THE JOY OF FRAGRANCE-15
by Mary Gladys Meredith Web
The whole earth is a thurible heaped with incense, afire with the divine, yet not consumed. This is the most spiritual of earth's joys – too subtle for analysis, mysteriously connected with light and with whiteness, for white flowers are sweetest – yet it penetrates the physical being to its depths. Here is a symbol of the material value of spiritual things. If we washed our souls in these healing perfumes as often as we wash our hands, our lives would be infinitely more wholesome. The old herbalists were wise in their simplicity in the making of marigold potions, medicaments of herbs, soothing unguents from melilot and musk-mallow, elecampane and agrimony, pillows for the sick from rosemary and basil, beech-leaf mattresses for the weary – for these things cleanse the whole being. "Golden saxifrage for melancholy, blue vervain for working magic cures," said the old physicians; and still the shining saxifrage shames the discontented, and the rare blue vervain diffuses magic. The pasque-flower – dark purple, sun-hearted, with its symbolism of the old grief and the young joy that the Christian mystic puts into the word Easter – was given for cataract: it cures a darkness worse than that of the eyes. The Arabs give a fusion of roses for phthisis; the aconite, under her cold, slaty roof, keeps a simple for fevers; from the pink cistus, with its heart of five flames, comes the merciful labdanum. Such things are a cordial for body and soul.
A thousand homely plants send out their oils and resins from the still places where they are in touch with vast forces, to heal men of their foulness. They link the places that humanity has made so chokingly dusty with the life-giving airs of the ambrosial meadows – bringing women's heads round quickly and setting people smiling.
Not once only, but every year, the fair young body of the wild rose hangs upon the thorn, redeeming us through wonder, and crying across the fetid haunts of the money-grubbers with volatile sweetness – "Father . . . they know not what they do."