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Fragrance in Literature 2012


Frost on Windowpane"The door was shut, as doors should be,
 Before you went to bed last night;
 Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,
 And left your window silver white.

 He must have waited till you slept;
 And not a single word he spoke,
 But pencilled o'er the panes and crept
 Away again before you woke.

And now you cannot see the hills
 Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
 But there are fairer things than these
 His fingers traced on every pane."

 - Gabriel Setoun, "Jack Frost"





The next moment he re-entered the shadow of the fir woods, but theHiker in Vosges Mountains, Alsace, France mere glimpse, crossing the clearing, of the night as it grew luminous, served to recall the beauty of the world about him, and he felt a thrill of pleasure. The air was cold and still; a little mist rose from the ravines, but it was not yet laden with the perfume of jonquils and wild strawberries; it bore only that other fragrance which has neither name nor season, the smell of the pines and dead leaves, of springing grass, of old bark cracking above the new skin of the trees, and the breath of that immortal flower, the forest moss.

The traveler loved this fragrance and drank in deep draughts of it, and accustomed though he was to this nightly fete of the forest, the  gleams of the sky, the odor of the earth, the quiver of its silent life, he cried half to himself: "Well done, winter! Well done, Vosges mountains! They cannot spoil you! He even put his stick under his arm so as to make less noise on the sand and pine needles of the winding path, and looked behind him to say, "Trot softly, Fidele; this is too beautiful!"

--A February Night in Alsace by Ene Bazin






Japanese White Eye, Zosterops japonicus, framed by cherry blossoms, Oji, Tokyo, Japan


My heart searched for your fragrance 
in the breeze moving at dawn,
my eyes searched for the flower of your face
in the garden of creation.

Neither could lead me to your abode --
contemplation alone showed me the way."

--Sarmad, translated by Isaac A. Ezekiel










... Listen, close your eyes a moment,
With your head up, nose tip-tilted,
As a wild and furry thing
Alert, will sniff a new-born breeze,
A new and tantalizing odor
Mingling indistinct, yet beck'ning—
'Tis the wild perfume of spearmint
Growing by the tinkling brook.

Suddenly you feel your whiskers
(Or the place where wild things have them)
Brist'ling, quivering, with the knife-keen
Painful joy of new discov'ry.

When the poignant breeze upholds
In gusty folds of ice and warmth
The promise of a time of newness;
When you feel the fresh awak'ning
To new life and animation;
When you press your face deep down
Within the leaves of potted primrose,
And take long sniffs of satisfaction
As you smell the good brown earth,
Perfumed with hope of new creation;
Then your very finger nails
Are quiv'ring with the poignant message
Of the shiv'ring pungent wind,—
Spring has come I

As a wild and furry thing
Alert, will sniff a new-born breeze,
So you find yourself in springtime
Walking with your nose tip-tilted
With your very hair-roots quiv'ring
With the message of new birth.

Alice Blackwell -Lake Erie College-1915






"And the smell of the forest that day! 

It is the smell of sweet, black humus, just exposed. It is the smell of dead Winter. It is the indescribable smell of pure ice water running over leaves.

If you know it, you know it.

If not, no description can bring the odour to your nostrils. It is the first and sweetest smell of Spring."


--Walter Prichard Eaton






A clover field near a church and village in the Massif Central of south-central France

"The blooming orchards are the glory of May, the blooming clover-fields the distinction of June.

Other characteristic June perfumes come from the honey-locusts and the blooming grapevines.

At times and in certain localities the air at night and morning is heavy with the breath of the former, and along the lanes and roadsides we inhale the delicate fragrance of the wild grape.

The early grasses, too, with their frostlike bloom, contribute something very welcome to the breath of June." ---
John Burroughs







To get up at sunrise and go out into the exquisite freshness and scent of earth and leaves, to wander through the green aisles of tall, broad- leaved, dew-wet Indian corn, whose field sloped upward behind the house to the chestnut-tree which stood just outside the rail fence one climbed over on to the side of the hill, to climb the hill and wander into the woods where one gathered things, and sniffed the air like some little wild animal, to inhale the odor of warm pines and cedars and fresh damp mould, and pungent aromatic things in the tall "Sage grass," to stand breathing it all in, one's whole being enveloped in the perfume and warm fresh fragrance of it, one's face uplifted to the deep, pure blue and the tops of the pines swaying a little before it—to hear little sounds breaking the stillness when one felt it most—lovely little sounds of birds conversing with each other, asking questions and answering them and sometimes being sweetly petulant, of sudden brief little chatters of squirrels, of lovely languorous cawing of crows high above the tree tops, of the warm- sounding boom and drone of a bee near the ground—strange as it may seem, to do, to feel, to see and hear all this was somehow not new to her.

