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  1. #1

    Default Match a perfume to this poem

    Dear Fragrant Ones,

    I have been doing lots of research lately on perfume and scent in 19th-c French literature, with the intention of writing a book on the subject.

    For fun, I often read a poem or a passage from a book to see what perfume comes to mind. I mean actual, bottled perfume (Opium, l'Air du Temps, Cozé--whatever strikes me).I find I cannot read "scented" works without thinking of a fragrance I know. This little game gives me endless pleasure!

    Want to play?

    Here's a poem by Charles Baudelaire translated into English.
    What do you think?

    If you like this game, I'll send you another poem next week! And of course I'd love to read your favorites .





    The Perfume Flask

    There are strong perfumes for which all matter
    Is porous. One would say they go through glass.
    On opening a coffer that has come from the East,
    Whose creaking lock resists and grates,

    Or in a deserted house, some cabinet
    Full of the Past's acrid odor, dusty and black,
    Sometimes one finds an antique phial which remembers,
    Whence gushes forth a living soul returned to life.

    Many thoughts were sleeping, death-like chrysalides,
    Quivering softly in the heavy shadows,
    That free their wings and rise in flight,
    Tinged with azure, glazed with rose, spangled with gold.

    That is the bewitching souvenir which flutters
    In the troubled air; the eyes close; Dizziness
    Seizes the vanquished soul, pushes it with both hands
    Toward a darkened abyss of human pollution:

    He throws it down at the edge of an ancient abyss,
    Where, like stinking Lazarus tearing wide his shroud,
    There moves as it wakes up, the ghostly cadaver
    Of a rancid old love, charming and sepulchral.

    Thus, when I'll be lost to the memory
    Of men, when I shall be tossed into the corner
    Of a dismal wardrobe, a desolate old phial,
    Decrepit, cracked, slimy, dirty, dusty, abject,

    Delightful pestilence! I shall be your coffin,
    The witness of your strength and of your virulence,
    Beloved poison prepared by the angels! Liqueur
    That consumes me, O the life and death of my heart!

    —Translated by William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

    Le Flacon

    II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matière
    Est poreuse. On dirait qu'ils pénètrent le verre.
    En ouvrant un coffret venu de l'Orient
    Dont la serrure grince et rechigne en criant,

    Ou dans une maison déserte quelque armoire
    Pleine de l'âcre odeur des temps, poudreuse et noire,
    Parfois on trouve un vieux flacon qui se souvient,
    D'où jaillit toute vive une âme qui revient.

    Mille pensers dormaient, chrysalides funèbres,
    Frémissant doucement dans les lourdes ténèbres,
    Qui dégagent leur aile et prennent leur essor,
    Teintés d'azur, glacés de rose, lamés d'or.

    Voilà le souvenir enivrant qui voltige
    Dans l'air troublé; les yeux se ferment; le Vertige
    Saisit l'âme vaincue et la pousse à deux mains
    Vers un gouffre obscurci de miasmes humains;

    II la terrasse au bord d'un gouffre séculaire,
    Où, Lazare odorant déchirant son suaire,
    Se meut dans son réveil le cadavre spectral
    D'un vieil amour ranci, charmant et sépulcral.

    Ainsi, quand je serai perdu dans la mémoire
    Des hommes, dans le coin d'une sinistre armoire
    Quand on m'aura jeté, vieux flacon désolé,
    Décrépit, poudreux, sale, abject, visqueux, fêlé,

    Je serai ton cercueil, aimable pestilence!
    Le témoin de ta force et de ta virulence,
    Cher poison préparé par les anges! liqueur
    Qui me ronge, ô la vie et la mort de mon coeur!

    — Charles Baudelaire
    Last edited by Nostalgie; 5th February 2009 at 11:12 AM.
    "You...put on cologne to write?"(From Midnight in Paris)

    Stop by for a chat: http://perfumedletters.wordpress.com/
    My book reviews: http://www.nstperfume.com/author/Cheryl/

  2. #2

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Montale Black Aoud
    "Embrace those things which give you pleasure, after all, there is so much mediocrity to endure elsewhere." -- Inselaffe

  3. #3

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    This is an incredible poem, thanks for sharing it.
    My suggestion is an imperfect fit. It captures the age-old relic aspect, but not the dangerously pungent and sinister mood.
    I got a vintage bottle of Houbigant's Fougere Royale. The box was old and dusty, and the little bottle with its little glass stopper was difficult to open. I didn't want to break it. I put a few drops of water on it, to soften the dust, and then gradually teased it open. The scent that emerged was from another era. The oakmoss levels in FR are no longer permitted in modern scents. So this scent has a depth, a haunting quality that I've never experienced in any other fragrance. The fragrance notes are very lively, amazingly so for a 40+ year old bottle. It is like a time capsule.
    So there are some of the motifs of the poem there for me. But FR is such a lovely, green scent that it is the antithesis of the death images of the poem.
    Still, juxtaposition is a good thing. It throws elements into relief.
    Cheers,
    odysseusm

    "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower // drives my green age..." Dylan Thomas

  4. #4

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Hey, Nostalie -- great game, great poem! I had fun reciting it out loud (over my anti-oxidant green tea) this morning. (And your tag line beneath is a very funny riposte to C.B, I think.)

