominated by the other. The streets are as clean as a Dutch cottage; the one-story tiled houses, sparkling in the sun, are buried in gardens that rival the Hesperides. Two miles before reaching the town the odour of its orange-blossoms filled the air.

Prose writings of Bayard Taylor ...
By Bayard Taylor

This lake is a favorite resort in summer, and the place where the annual regattas are held. It is about a mile long, lying in a deep valley, the sides of which are covered with hay-fields. A stream from its further end falls in a succession of little cascades down a rocky ledge into the land-locked cove, around which the village of Quidi Vidi is built. We pursued our path over a sloping down covered with dwarf whortle-berries and wild roses of delicious perfume. The Kalmia latifolia grew in thick clumps, and its flowering period was not entirely past. After a walk of a mile we reached the village, which contains forty or fifty houses, built at the head and along the sides of an oval sheet of water, completely inclosed by the red rocks, and so silent and glassy that no one would ever suppose it communicated with the turbulent sea without.

The sweetness and splendor of that evening will never fade from my mind. It is laid away in the same portfolio with marvellous sunsets on the becalmed Pacific; with twilight's on the Venetian lagoons; and with the silence and mystery of the star-lit Desert. The glassy water, reduplicating the sunset, was as transparent as air, and the gentle breeze, created by the motion of the boat, was vital with that sweetest of all odors—the smell of blossoming grasses on the low and distant shores. Standing on the hurricane-deck, we seemed to be plowing through the crystal firmament, steering forth from the fading earth towards some unknown planet. So fair and beautiful seemed to me then the world into which I was embarking —so far behind me the shores of the boyish life I had left.

Cold is unknown, but the tropical heats are never oppressive. The air bewilders you with its fragrance, the trees and flowers charm you with their beauty. The island is a miniature Eden,

"Where falls not rain, or hail, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea."

The Walhalla was not visible, but some peasant women showed us a footpath leading up to a church on the hill. There were shrines on the way, and we were obliged to step carefully past several persons who were ascending on their knees. Behind the church, the path plunged into a wood of young oaks, redolent of moist autumnal fragrance. After half :, mile of gradual ascent, we issued from the trees upon a space of level ground, on which stood the Walhalla, looming grandly through the up-rolling mists.

Finally we found a man who offered us the identical carriage in which the Admiral had ridden that very morning, for four dollars; but on learning that we were Yankees, and did not consider the Admiral's seat a peculiar honor, he reduced his demand to three dollars. We had a pair of matched grays and a ruddy, red-whiskered coachman, and whirled out around the foot of the citadel in gallant style. A good macadamized road conducted us out of the town, where we came at once upon hay and grain fields. The grass had just been cut, and the air was full of its fragrance. Wheat and barley were in head, but had not yet begun to ripen. A drive of two miles, partly through thickets and patches of fir and larch trees, brought us to the head of the main arm of the inner harbor, which is completely landlocked. Surrounded by dark green hills, with not a vessel, and but two or three houses in sight, it resembled a lonely inland lake.

We remained five hours in order to take on some coal, which two schooners were discharging at the pier. I made use of the time to stroll over the island and visit its two lions—the Sugar Loaf and the Arched Rock. The road, after we had passed through the fort, led through woods of budding birch, and the fragrant arbor-vitae (thuya occidentalis), which turned the air into a resinous wine, as grateful to the lungs as Falernian to the palate.

The logs at last fell into heaps of red coal; Butt, who had climbed into the top of a tree, where he sat singing sea songs, descended and coiled himself around its foot; the other men lay on their backs and slept silently, and I too forgot Biurne and his Norsemen and slept among the fragrant boughs. The night passed away silently, and dawn came gray and misty, threatening rain, over the woods.

There were the same avenues of locusts, now in snowy and fragrant bloom ; the same heavy brick dwelling with its portly front door, rarely opened but on state occasions; the same bowers of honeysuckle, trellises of grapes, beds of peonies and crown-imperials, and the same scattered clusters of out-houses, backed by the rounded tops of the orchard trees. The season is nearly a month in advance of the valley of the Hudson; all forest trees—even the latest—are in their young foliage, the apple and pear blossoms are gone, and the corn is ready for its first harrowing.