The one I knew best of all: a memory of the mind of a child, By Frances Hodgson Burnett




Strawberries are during the first of the month in their ripest abundance and fill the air with a fragrance even more delicious than their fruits. While these are becoming scarce raspberry bushes that embroider the walls and fences hang out their tempting red ripe clusters of berries where the wild rose the sweet briar and the elder flower purify the summer atmosphere with sweet and healthful emotions. Nature seems to be inviting all her children to partake of the pleasure of sense and would convert us all into epicures by changing into delicious fruits those beautiful things which we contemplated with pleasure in the months of spring.


--American journal of agriculture and science, Volume 7
  edited by Ebenezer Emmons, A. Osborn





Yosemite Falls

After reaching Turlock, I sped afoot over the stubble fields and through miles of brown hemitonia and purple erigeron, to Hopeton, conscious of little more than that the town was behind and beneath me, and the mountains above and before me; on through the oaks and chaparral of the foothills to Coulterville; and then ascended the first great mountain step upon which grows the sugar pine.

Here I slackened pace, for I drank the spicy, resiny wind, and beneath the arms of this noble tree I felt that I was safely home.

Never did pine trees seem so dear. How sweet was their breath and their song, and how grandly they winnowed the sky! I tingled my fingers among their tassels, and rustled my feet among their brown needles and burrs, and was exhilarated and joyful beyond all I can write.


--from Steep Trails by John Muir




What beauty in the Autumn woods!Sunlight filters through autumn forest
 The amber sunshine finds its way,
 And checkered light and shadows play.
 Such beauty everywhere we turn!
 The moss-grown rock and drooping fern,
 The woodland flowers and trailing vines,
 The singing brooks and sighing pines,
 The murmur of the gentle breeze
 That stirs the yellow chestnut leaves,
 Till softly in the grasses brown
 The round and prickly burs drop down.
 The maples are in bright array
 Of mottled gold and crimson gay;
 The oaks in bronze and russet dressed;
 In cloth of gold are all the rest,
 Except that now and then between
 There stands a tall, dark evergreen
 That sheds its spicy fragrance round
 And drops its cones upon the ground.
 With asters white and purple tinged,
 And goldenrod, the woods are fringed,
 With scarlet berries peeping through
 Where wild grapes hang, of purple hue,
 And fiery-fingered ivy clings,
 While milkweed floats on downy wings.
 The crickets chirp and insects hum,
 For glorious Autumn now has come.
"THE AUTUMN WOODS"  By Eva Beede Odell





It white-tailed deer in poplar forestwas November now, but who that has really lived in the country—lived in it 'all the year round,' and learnt every change in the seasons, every look of the sky, all the subtle combinations of air, and light, and colour, and scent which give to out-door life its indescribable variety and unflagging interest, who of such initiated ones does not know how marvellously delicious November can sometimes be? How tender the clear, thin, yellow tone of the struggling sunbeams, the half frosty streaks of red on the pale blue-green sky, the haze of approaching Winter over all! How soft, and subdued, and tired the world seems—all the bustle over, ready to fall asleep, but first to whisper gently good night! And to feel November to perfection, for, after all, this shy autumnal charm is not so much a matter of sight, as of every sense combined, sound and scent and sight together, lapsing into one vague consciousness of harmony and repose—the place of places is a wood. A wood where the light, faint at the best, comes quivering and brokenly through the not yet altogether unclothed branches, where the fragrance of the rich leafy soil mingles with that of the breezes from the not far distant sea, where the dear rabbits scud about in the most unexpected places, and the squirrels are up aloft making arrangements for the Winter—oh! a wood in late Autumn has a strange glamour of its own, that comes over me, in spirit, even as I write of it, far, far away from country sights and sounds, further away still from the long-ago days of youth and leisure, and friends to wander with, in the Novembers that then were never gloomy.
Hathercourt rectory   By Mrs. Molesworth


Fragrance for a Winter's Evening- By Mary Matthew

They drove on leisurely, basking in the warm soft air, perfumed with the breath of sun-kissed pines. At intervals along the road were clusters of sweet fern, and clumps of spicy bayberry. To the stems of the latter the little blue-gray berries of the previous autumn were still adhering, though above them the new leaves were fresh and green.

"Amanda knows how to make bayberry candles," remarked Rosalie. "Her grandmother told her years ago."

"How does she make them?"


"She gathers the berries when they are fresh and boils them in water. The oil of the berries rises to the surface. She skims it off and lets it cool. Then she presses it into a mould and it hardens and comes out a candle."

"I should think it would take bushels and bushels of those little things to make even a few candles."

"Perhaps she mixes something else with the oil; and I have forgotten how she gets the wick in; but she says they are a delicate green in color and give out a pleasant fragrance while burning."

"Bayberry candles would be a fitting accompaniment to open wood fires, to glowing logs of oak and hickory," suggested Endicott, smiling back at them.

"If you add a pitcher of cider and some apples roasting before the fire, you have all the material for a delightful old-fashioned winter evening," said the Captain.

"And some molasses candy and popcorn," added Barbara.

"Ah, yes; sweets to the sweet," replied her grandfather. "There should be candy, of course, for the girls of the household."