Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Dolor of Autumn: A Perfume Series
As I indicated in my Mabon post, I'm stealing a phrase and a feeling from D.H. Lawrence for my more-or-less annual autumn series. This year the theme is unhappy perfumes. You know, the ones that make you feel bad in a good way--the ones that encourage you to wallow in melancholy thoughts, that join you in a cathartic scream, that whisper words of despair in your ear.
I'll start with the mildly dysthymic Nocturnes de Caron. You’d expect this aldehydic green floral to be a pick-me-up, judging from the notes. Orange, bergamot, ylang-ylang, rose, sandalwood, vanilla—how could that cheery cohort possibly produce a downer? For me, though, there’s something antique and wistful in the dry softness of Nocturnes. It evokes the feeling of opening a flea market book to find a flower pressed between the pages, a relic of some ancient happiness that has passed from living memory. Nocturnes is a scent for walking gray streets at twilight, nursing a vague longing for the past. Though there's nothing vague or wistful about Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening,"* the fragrance of Nocturnes always makes think of that poem's last stanza--
It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.
A Paris Street, Evening, Victor Olivier Gilsoul (1867-1939)
*I once had a teacher who insisted that all her students memorize this poem, and she declared that we should recite it to ourselves before we commenced to write anything. Not a bad policy, I have found.