You Gloomy, Pallid, Sickly Pansies!

Dear Reader,

The Weltschmerz has alighted upon my shoulder again, as bleak as the ebony and stately raven
wandering from the Nightly shore,
[….] beguiling 
my sad fancy into smiling…

…It’s a loose quotation, I know, but does it ring a bell? 🙂

Le soleil s’est couché, la nuit pourtant n’est pas tombée. C’est l’heure suspendue... L'heure où l'homme se retrouve enfin en harmonie avec le monde et la lumière.
Le soleil s’est couché, la nuit pourtant n’est pas tombée. C’est l’heure suspendue… L’heure où l’homme se retrouve enfin en harmonie avec le monde et la lumière….Learn your French 🙂 This is a quote by French parfum maker Jacques Guerlain, describing the idea behind fragrance L’Heure Blue. The idea of the Heure Blue, transformed into title The Hour of the Bluey Mist, is also a poem by Bulgarian symbolist poet Peyo Yavorov.

I adored this raven poem back in the day when I wore black t-shirts and military boots. I still adore its musicality and language now, when I look much more like a lady and actually have people on the job calling me “Madam”… 🙂

Quoth the Raven, Nevermore...
Quoth the Raven, Nevermore…Source: Click here.

In fact, the only outward remnant of those days when “eagerly I wished the morrow — vainly I had sought to borrow – from my books surcease of sorrow” – are the habitually black nails that I wear. Or should I say dark taupe, given that I am a lady now…? 🙂

I had picked up the notion that black nails are cool from Portuguese-born American guitarist Nuno Bettencourt – you may take a look at them here, at about 1:16 minutes into the song, while he is playing the staccato trail of the refrain (the song is a gentle ballad, don’t worry :))

Re the pallid pansies (love the alliteration!) of the title, it is a line from a poem contained in the Bulgarian Symbolist Poets book that I’ve recently bought from a hospital book pavilion. Imagine being confined to a hospital bed and reading this while waiting for your health to recover…! 🙂

Not so pallid pansies in front of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia.
Not so pallid pansies in front of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia in May.

Be that as it may, the pansy poem is great – highly allegorical, describing a flickering and joyless existence, yearning for love and doomed to dissolve unsatisfied and unnoticed, exactly the way it has been while of the world. 

The atmosphere of the poem is as cool and suffocating as a tomb, I can almost sense the stale humid air redolent of earth that is surrounding those pansies…I hope you’ll get that from the translation.

Imagine indeed how sad it is for a flower (or a person) to have their sap of life all dried up by unfavourable conditions before they’ve had a chance to flourish. I think that’s what this poem is about.

Watercolour photo. This is actually my car's windshield looked from the inside during Tuesday's afternoon rain.
Watercolour photo. Actually, this is my car’s windshield looked from the inside during Tuesday’s afternoon rain.

Pansy poem author, Peyo Yavorov (1878-1914), a highly respected Bulgarian poet, was really a very moody fellow, who killed himself a few days after his beloved woman did the same. Their relationship was very a tortured and ambivalent one – despite the many letters and documents that have remained, people are still unsure of what these two were about and what had exactly happened between them. I live relatively close to the church where they had been married, so that’s romantic…:)

Yavorov's melancholic monument in the front lawn of the house where he died in Sofia. Luckily, the house façade has recently been renovated and internal repairs are currently being done. Source:
Yavorov’s melancholic monument in the front lawn of the house where he died in Sofia. Luckily, the house façade has recently been renovated and internal repairs are currently being done. Source: Click here.

Now here come the waxen pansies, dreaming of unlived romances as the wind above them dances. 🙂 

…Not quite Wordsworth’s cheery daffodils, so seriously now – the poem’s not funny at all…:
____

Sunlight’s mirth respects your silence,
Breezy wafts don’t kiss your brow,
Bees fly past your waning fragrance
Veiled and blunted long ago.
 
…You gloomy, pallid, sickly pansies.
 
A touch you’re somberly awaiting,
A brush of fingers gently trembling.
In vain your heads you have been raising!…
’Mid hopes a thinning mist resembling,
 
You pine away – you pallid pansies.
 
