Monday, March 22, 2010

Where e're I roam, whatever realms to see,

The scent of daffodils remains for me one of the most evocative of smells: of Spring, the moment when the world greens again, the rain softens and washes the blossom. Personally, I have no problem with rain even on the morning of the first day of Spring in the Georgia mountains, though my fellow Southerners can find it quite worrisome. The smell of pines after rain, like the scent of daffodils and the reek of box hedges baking in the sun are gatekeepers at the parking-lots of memory.

Daffodils, like hyacinths, have a scent into which faces should be plunged, all mucous membranes aflutter, guzzling the deliciousness of it all. Lilies, those air-fresheners of the 19th century funeral parlor, their scent occupying the borderland between scent and stink, on the other hand need, to be sipped rather than slurped.

So, where e're I roam, whatever realms to see, my intention was not to write a howdy-do to Spring, but return to writing what has become an honor-roll of those decorators, long-gone, I began to call the Lost Generation. Seemingly, true to my zodiac sign - crab-wise - I have done so by finding a building, the Gate of Honour in one of the two books I bought last week.

Initially, it was not the photo that caught my eye, it is simply one of over 600 illustrations from Mark Girouard's Elizabethan Architecture, but the text introducing it. The phrase ... temple and balustrade are elided ... indeed, the word elided it was, that excited me. What it is that makes individual words, these compounds of thought and intonation, words such as elided, quite so alluring is not really that important: what is important, is that despite the history, the architect, the location, on turning turn the page to the Gate of Honour and on reading that it was at the end of a symbolic route followed by students at Caius College, Cambridge: a route beginning with the Gate of Humility, continuing through the Gate of Virtue and Wisdom and ending at the Gate of Honour, I knew I had found the symbolic, if not actual, title for my roll of honor.

Photo copyright Martin Charles, from Elizabethan Architecture: Its Rise and Fall, 1540 -1640, Mark Girouard, Yale University Press 2009.

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