Friday, May 01, 2009

When Caspar and I took our last little saunter of the evening I stood on the deck for a few minutes before coming in, listening to the pulse of May, - the frogs at the foot of the pasture, singing the celebration of spring in their deep bass voices, with the rhythm of life, abundance, fertility and the powerful green energy of renewal.

And I thought about ancient days, and the mythology of the old civilizations of Rome and Greece - the gods and the goddesses and how involved they were with the lives of humans; the stories and fables of the various seasons.

Here is a beautiful tapestry. Edward Burns-Jones designed the figure, and William Morris designed the background. It depicts Flora, the goddess of abundance, standing barefoot in flowing garments with a wreath in her hair, personifying summer,. She holds fresh flowers in her hand, and we can see the intricate floral background inspired by the Medieval decorative technique known as Mille Fleur's (thousand flowers). In these times copies of the design are woven in Belgium and available online.

The piece is also inscribed with the following verse, beautifully rendered in Gothic type.

"I am the handmaid of the Earth
I broider fair her glorious gown;
Deck her on her days of mirth
with many a garland of renoun.
And while the earth's little ones are fain
And play about the mother's hem,
I scatter every gift I gain
From sun and wind to gladden them"

In Roman mythology Flora was a goddess of flowers and the season of spring, being one of several fertility goddesses and a relatively minor figure. Her association with spring gave her particular importance in late April and early May, the time of her festival, the Floralia. It was a lusty affair, symbolizing the renewal of the circle of life and marked with dancing, drinking, and flowers.

Flora was married to Favonius, the wind god, and her companion was Hercules. She achieved more prominence in the neo-pagan revival of Antiquity among Renaissance humanists than she had ever enjoyed in ancient Rome. - (extracted from Wikipedia).

From Ovid, Fasti 5, 193
"I, Flora, enjoy perpetual spring: the year always shines, trees are leafing, the solid always fodders. I have a fruitful garden in my dowered fields, fanned by breezes, fed by limpid fountains. My husband filled it with well-bred flowers, saying: 'Have jurisdiction of the flower, goddess'. I often wanted to number the colors displayed, but could not: their abundance defied measure. As soon as the dewy frost is cast from the leaves and sunbeams warm the dappled blossom, the Horae (Seasons) assemble, hitch up their colored dresses and collect these gifts of mine in light tubs. Suddenly the Charities (Graces) burst in, and weave chaplets and crowns to entwine the hair of gods."

It sounds like a lovely party, with great potential.

Although not a goddess, I too can relate to her enjoyment of her flowers and fountains, having an equally kind husband who has worked with me to make a beautifully diverse and joyful garden.

Thinking of Flora, the gods and goddesses, the renewal and cycle of life, the lovely month of May, and all it has meant in our lives, and time.. when I came across this poem it struck a haunting minor chord, and reminded me of how I felt when we first started this sweet little garden in our 'latter' years.

"'Established' is a good word, much used in garden books,
'the plant, when established'...
Oh, become established quickly, quickly, garden!
For I am fugitive, I am very fugitive

Those that come after me will gather these roses,
And watch, as I do now, the white wisteria
Burst in the sunshine, from its pale green sheath.

Planned. Planted. Established. Then neglected,
Till at last the loiterer by the gate will wonder
At the old, old cottage, the old wooden cottage,
And say, 'One might build here, the view is glorious;
This must have been a pretty garden once."

Well, I am not as 'fugitive' as Mary Ursula Bethell, who wrote this poem in 1929.

Nevertheless the words touched me, and the realization that Nature and the Goddess Flora persist in beauty and renewal, and May comes every year!!!!

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