Friday’s Flowers

Perhaps a little late for the June brides but ……

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In one of the French editions of Les Fleurs Animées the ode to the orange blossom ends with this little engraving.

Of course June is thought of as the month of brides and weddings but for our purposes let’s say that all the churches were booked and the weather wasn’t the best so we delayed the nuptials until mid-July.  In many cultures it was the custom for brides to wear orange blossoms in their hair, in their corsages, and even garlands woven into their dresses.  What the gorgeous scent added to the ceremony can only be imagined and this little entry from Les Fleurs Animées suggests the significance that was attached to the presence of the Épithalame or Orange blossom at a marriage.





On this day in 1865: First ascent of the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper and party, four of whom die on the descent.

Friday’s Flowers

A stroll through the vineyard in my Virtual Garden.

grapes-vineYou may think it’s a little early to start thinking of the grape harvest and the resulting vintages; but really is it every too early to sing the praises of the source of our Bacchic pleasures?  I say not!

Today, as a salute to our friends M. and L., who are establishing a vineyard on their farm out in Prince County, I offer Taxile Delord‘s chanson in honour of Le Vigne as translated by Nehemiah Cleaveland. 

CHANSON – Le vigneText-1the Vine 1

broken vessels le vigne

I raise a toast to the guys hoping that their young vines will grow strong and the harvest plentiful.  And one day it will be a vintage from their vines that will fill our glasses for the toast.  And wish that we will “love a thousand times better” all things that we hold dear including our friendships.

On this day in 1919:  Anarchists simultaneously set off bombs in eight separate U.S. cities.

Friday’s Flowers

The story of Tumilco, the cacique and the beautiful dancer Grenadilla is continued.

The Last of the Cacique – Part II

The besotted Governor had arranged for the enchanting Grenadilla to join him in his chambers and watch the spectacle from the window.  As they awaited the arrival of the holy procession he pressed his suit but received only laughter at his protestations of eternal devotion.  Then she caught sight of the procession and the pathetic Tumilco weighed down by chains, wearing a cap emblazoned with red devils and his body enveloped in a sack.

Once more the viceroy made the same eloquent efforts pursuing the same order as before. “Cruel! Ungrateful! Hyrca tigress! What do you demand? Speak!” Grenadilla turned quickly round, and pointing to Tumilco, who just ascended the pyre, replied:

“That you should save that man’s life!”

The Governor was startled by her demand.  If he met it the people would surely turn on him – they wanted their entertainment.  He would have an armed revolt on his hands if he met her request.  But such was his lust that he ordered the execution be suspended and the cacique brought to him.  And his command came not a moment too soon – the flame had just been put to the pile.

Tumilco was brought into the Governor’s presence and that wily worthy demanded of the unfortunate heretic that he renounce his barbaric worship.   He offered him a pardon if he were to receive baptism into the holy church.  At the point of execution how could anyone refuse, with a shrug of his shoulders Tumilco agreed.

The Grand Inquisitor, who was melting in the heat under the weight of his vestments and who never liked the smell of burning heretics anyway, was informed.  In his delight at finally having a cacique as a convert he granted the pardon in the name of mother church and all the saints.

The Governor was highly pleased with his solution until he heard the crescendoing murmurs of discontent from the crowd, unhappy at being cheated of their promised sport.  What was he to do?  How could he appease them?  Startled by a rock hitting a window of his palacio he quickly decided hit upon a plan.  Striding out onto the balcony displaying a brave front betrayed by his quaking knees he called for silence.  With great pomp and solemnity he announced the conversion of the apparently penitent Tumilco and the celebration of his baptism with great ceremony the following day.  There would be processions, feasting, and dancing;  the beautiful Grenadilla would dance for them as she had never danced before.  The jeers that had greeted his appearance turned to cheers as the fickle populace turned their thoughts from the flames of the auto da fé to the cleansing waters of the baptismal font – and the promised food, drink, and the beautiful Grenadilla.

But where was Grenadilla?  The Governor had fulfilled his promise and was seeking out his prize.  But she was nowhere to be found.  The servants searched every room and stairwell of the palace, a whole troop of guardsmen combed the streets of the city, but she was never found.  The beautiful dancer was never to be seen again in the streets of the city nor in the Mexican countryside.

An Interlude

The reader has probably concluded that Grenadilla, though proud and beautiful as the flower whose name she bears, has nevertheless a secret passion for the cacique, the young and handsome savage. The rules of the novel would indeed seem to require this, but truth has its rights which we are bound to respect. Tumilco is old ugly and broken down and if as, the foregoing chapter shows, Grenadilla loves him it is because the cacique took care of her in her childhood.  It is because she was received by him when she was an infant, poor and forsaken, and was by him protected until circumstances, which we need not relate, compelled him to leave his native province. Grenadilla by saving the life of Tumilco had acquitted herself of this obligation.

Friday's FlowersSatisfied at having done her duty, she started that very night for Europe. It was the only way in which she could avoid the persecutions of the governor. When three months out the ship which conveyed her was wrecked. Her body was thrown by the waves upon the Spanish coast.

 The Flower Fairy, being at the time in those latitudes engaged in watching over the Jessamine, received the body of Grenadilla. In the spot where she found her she caused a splendid thicket of pomegranates to rise, whose fruits and flowers like the beauty and the talents of Grenadilla were delightful to behold.


Tumilco, having been baptized under the name of Esteban, made his home in Mexico, and lived there on a small pension provided to him by the government, in consideration of his being a descendent of Montezuma. The sincerity of his conversion was often questioned, and they were thinking of again bringing him before the holy office, when he fell very sick.  He asked that a physician might be called: his charitable neighbors sent him a priest.

Friday's Flowers“Brother Esteban,” said the priest, “it is time you should commend your soul to the mercy of God.”

“My name is not Esteban,” the cacique replied. “I am called Tumilco. Go about your business!”

“Think of God my brother!”

“Thy God is not mine,” said Tumilco.  “Will some one open the window?”

His request was complied with. The setting sun was still bright in the west.

“There is my god,” said the cacique, “and the god of my fathers.  Sun receive thy child to thy bosom.”

The priest covered his face with his hands, made the sign of the cross and murmured “vade retro Satanas.”

Tumilco was dead.

“Sooner might you prevent the sunflower from following the sun in his course, than one of these heretics from returning to the worship of their luminary. This is what we gained by not burning him.”

The charitable neighbor who pronounced the above funeral oration, had no idea that the cacique Tumilco was merely the incarnation of the Sunflower. In worshipping the sun he did but obey the laws of his being.

On this day in 1857: Dred Scott is emancipated by the Blow family, his original owners.

Friday’s Flowers

Another stroll through J J Grandville’s Les fleurs animées for a lesson from the flowers.

Its been a long while since I took a stroll through my virtual garden – the winter was long and snows deep this past year and it seemed gardens were a thing of the past. But the rains of the past few days have greened  things up a bit and I’ve found time to thumb through Grandville and read one of Taxile Delord’s cautionary tales.

Neither the writer nor the illustrator were particular favourites with the authorities – their tart observation of things political and religious often fell under the censors’ scrutiny.  The story of The Last Cacique is a bitter story of political and religious intolerance and hypocrisy. Until I read Cleaveland’s translation of Delord’s story I had no idea what a cacique was.  For him it obviously meant native of Central American and more specifically of Mexico though the Wikipedia entry gives it a wider and more political meaning.  It tells of a religious and ethnic clash and the toadying of politicians to the “bread and circuses” – though in this case it is “auto-da-fe and baptism – will of the people.  Once again behind the lovely lithographs lurks a damning and uncomfortable lesson.

The Last of the Cacique – Part I

There was a time about the middle of the last century when the city of Mexico had become very dull.  Since the death of Havradi the famous toreador the bull fights had lost their charm with the public. It was the rainy season and they could have no processions and adverse winds had prevented the arrival of the fleet from Europe. The inhabitants clamoured against the public authorities for not finding means to amuse them. The governor Don Alvarez Mendo ay Palenzuela y Arnam began at length to fear an insurrection. Having risen one day in worse humour than usual and feeling it his duty to attend to affairs of state he summoned before him the commander of the forces Don Gonsalvo de Saboya who like all Spanish officers claimed descent from Gonsalvo of Cordova.  The governor had a project in his head  “It is” said he to himself “a long time since the city of Mexico has enjoyed an auto da fe.  A spectacle like that would have the double advantage of quieting my complaining subjects and of securing the favour of the Inquisition which complains somewhat of my luke-warmness.”

And the most obvious choice for the festive pyre would be a native or cacique, a follower of the old Sun worship.  In fact there had been rumours of a renewal in the old believes amongst the locals that the Inquisition was not happy about. But of course like all politicians the good Governor doesn’t want to soil his hands with anything so unsavoury. So he delegates the task of finding a heretic to the good Commander  who not being the bravest or brightest of men delegates it to his Captain.  The Captain worries about his next commission and by happenstance discovers that his Sargent has a drinking buddy who is a Cacique and orders him to arrest his old friend.

La Grenadilla

Friday's FlowersNext to the toreador whose death was so much deplored, next to the processions, the bull fights and the arrival of the fleet from Spain the chief delight of the inhabitants of Mexico was the dancer Grenadilla.  Lord,  citizens, soldiers, sailors, everybody knew her; everybody admired her and respected her – and yet she was only a poor street dancer – a child of the common people, a gipsy and a mountebank.  Still whenever this mountebank gipsy began to dance the fandango there was not a duchess of them all who had an air more noble a more flexible form or whose movements were prouder and more graceful than were those of the Grenadilla.

Needless to say the Governor was not immune to the charms of this beautiful gypsy girl and she often danced for him in his private quarters. But when he pressed his suit she would laugh at him and run back to the streets to be with her people. When the Governor told her of the coming auto da fe La Grenadilla spread the word amongst the populace who greeted the news with acclamation.

Meanwhile Tumilco, the Sargent’s cacique drinking companion, was happily celebrating a successful day at the market at a local taverna.  His old friend the Sargent appeared but his charge was not to drink with Tumilco but to arrest the bewildered man.  He was trundled off to without a word of explanation to a dark cell away from the life-giving sun.  A month later he was led before the dreaded Inquisition where a tribunal of glowering priests demanded that he say a Pater or an Ave.  Poor Tumilco knew neither prayer and his silence condemned him as a heretic to be burned at the stake in the public square.

The Auto da Fe

In the mean time the Mexicans became impatient.

On every side was heard the inquiry “When is the auto da fe to place?  Will it be tomorrow or on the day after? Is it or proper to make us wait so long for the burning of a wicked little heretic? This is showing but small zeal for the interests of religion and little regard for the feelings of good catholics!”

All these remarks were repeated to the governor who replied “It is nothing to me. The prisoner is in the hands of the Inquisition. They may do what they please.”

Meanwhile the governor more enamored than ever of the charming Grenadilla would almost have himself worshipped the sun had it been necessary to please her. The Grenadilla however was incapable of requiring such an enormity.

At length one fine morning the inhabitants of Mexico saw the funeral pyre, which they had so long and impatiently expected, set up in the public square. The bells sounded a general peal. The fraternities of the Penitents, with banners flying, proceeded to the house of the grand inquisitor to form his escort to the elevated stand which had been reserved for him in the public square, and which fronted the funeral pyre.

Two o clock was the hour fixed for the execution.

But long before this, at an early hour of the morning indeed, the crowd had filled the place. At the windows, in the trees everywhere, one could see nothing but heads. These multitudes were talking, waving their hands, and calling impatiently for the victim. At last the cortege made its appearance on one side of the square. First came the clergy, then the Penitents, and last of all the victim surrounded by the soldiers of the Santa Hermandad.

At this moment all became still and deeply attentive.

To be continued next Friday …….

On this day in 1743: Jean-Pierre Christin developed the centigrade temperature scale.


Throwback Thursday

The Return of the Flowers – J. J. Grandville

The weather today suggests that Spring does actually happen here on PEI. Trees are starting to sprout leaves, the grass has gone from dead yellow to vibrant green to dandelion yellow, and the many tulip beds around town are breaking into bloom. Tulips are a very important industry here on PEI and many of the bulbs that are gracing flower beds in Canadian towns during this our sesquicentennial originate here at Vesey’s and Vancos. And of course this week is the wrap up week of the Tulip Festival in our old hometown of Ottawa.

JJGrandville2So to celebrate our tulips bursting forth, the industry here in PEI, and the Ottawa Festival I decided to stroll through a virtual garden that I started back in 2012 and always meant to revisit. And that stroll has led me to take another look at J. J. Grandville and Taxile Delord’s Les Fleurs Animées (Flowers Personified). I thought maybe that once again I’d delve into their allegorical recounting of what happen when flowers assumed human form and revive the Friday’s Flowers posts. And on the odd occasion highlight one or two of the flowers growing in my Virtual Garden.

Willy Or Won't He

Despite the snow fall earlier this week and this mornings minus temperatures Spring is really on its way here in Ottawa. No honestly it is!  A patch of early warm weather has nudged daffodils, hyacinths and other early spring flowers out of the earth.  Now mind you the near sub-zero temperatures have them hiding their heads but I’m always surprised how hardy so many of those seemly delicate flowers really are.

A few weeks ago to mark International Woman’s Day I sent out mimosas to the special women in my life in the form of a wonderful lithograph by J. J. Grandville from Les Fleurs Animées (Flowers Personified) a two volume set of 54 hand-coloured lithographs which propose that “Flowers are the expression of society.”

The introduction to Les Fleurs Animées was written by Alphonse Karr and the allegorical texts by Taxile Delord.  Grandville’s designs accompany their stories of the…

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