I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.
Saturday 15 June 2013
Poetry & Perfume II - 'Music, When Sweet Voices Die' by Percy Bysshe Shelley & 'Drôle de Rose' by L'Artisan Parfumeur
Music, When Soft Voices Die
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
MUSIC, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap'd for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
of roses is lipstick traces and honeyed boudoir memories. Rooms preserved in
time. Images that vibrate in the corridors and houses of rose-tinted
recollections. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Drôle de Rose is cranberry-coloured nostalgia,
iris, rose and violet, watching beautiful women dress, ready for deeply scented
nights out, a scent rendered so delicate as to be almost the faintest of
memories lost in time.
fascinated recently by the pictures of the extraordinary time capsule Parisian apartment
of Mme Marthe De Florian who left Paris at the outbreak of the Second World War and headed
south. Her home in the ninth arrondisement near Pigalle lay undisturbed for over 70
years, preserving precious objects including a very striking portrait by Giovanni
Boldini and the everyday items of life in layers of dust and time, including
fabulous taxidermy, porcelain and a wonderful old-style pre-war Mickey Mouse toy
with a long snout. One of the most striking images was of her dressing table,
ornate and still, draped in memory. When I smell Drôle de Rose and read
Shelley’s encapsulation of lost time and crumbling years I now see Mme
Florian’s faded rooms, lost in time, tucked away in Paris, hidden from view,
exactly as she left, toys, bottles, artworks, pieces of herself suspended for
over seventy years.
I am very
partial to a lipstick accord, the atmospheric smudged mix of rose and violet
with an echo of leather, sugar and tissues, a rummagy old handbag aura. It is
one of the great classic perfumery accords but is rarely done with any great
distinction or recognition of desire.
a few outstanding examples. Ralf Schweiger’s plush throaty Lipstick Rose from 2000 captures that instantly satin boudoir scent
of classic lipstick, a mixture of fatty rose, smudged violet, vanillic skin and
talcum. A woman in a haze of retro beauty, applying make-up in blooming mirrors
in a childs’s rose-tinted memory. But there is a ruthless and animalic streak
of modernity ruining through Lipstick
Rose, a lick of vanillic pole dancer. A naughty raspberry note sparkles at
the top as the scent opens and this develops down like a trickle of forbidden
liquor through the scent as it warms through on skin. The rose/violet theme is
a classical fragrance accord that echoes down through decades of perfumery. Another beauty I fell across recently is
Jovoy’s banging femme fatale Rouge Assassin that tints the rose withwhite musks, ambrette and a lingering trail of iris.
Damn! She’ll kiss you hard then shoot you through the heart, leave you bleeding
out in a pool of roses and retro-scented blood, the last thing you will hear
would be her metallic heels ringing out on tiles as she walks away sheathing her gun in a
Rose is a memory rose. A
collection of petals and historiesthat
seem as if they might crumble to dust if touched (Rose leaves, when the rose is dead….). The honey and almond amplify
the sugar & powder facet of the scent. Soft voices of the past, loves lost
and remembered within odours. The breath of just enough violet sweetens the touch of death in air, puzzling at first, then making a moving sense of calm in still bower.
The Shelley poem was written in 1821 and
published posthumously in 1824 after the poet’s tragic drowning in 1822. When I
read it to myself, I tremble, deliberately shutting my eyes on the present and
allowing the past to flutter at my eyelids like soft warm rain. The persistence
of love and memory are achingly embedded within us. This is the true horror of
senility for me personally, a fear of Alzheimer’s; the erosion of foundations.
We hope as we age and love and lose and love again that these memories stay
with us, flames and embers to keep us warm.‘And so thy thoughts, when thou
art gone, Love itself will slumber on.’ What are we become if these flames
poetic images of heaped roses, dried as if in memorium, by bed or grave, (or gathered to create scent…stirred
into extraction alembics..), the odour of fading violets, the fickle transience
of flowers and nature. All of this seeps through eight lines of verse. Looking
for a scent to weave alongside this most delicate of mournful Shelley pieces, I
flicked through the rosaceous library in my mind and could smell Drôle de Rose almost immediately,
ethereal and softly sentimental. It smells like an old victrola playing a
ghostly vocal somewhere in a powdered house.
The linger of Drôle de Rose is
almost tearful, a poignant sigh of iris and rose, a breath of sweet
violet. It captures perfectly the
subtleties of grief; a presence in a room. The corporeal body may be gone, but
love keeps the senses and spirit alive.
I loved this biography of the rose by Jennifer Potter. I bought it on sale in my local bookstore, but it is lavishly illustrated and beautifully written. Chapter sixteen 'Heaven's Scent' on the history of the rose in in perfumery is invaluable reading.