Running errands in the biting sleet when a burst of lapis caught my eye. Several moments later, I recognized that color, skidded to a halt, and backtracked to the deli that was displaying the first hyacinth of the late winter season. I had to stick my nose far into the buckets filled with plastic-wrapped bouquets and inhale that deep, rich fragrance. I am always up for a heady snort, whether it comes courtesy of gardenias, tea olive, or lilacs. Remember when roses were lusty? Poor dears. Just as the petals of the forced paperwhites are becoming threadbare, hyacinths burst into the scene.

T.S. Eliot has it right, of course. From The Waste Land:

" 'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They called me the hyacinth girl.'

-Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, and I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence."

The web makes tracing the connections through poetry easy; if you like this sort of thing (and I do) follow the link to Tennyson's Mariana. Pound, reading a draft of The Waste Land, assumed the hyacinth girl was Mariana, abandoned in her "lonely moated grange". She may also have been a woman Eliot adored; he was too frightened to declare himself.

Hyacinths are not for the faint of heart. And neither is love.


Concrete Jungle said...

Heaven on earth!

Cristina said...

decidedly "my" flowers, along with gardenias. yuhm!!

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

Well, you just made me recall a picture I hadn't thought of in years, Millais's 1851 "Marianna".

It's very amusing to consider that, when I was in my mid-twenties and studying at Oxford, I bought an absurdly large poster of that painting and tacked it up in my room. I haven't any idea what sort of "mixed signal" that gave to folks who visited and noticed that it was the only item of "personal" decoration in that small, 3rd floor room....but I can, these days, guess. I do, still, love the mouse in the bottom-right corner.

Millais's inscription reads:

"She only said, 'My life is dreary-
He cometh not,' she said;
She said " I am aweary, aweary-
I would that I were dead.' "

How's that for self-indulgent dramatizing?

Miss Marianna, as you'll know, chafed quite visibly under the restraints of a Slow Love Life.

You can see the picture (I love the internet) at:



David Terry

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Everything reminds me of poetry. I even used to wonder if I could find a man who could "love me for myself alone, and not my yellow hair". But, as this is my wedding anniversary, I'm happy to say that I did.

quintessence said...

Lovely! Hyacinths will always remind me of my father who grew copious numbers of them in his garden. My mother always filled a small charming vase with them and put them on my desk. As they frequently make their appearance around Mother's Day, they will always bring her to mind as well (although I don't really need any assistance in this).

Bruce Barone said...

I love hearing Pound read!

SweetRetreat said...

Hyacinths are not for the 'faint of breath' either. Even a whiff of them, or lilacs, can just about knock me out with asthma. Both so lovely, too bad.

Love the picture - thanks for the link David Terry.

david terry said...

Oh, "Bruce"....for a special, heart-warming & rib-tickling treat?... listen to Pound's Radio Roma broadcasts from February of 1940 to those from April of 1945. Portions of those (or ,at least, transcripts) are available, these days, on our glorious internet.

There's really nothing like hearing an author read (in his/her own, inimitable "voice") his/her own writings.

Advisedly as ever,

David Terry

Karena said...

Wonderful Dominique!

The hycinths are one my sprintime favorites when they start popping up!

The poetry moves me as well.

Art by Karena

mary said...

I love "smelly" roses. You can still get them (plants), but it does take a little effort. Keep warm.

Bruce Barone said...


I will. Thank You!

I remember reading some of his poems to students at Mt Holyoke when my wife (at the time) was a student at UMASS. I would listen to records that I owned and then tried to reproduce his voice.

btw: my brother, Dennis, is the Poet Laureate of West Hartford, CT.

VLK said...

For David Terry (and any poetry lovers out there): The Millais is a beautiful painting --what a wonderful colorist he was! But you might be interested to know that the caption lines are excerpted from Tennyson's poem "Mariana" (1830). Both painting and poem drew their inspiration from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, but Tennyson's Mariana doesn't have such a happy ending. (Seems she would have benefited from Dominique's book and blog.)

Happy reading!

david terry said...

Dear "VLK" & "Bruce Barone",

Yes, the text Millais had inscribed on the frame is from Tennyson's poem "Mariana". That might, indeed & as you've suggested, go a very long and useful way towards explaining why Millais titled the painting after Tennyson's poem.

As for Pound? I was being ironic about those 1940-45 "readings"..... which would be the eye-poppingly virulent, wildly imaginative ( he's always due that credit, at least), and inimitably Varsity-League anti-Semitic rants on Radio Roma. I wouldn't be the first to have noticed that Pound's "public readings" (during THAT particular time) made Goebbels look like an amateur who'd just been promoted-up from the mail=room. I used to know (when I was young, and the man was old) one of Pound's consulting psychiatrists from St. Elizabeth's.

Amusingly enough, he'd tell how folks would always try to lure him into breaking professional confidence/ethics concerning Pound. Fortunately, there was nothing to "reveal" about Pound which Pound himself hadn't already made quite public.

In any case, I'm old enough to have been first (and quite thoroughly) trained by Cleanth Brooks/R.P.Warren "New critics", so I'm just fine with reading the poetry without considering it necessary to think about the man. I've always liked his poems a lot.


David Terry

Streams Full of Stars said...

How lucky we are to have hyacinths to offer us a splash of colour and fragrance to get us through the black and white and gray days of winter - thank you - we needed that! Inhale!

Mary Ann Siegel said...

Hi Dominique,

I concur with your wonderful list of fragrant flowers and I add one of my favorites - tuberoses.

This poem, from the Koran, is one of my favorites:

"If I had but two loaves of bread,
I would sell one
and buy hyacinths,
for they would feed my soul."

THANK YOU for your beautiful posts, each more beautiful than the one before.