Wednesday, April 11, 2007

alarm, defeated by bluebells, fleurs de mai

As I go outside yesterday evening to bring in the cushions from the garden, I see a blackbird scurry under some shrubs. As I get closer, he takes off, making his rapid, high pitched, alarm call. "Sorry", I say.

For some years I have tried to eradicate bluebells from the flowerbeds in our little garden. There is so little space. But the bluebells persist. I have now decided to leave them alone and look forward to their flowering, wherever and whenever they choose. They were selling bluebell plants at the WI market last week. "They're "English" said the lady behind the stall. Ours are English too. I suspect that there were bluebells here, before our house was built in the 1890s. Spanish bluebells apparently hang their blooms on both sides of the stem, exhbiting an unbecoming lack of modesty and understatement.

In the biography of Paul Verlaine by Harold Nicholson, which I found the other day in Hall's bookshop, emerges a strange fact. Verlaine, while still at school, found a tattered copy of Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Beaudelaire, abandoned in the schoolroom. He read it avidly without understanding much of it, although he was later to come under its influence. Apparently, he was to be under the impression for several years, because of its condition, that the book was called Les Fleurs de mai. I check the publication date of Les Fleurs du Mal, and find it to be 1857. Verlaine must have read his worn copy in 1862 or '63. In 1864 the author, publisher and printer were prosecuted for impropriety.

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