Friday, June 15, 2007


“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”
- T.S. Eliot

At the farm, the one thing that remains something to which we look forward to each year are the lilacs. The lilac hedge out front shields the house somewhat from the main road. But it real value lasts only about three weeks out of each year - when it blooms in spring.

I am thinking of the lilac-trees,
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open,
Shed fragrance through the room.
- Mrs. Anna S. Stephens, The Old Apple-Tree

After the bleak and cold winter, when much of the farm is still a muddy grey, the lilac bush seems to offer the promise of spring and summer and renewed growth. And the fragrance of the flowers fills the house. My wife loves to cut big bunches of them. She fills the house in every corner with bouquets that are picturesque and fragrant.

When lilacs last in the door-year bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd--and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
- Walt Whitman,
When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd
(I, Leaves of Grass)

At night in spring, when the evenings are not too cold, my wife leaves the windows open, and in the morning the house if filled with the sweet smell of the hedges outside our front windows. The purple flowers sway back and forth, as if waving to us, and invigorate the house with the gorgeous scent of spring.

Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,
Lilac in me because I am New England.
- Amy Lowell, Lilacs

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "Since colonial days, the common lilac has been in America one of the best loved of the flowering shrubs, meriting its favor by its cone-shaped masses of lavender or white flowers, its fragrance, and its ease of cultivation. Some cities (e.g., Rochester, N.Y.) have lilac festivals. The purple flower clusters are the floral emblem of New Hampshire. From this old-fashioned common lilac (S. vulgaris) and others, many hybrids have been developed with variations in form (such as double flowers) and in color (such as rosy pink and white). These hybrids, which may lack the fragrance of the common lilac, are often called French lilacs because much of the pioneer hybridizing was done in France. "

Just now the lilac is in bloom
All before my little room.
- Rupert Brooke

So this is basically for my wife - to remember each spring the thing she loves best in April and May at the farm.


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