You languish ‘mid sprawling bushes,
Dispirited since early dawn…
As time your vigour softly crushes,
Of your limp dreams you’re letting go,
 
And wither, as pathetic as your fancies.

Oh, you gloomy, pallid, sickly pansies!

______

Now the original: (it is a great idea to  try and learn Bulgarian through songs and poems by the way! :))

_____

Вас слънце ви не вижда – лъх,
зефирен лъх ви не допира;
сред тръни, скромни и без дъх,
дори пчела ви не намира –

печални, бледни теменуги.

Печални чакате ръка,
сънувате и пръсти нежни.
Напразно чакате!. . . Така,
в надежди тихо безнадеждни,

вий мрете – болни теменуги.

Вий мрете – в храсти и бодил
от първи ден чела навели. . .
Желания в живот немил,
мечти неволни и несмели –

вий чезнете едни след други.
О бледни, болни теменуги!

_____

I also have a very personal reason to love Yavorov. Of course, I love him for bringing beauty into my darkest hours, but I also love him for having given me some of the best years of my life in one of the coolest high schools of Sofia.  

The high school facade, bearing an inscription in medieval Bulgarian reading "Help me Raise You." This is what teachers are supposed to be doing, right...? Source:
The high school facade, bearing an inscription in medieval Bulgarian reading “Help me Raise You.” This is what teachers are supposed to be doing, right…? What a great school motto. Source: Click here.

Under the Bulgarian educational system, students move from elementary into high school after the seventh grade, or at about the age of 12-13, by taking two written exams – one in maths and another in Bulgarian literature.

The exam in Bulgarian literature consists of writing a long essay on a topic analysing one or a group of literary works by Bulgarian authors. Given the young age of the students and the themes of these works, rendering them barely comprehensible for the students, for decades this exam has been passed with the help of a complicated system of private lessons, propagating sets of clichés on each author that the students learn by heart and reproduce in writing without much actual comprehension, only for the sake of passing.

Dusky evening skyline.
Approaching evening skyline in early June.

The high school I actually ended up in, the Italian Lyceum of Sofia, had its own set of examinations, separate from those for the majority of high schools, to which you applied by taking the same two exams. A poem by Yavorov, called Заточеници, or Exiles, was what we had to write on at the lyceum exam.

I really liked that poem, telling of the anguish of a group of Armenians leaving Bulgaria – their fatherland – for ever. Based on my own thoughts and feelings about it, I composed what I believe was an inspired essay that had none of the clichés it was generally expected to contain. At the time, I remember being over-studied, over-excited and exhausted; I really was past the point of caring, so I recklessly wrote what I thought – after me the flood, so to speak.

Looking at the setting sun and breathing in the intoxicating fragrance of these liliums is very nice indeed.
Looking at the setting sun and breathing in the intoxicating fragrance of these liliums was very nice indeed. Actually, the fragrance was a bit too concentrated in my sun-lit living room, so it had something vaguely oppressive about it and thus relating to the suffocating atmosphere surrounding the pansies.

I got into that school, where competition to enter was very high, and had a lower grade on my essay on Hristo Botev at the exam for the other high schools in Sofia. I did not understand and like Botev’s works then, so the half-hearted clichés I wrote did not get me far.

It is then that I learned that one should do things with passion and not calculate their effect – just draw the best from their heart and throw it away, for art’s sake. One cannot give what one has not and one cannot get back what one has not given, so give your best as generously and as often as  you can and it might just as well return to you, someday.

That’s what Yavorov’s exiles taught me.

Off to work on Tuesday morning, with my son's guitar on my back :)
Off to work on Tuesday morning, with my son’s guitar on my back 🙂 If you are keen on more alliterations with P – I think I have a pallid pansy print on my pants…:)
Who knows what the day will bring... Put on your best intentions and your smile, just in case.
Who knows what the day will bring… Put on your best intentions and your smile, just in case.

Now, for good night, a great song by Emerson, Lake & Palmer called C’Est La Vie and describing the miserable thoughts of the pansies in the coolness of their shadowy abode. Not much of a song, vocally, but it has something epic in it and the lyrics are good.

IMG_2047
If the pallid pansies could have a glass of wine, they would look upon the world from a much rosier perspective.