    As for the scent: wow, tough one. As odysseusm suggests, sinister seems to be in order. I don't own any vintage perfumes, malheursement, but I'd say Bal a Versailles might begin to suggest the poem's sense of nostalgia, decadence, grandeur, and furious abjection. It's an imperfect fit, though because B.d.V is so leathery rather than woody. Maybe a more cask-like scent -- Idole de Lubin?

    More French poems!
    Last edited by Chestnut; 5th February 2009 at 01:49 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    I haven't smelled Montale's Black Oud...only other ouds...but this sounds like a great suggestion!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    The thing about Black Oud is that I think it may fit Baudelaire's persona in general well: the counterpoint of oud's austerity with the lusher components.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Aiona, Odysseusm, Chestnut:
    Three wonderful matches! I love the actual experience match you had, Odysseusm. Aiona, you have given me another fragrance to sample. Chestnut: I'll hadn't thought of it, but 'll bet Baudelaire's buddies were saying similar things to him quite often, edgy as his nerves could be.

    OK here are 2 more, both on the brighter side . We can revisit B's dark side later.

    The first is interesting b/c it is not overtly "scented." The second is a classic, very often quoted for its treatment of the senses.I'll just paste in the Englsh.

    So much for my plan to post a new one next week!

    Elevation

    Above the lakes, above the vales,
    The mountains and the woods, the clouds, the seas,
    Beyond the sun, beyond the ether,
    Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,

    My soul, you move with ease,
    And like a strong swimmer in rapture in the wave
    You wing your way blithely through boundless space
    With virile joy unspeakable.

    Fly far, far away from this baneful miasma
    And purify yourself in the celestial air,
    Drink the ethereal fire of those limpid regions
    As you would the purest of heavenly nectars.

    Beyond the vast sorrows and all the vexations
    That weigh upon our lives and obscure our vision,
    Happy is he who can with his vigorous wing
    Soar up towards those fields luminous and serene,

    He whose thoughts, like skylarks,
    Toward the morning sky take flight
    — Who hovers over life and understands with ease
    The language of flowers and silent things!


    Correspondences
    Nature is a temple in which living pillars
    Sometimes give voice to confused words;
    Man passes there through forests of symbols
    Which look at him with understanding eyes.

    Like prolonged echoes mingling in the distance
    In a deep and tenebrous unity,
    Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
    Perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.

    There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
    Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
    — And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,

    With power to expand into infinity,
    Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin,
    That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.

    — William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
    Last edited by Nostalgie; 5th February 2009 at 01:56 PM.
    "You...put on cologne to write?"(From Midnight in Paris)

    Stop by for a chat: http://perfumedletters.wordpress.com/
    My book reviews: http://www.nstperfume.com/author/Cheryl/

  8. #8

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Le Flacon is one of my favorite poems, I love the rhyme and rhythm in the original french. I know this fragrance is not as old as what the poem implies as a requisite but I am thinking of vintage My Sin by Lanvin. When I first received my bottle it was so mysterious and 'vintage' looking. When I opened it, well, it was a scent that one probably had not experienced since the 20's from when my bottle dates. It had been tucked away in someone's grandmother's old bureau. She had never opened, nor used it. It was slightly evaporated, yet it was intact. It was a long forgotten relic of a bygone era, something probably received as a gift; many thanks proffered at the time, but truly not a wanted nor a loved gift. Yet when I received it, I was so overcome with love and adoration for this 'classic' , it was as if I had received a dram of golden nectar from the Fountain of Youth. I wear it ever so infrequently, so as not to deplete my lovely elixir, yet I will smell the bottle often. Oh how it transports me to a time long, long, past and forgotten, but oh so loved and cherished by me.
    Quand on boit l'eau, il faut penser à sa source

