The Greatest Perfumes Never Made – Christopher Marlowe ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’

 

Writing about Annette Neuffer’s Sonnet 18, I was listening to an old cd released by RADA with famous actors reciting Shakespeare. I was hoping that sonnet 18 would be read beautifully so that I could add it as a link. Unfortunately it wasn’t read, but was instead represented by a song by Bryan Ferry. Not that I mind Bryan Ferry or his music, and this song was ok, but the thing is that the way the verse is made up of 3×4 iambic pentameters and an end rhyme of two iambic pentameters giving the shape ABAB CDCD EFEF DD, it just does not lend itself to music composed after the renaissance. At least if a good musical setting of a sonnet exists I think I have yet to hear it. Anyway, Annie Lennox, who is also presented on the album with a song, had probably seen the problem and instead chosen the Marlowe pastoral poem ‘Come live with me and be my love’.

Come live with me and be my love,Marlowe shepherd
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

 

I had all but forgotten this little gem, and was happy to re-find it. The mix of her distinct vocal, recognizable sound which could never be twee or saccharine no matter what the words, and an (artificial) harpsichord solo which is perfectly weird-cute, makes for a perfect musical setting.

Perhaps in English-speaking countries this is extremely well-known, but I had never encountered it before. The pastoral setting, the fantasy of all the good the lover would do to his beloved is endearing. I instantly took this for nothing but an exercise, a little dream, but Marlowe was scolded for his youthful folly by Sir Walter Raleigh who wrote this response in 1599, even if Marlowe was dead by then.

‘…Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten–
In folly ripe, in reason rotten….’

Re-reading The Passionate Shepherd, I was instantly reminded of my little series ‘Greatest perfumes never made’; the salty mineral air from the rocks, the green juicy grass and sweet hay. Little posies made of wild flowers, of course roses too, and the herby myrtle, so here it goes: Pastoral Idyll in Elizabethan England.

Salty mineral, violet leaves, ivy,

Rose, myrtle, grass, a handful of wildflowers; cornflowers, primrose, St. john’s wort and camomile.

Coumarin, amber, wooly- ambergris.

But then again, since the poem is a fantasy, perhaps the fragrance itself should be so too; made of Muses’ laughter, Unicorn’s tears, golden rainbow dust, butterfly kisses, Phoenix feathers and strings of Orpheus’ Lute.

Jardins d’Ecrivains has released a new perfume called Marlowe, which I didn’t know of when I started writing this post. It sounds exciting notes being; tuberose, elemi, osmanthus, myhrr, dried flowers, oakmoss, labdanum, tuskin musk and leather and quite far from my little game, which is probably just as well.

Please tell me: how would your version look?

An Eastern- Easter Lily- Turandot 1926 by Histoires de Parfums (2014)

I was rummaging through my perfumes trying to find ones which has a prominent narcissus note, or Easter lily as it’s called here, as it seemed the perfect match for today.

So how many narcissus perfumes do you own? Turns out that I don’t have all that many; actually I was looking at vintage Narcisse Noir EdT (Caron), a great perfume which happens to be one of the few that always brings in compliments, much to my own bewilderment, because great as it is, it does smell rather poisonous to me and always reminds me a little of the bad half of the snow-white apple. The other is the discontinued Fleurs de Narcisse from L’Artisan Parfumeur, which would have been very suitable, but since it’s more or less unobtainable, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for either.ny indstilling sony åbner ikke 1504

I ended up with 1926 from Histoires de Parfums’ opera collection, a collection I have previously written about. This time it’s perfumer Gérald Ghislain’s interpretation of the opera Turandot by Puccini[1], a rather beautiful narcissus-oriental perfume, which I have been wearing.

The perfume starts with a very true and decisive narcissus,happy easter 001 and that strange almost chorine like sharpness of the narcissus accentuated by means of ginger. On my skin it is sharper and seems more poisonous yellow, than on the mouillette, where it’s softer and a bit sweet as soon as a subtle juicy pear scent sets in. I would say it’s almost pretty, yet in an adult way, just with that touch of razor sharpness.

Even when the top starts blending into the heart of jasmine and carnation, I still feel that the narcissus plays the first violin to a very subdued powdery, hardly spicy at all, carnation and a well behaved jasmine, just enough for a feminine touch. Even here it’s still the narcissus which provides the backbone, keeping this perfume expensively elegant.

