Yesterday was a perfect ‘Shelleyan’ day.
In the morning, the day looking very fine, I decided to climb to the top of the Prato Fiorito, the whale-backed mountain that looms over San Cassiano and, indeed, our whole area. It’s possible to struggle up through ‘Le Ravi’ (ravines) on the southern side but I decided on the standard route from Albereta to the north of the mountain.
To the left I passed the highest village in our comune, Montefegatesi, entered into a chestnut forest with some giant, ancient specimens (whose fruit once supported the entire population) before reaching the cross marking the start of the path to Prato Fiorito’s summit (4255 ft high).
What greeted me must be one of Tuscany’s most ecstatic sights. Thousands of little narcissi were thrusting themselves through the spring-green turf to present their graceful faces to the world.
Shelley, who loved the Prato Fiorito (flowering meadow) and climbed it when he stayed here in Bagni di Lucca in 1818, writes in his passionate poem Epipsychidion:
The odours deep
Of flowers, which, like lips murmuring in their sleep
Of the sweet kisses which had lulled them there,
Breathed but of her to the enamoured air;
And from the breezes whether low or loud,
And from the rain of every passing cloud,
And from the singing of the summer-birds,
And from all sounds, all silence.
And all the place is peopled with sweet airs;
The light clear element which the hill wears
Is heavy with the scent of lemon-flowers,
Which floats like mist laden with unseen showers,
And falls upon the eyelids like faint sleep;
And from the moss violets and jonquils peep
And dart their arrowy odour through the brain
Till you might faint with that delicious pain.
It is a hill ‘twixt Heaven, Air, Earth and Sea,
Cradled and hung in clear tranquillity;
The narcissi truly made my heart leap. They are brave elfin flowers and their presence all around filled me with an intense warmth and joy. They seemed to breathe true love and their perfume was quite intoxicating!
I always look forwards to seeing the jonquils, which are correctly known as the poet’s narcissus (Narcissus Poeticus) and are to be identified with the narcissus of classical times. In the Netherlands and Southern France the flower is cultivated to extract its oil which is used in 11% of all high fashion perfumes (‘Fatale’ and ‘Samsara’ included). Its fragrance is a sort of mixture between jasmine and hyacinth.
These sweet flowers truly seem to fall in love with each other. Who doesn’t know the myth of Narcissus who, gazing at his own reflection in a pool of water, fell in love with it, tried to capture it and was punished by the Gods by drowning and being turned into a Narcissus. Here’s that evocative painting by Caravaggio illustrating the story:
At the same time, however, although they possess medical qualities, these flowers are poisonous and should not be eaten. They should also not be picked and kept in a room. Their perfume is so strong that one could very well swoon to unconsciousness or at least get a bad headache!
This entire beauty is set in an extraordinarily vivid setting surrounded by the Apennines and, across the Serchio valley, the Apuans. Who could wish for more?
Yesterday the clouds were particularly dramatic and eventually took over the whole sky. Rain started falling just as I reached the foot of the mountain.
Those lines from Shelley’s ‘The Cloud’ came to mind:
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;………
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
That was the morning of my Shelleyan day.
In the late afternoon I participated in a reading of Shelley’s poem ‘The Sunset’ at ‘Shelley House’, Bagni di Lucca’s beautiful new bookshop run by Luca and Rebecca. The event was very well attended and the mayor also made an appearance, putting me right about the flowers i.e. that they are called not jonquils but are instead, Narcissus Poeticus, the original daffodil, in fact. (Anybody who knows the mayor will be astonished by his botanical and natural historical knowledge).
The event called ‘recondita armonia’ was organised to open the exhibition of paintings by Michelangelo Cupisti. It was, in fact, a return of Cupisti since his work has already been exhibited before at the Sala Rosa of the Circolo dei Forestieri. (See my post on that at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/two-new-must-see-exhibitions-in-bagni-di-lucca-villa/ ).
Yesterday was ,in all senses, a ‘Perfect (Shelleyian) Day.’
PS: I seem to come back a lot to the subject of the Prato Fiorito. Here are some other posts I’ve written on the subject, if you’re interested: