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.

1 comment:

sol said...

Deep, deep words, also! Not being from Britain/the US, there are so much poetry in the English language that I haven't read (yet. life is still long..)
(the perfume I don't know either, but your words, coupled with the progression of autumn outside, evoke the scent in a way)