The dry down according to the official notes is patchouli, amber, leather and incense, again something that sounds a lot more ‘in your face’ than this fragrance ever becomes. The slightly bitter and non-smoky incense ties in with the ginger and the narcissus to keep a tart trail throughout the perfume. All notes are beautifully intertwined, and I do perceive soft floral-tinted leather as well as fruity amber chord, but truly everything here is so subtle, quiet even, especially compared both to the materials used and some of the regular line-up by HdPs. The whole fragrance almost reminds me of something that wouldn’t be out of place at the MDCI line, in that whole quiet elegance way.

I like Turandot- the perfume very much. It doesn’t remind me at all of anything to do with Turandot, but my image there might also be slightly tainted, but that’s another story which will have to wait.

Happy Easter and happy spring!ny indstilling sony åbner ikke 1508

1 The one with the famous aria, dragged through the mud by several talent show competitors. The real deal is HERE

And don’t think for a moment that this was the first time that perfume history was inspired by Puccini’s opera. The supporting role of Liu, Price Calaf’s sister, was the inspiration for Guerlain’s perfume of that name back in 1929.

 

* Pics are mine and I bought the sample pack from www.histoiresdeparfums.com

Pure and Simple – Heeley Cardinal (2006) and Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo (2014)

It’s holy week, and all around me people already say happy Easter everywhere I go. It irks me, ‘no, no, it’s not happy yet’. However, I think what they mean is probably more something like Happy Easter holiday, and of course, as a good agnostic, I don’t really care, it’s just that for some reason* this time seems contemplative to me, it seems like something is a little oppressed before it’s released, and there’s a proper sense of spring and the life it brings with it.

So I thought I wanted to find two fragrances which might be a bit related to this time. In fact it will be three, because my # 1, and the only fragrance that I feel wholly encompasses this time is Serge Lutens’ De Profundis, I wrote about it when it was first released at All I Am-blog. But a short quote; “I get the decided feeling that the fragrance itself yearns and beseeches you to think of the violet, once gone, like an echo. There is incense but I find it only detectable as a feeling of calm and quiet, it isn’t a dominant note, and yet it almost feels like it is a main player of the fragrance because of the serenity it emits.” I won’t repeat myself further.

Cardinal is all about the incense and myrrh, the smell of Catholic Church is unmistakable, like the incense burned and swung in a place through centuries seeped through stones and interior. The actual burning and smoking is like it’s long gone from the fragrance and what is portrayed here is the remains which has taken the shape of its surroundings. Its straight and contemporary style with underlying ancient context, reminds me of the opening of something like Arvo Pärt’s Passio. The text is the Latin words from John’s Passion, and the musical style is contemporary minimalist and yet pointing back to early music styles, it’s meditative and deceptively simple. Perhaps Cardinal is not exactly deceptive in its simplicity, it’s a tad bitter-sweet but pure, nearly purist, something that takes it away from the ancient, and towards clean and modern.

image2

Ombre Indigo, like the rest of Olfactive Studio’s opus is inspired by a photo. Funnily I’m not sure I care so much for this, I think it’s easier for me to ignore press blurb than pictures, and when it comes to images, I prefer to conjure up my own from whatever it is I smell. So, I haven’t looked up what was the inspiration. For me it’s all about papyrus in this fragrance, and you’ll need to like this greenish swampy note to like Ombre Indigo, since it is its heartbeat. Like Cardinal, OI has that strange thing of using something as ancient as papyrus (and incense), which should perhaps evoke dead sea scrolls and illuminated scriptures, but instead is using papyrus to make it set of the other notes in a contemporary way. At first, played up against the juiciness of a discreet plum it becomes dry, against the bitter saffron it becomes almost sweet, green against the ashen incense and ashen against a white musk and faint ambery dry down. I’ve only ever smelled papyrus done as a green note, so I really enjoy the clever way it is used here, especially together with the incense heart I think it pairs to simple, contemplative perfume.

I will be back when it’s time to wish everyone a happy Easter, but until then; Did you know there’s actually a perfume called ‘Resurrection’ (and another one called Resurrextion)? And to get over that info, here a little more Pärt meditation: Spiegel im Spiegel

*Probably vastly influenced by stories from my childhood and thousands of artist’s depictions.

Samples and bottle (SL) bought. Sketch of Michelangelo’s Firenze Pieta and feature both by me.