The foliage of the forest on the summit of the cliffs completely intercepts the sky; brilliant mosses cover the moist walls, and fringes of giant fern spring from every crevice. Deep, cool, dark, and redolent of woodland aroma, it resembles a dell in fairyland, and the ferns and harebells were yet vibrating from the feet of the retreating elves, as we passed along. Fresh from the blazing Orient, where the three delights of life are shade, moisture, and verdure, I was enchanted with the successive beauties which our semi-subterranean path unfolded.

The picture of St. John
By Bayard Taylor

As when a harp-string in a silent room
At midnight snaps, with weird, melodious twang,
So suddenly, through inner, outer gloom
A sweet, sharp sound, vibrating slowly, rang
And sank to humming music; while a stream
Of gathering odor followed, as in dream
We braid the bliss of music and perfume, —
And pierced, I sat, with some divinest pang.


And, as from sound and fragrance born, a glow
All rosy-golden, fair as Alpine snow
At sunset, grew, — mist-like at first, and dim,
But brightening, folding inwards, fold on fold,
Until my ravished vision could behold
Complete, each line of sunny-shining limb
And sainted head, soft-posed as I had drawn
My boy — my Angelo — my young St. John!


So here I missed those living wells, whence drew
The Masters, breathing Art's best atmosphere,
With fine and noble forms forever near; —
No shape of man, but something did imbue
With hints of beauty, on those sunny hills:
And, helped on every side, the Ideal grew
Direct from Nature, as the rose distils
From earth undying scent and heavenly hue.


A jasmine garland hung above my bed,
Withered and dry: beneath, a picture hung, —
A shadowy likeness of the maid who flung
That crown of welcome. On my sleeping head
The glory of the vanished sunset fell,
And still the leaves reviving fragrance shed,
And dreams crept out of every jasmine-bell,
Inebriate with their fairy hydromel

The poems of Bayard Taylor
By Bayard Taylor

"Never till then had I beheld such bloom.
The west-wind sent its heralds of perfume
To bid us welcome, midway on the road.
Full in the sun the marble portal glowed
Like silver, but within the garden wall
No ray of sunshine found a place to fall,
So thick the crowning foliage of the trees,
Roofing the walks with twilight; and the air
Under their tops was greener than the seas,
And cool as they. The forms that wandered there
Resembled those who populate the floor
Of Ocean, and the royal lineage own
That gave a Princess unto Persia's throne.

All fruits the trees of this fair garden bore,
Whose balmy fragrance lured the tongue to taste
Their flavors: there bananas flung to waste
Their golden flagons with thick honey filled;
From splintered cups the ripe pomegranates spilled
A shower of rubies ; oranges that glow
Like globes of fire, enclosed a heart of snow
Which thawed not in their flame; like balls of gold
The peaches seemed, that had in blood been rolled;
Pure saffron mixed with clearest amber stained
The apricots; bunches of amethyst
And sapphire seemed the grapes, so newly kissed
That still the mist of Beauty's breath remained;
And where the lotus slowly swung in air
Her snowy-bosomed chalice, rosy-veined,
The golden fruit swung softly-cradled there,
Even as a bell upon the bosom swings
Of some fair dancer, — happy bell, that sings
For joy, its golden tinkle keeping time
To the heart's beating and the cymbal's chime!
There dates of agate and of jasper lay,
Dropped from the bounty of the pregnant palm,
And all ambrosial trees, all fruits of balm,
All flowers of precious odors, made the day
Sweet as a morn of Paradise. My breath
Failed with the rapture, and with doubtful mind
I turned to where the garden's lord reclined,
And asked, 'Was not that gate the Gate of
Death ?'.

The lark is flickering in the light;
Still the nightingale doth sing; —
All the isle, alive with Spring,
Lies, a jewel of delight,
On the blue sea's heaving breast:
Not a breath from out the West,
But some balmy smell doth bring
From the sprouting myrtle buds,
Or from meadowy vales that lie
Like a green inverted sky,
Which the yellow cowslip stars,
And the bloomy almond woods,
Cloud-like, cross with roseate bars.

LIE in the summer meadows,
In the meadows all alone,
With the infinite sky above me,
And the sun on his midday throne.
The smell of the flowering grasses
Is sweeter than any rose,'
And a million happy insects
Sing in the warm repose.
The mother lark that is brooding
Feels the sun on her wings,
And the deeps of the noonday glitter
With swarms of fairy things.

The dewy beach beneath her glows;
A pencilled beam, the lighthouse burns:
Full-breathed, the fragrant sea-wind blows, —
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