Friday, 13 June 2014

The song of the rose

On this early June morning the air is full of the scent of roses, before the heat of the day. Stooping to breathe in their delicate scent and admire the pattern of their petals I remember the disappointment of trying to make perfume with rose petals as a child. We put all the fallen rose petals in a bucket, added some water and pounded them with a stick, convinced we would produce an essence for my mum to dab round her ears. But of course making a delectable scent from roses is much more complicated than that. That is why perfumes are so expensive.
Sappho ,the Greek lyric poet born on the island of Lesbo around 620 BC wrote a lovely poem about the rose which has been translated by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861). Sappho was called a lyrist because she wrote her poems to be performed to the accompaniment  of a lyre.

Song of the Rose, Fragment 146

For the rose, ho, the rose! is the eye of the flowers.
Is the blush of the meadows that feel themselves fair
Is the lightning of beauty that strikes through the bowers
On pale lovers who sit in the glow unaware.
Ho! the rose breathes of love! Ho, the rose lifts the cup,
To the red lips of Cypris  invoked for a guest!
Ho! the rose, having curled its' sweet leaves for the world,

Takes delight in the motion its' petals keep up
As they laugh to the wind, as it laughs from the west!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, translated from Sappho

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