  9. #9

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Quote Originally Posted by Brielle87 View Post
    Le Flacon is one of my favorite poems, I love the rhyme and rhythm in the original french. I know this fragrance is not as old as what the poem implies as a requisite but I am thinking of vintage My Sin by Lanvin. When I first received my bottle it was so mysterious and 'vintage' looking. When I opened it, well, it was a scent that one probably had not experienced since the 20's from when my bottle dates. It had been tucked away in someone's grandmother's old bureau. She had never opened, nor used it. It was slightly evaporated, yet it was intact. It was a long forgotten relic of a bygone era, something probably received as a gift; many thanks proffered at the time, but truly not a wanted nor a loved gift. Yet when I received it, I was so overcome with love and adoration for this 'classic' , it was as if I had received a dram of golden nectar from the Fountain of Youth. I wear it ever so infrequently, so as not to deplete my lovely elixir, yet I will smell the bottle often. Oh how it transports me to a time long, long, past and forgotten, but oh so loved and cherished by me.
    It is one of my favorites, too, though I think of it sometimes as "Portrait of the Poet as perfume Bottle."

    I knew this would be an enabling game for me.
    One more for the sample list!
    Last edited by Nostalgie; 5th February 2009 at 02:03 PM.
    "You...put on cologne to write?"(From Midnight in Paris)

    Stop by for a chat: http://perfumedletters.wordpress.com/
    My book reviews: http://www.nstperfume.com/author/Cheryl/

  10. #10

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Okay, it's quite a challenge to find a perfume to correspond to Correspondences! This is the kind of thing that could trouble a bn'er for weeks, with every little sample dug out for retesting. I'll take a quick plunge with Le Parfum de Therese -- to me it has the right combination of cool, fruity transparency, floral greenness, and "oboe"-like mellow darkness.

  11. #11

    Thumbs up Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    " IRIS GRIS " by Vincent Roubert for Jacques Fath
    Have I told you about the scent of jasmine? Have I spoken about the smell of the sea? The earth is scented. And I perfume myself to enhance what I am. That's why I can not wear a perfume that bothers me. Perfuming is an instinctive wisdom. And like all art, it requires some knowledge of yourself..."
    Clarice Lispector ( 1920-1977) - Perfumes da Terra / Earth
    Perfumes

  12. #12

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    For Le Flacon, Mitsouko is what comes to my mind. Mitsouko is haunting for me. It brings visions of 19th century dusty abandoned rooms to my mind, and echoes of music. I don't get a sinister feeling from Mitsouko, just a feeling of being clairvoyant of a past time and place. I'm not particularly psychic - Mitsouko just makes me feel like I am.

    I still have to read the other poems.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Quote Originally Posted by Chestnut View Post
    Okay, it's quite a challenge to find a perfume to correspond to Correspondences! This is the kind of thing that could trouble a bn'er for weeks, with every little sample dug out for retesting. I'll take a quick plunge with Le Parfum de Therese -- to me it has the right combination of cool, fruity transparency, floral greenness, and "oboe"-like mellow darkness.
    I have spent far too many hours obsessing over this one, but I did find my answer. I'll hold off though on revealing it for a while though b/c i'm more interested in what others come up with!

    I need to resniff my Therese sample!
    "You...put on cologne to write?"(From Midnight in Paris)

    Stop by for a chat: http://perfumedletters.wordpress.com/
    My book reviews: http://www.nstperfume.com/author/Cheryl/

  14. #14

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Those are great poems. I'll have to give them some thought and see if anything in my experience connects.
    I'm glad to see this sort of discussion. There was a good thread on the men's side, it had some great posts but perhaps it has run its course. Anyway, here is the link.
    http://community.basenotes.net/showt...=poetic+scents
    odysseusm

    "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower // drives my green age..." Dylan Thomas

  15. #15

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Elevations makes me think of Serge Lutens A la Nuit.

    Correspondences is beyond my perfume knowledge at this point. ;D

    It's so interesting to think of perfume correspondences to poetry. Usually, I struggle to verbalize my impressions of fragrance - pulling scent memories to correspond to poetry is more enjoyable.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Quote Originally Posted by lilybelle View Post
    For Le Flacon, Mitsouko is what comes to my mind. Mitsouko is haunting for me. It brings visions of 19th century dusty abandoned rooms to my mind, and echoes of music. I don't get a sinister feeling from Mitsouko, just a feeling of being clairvoyant of a past time and place. I'm not particularly psychic - Mitsouko just makes me feel like I am.

    I still have to read the other poems.
    Yes, exactly Lilybelle. I thought of vintage Mitsouko parfum when reading this poem too. The vintage parfum has a darkness and mustiness (real oakmoss?) that feels other-worldly. I, too, do not get sinister from Mitsouko (maybe C&S 88?) but it has a depth and earthiness that is conveyed in the poem.

    Nostalgie: What a superb idea for a book!

    .
    Last edited by lushsoup; 5th February 2009 at 04:00 PM.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Quote Originally Posted by Nostalgie View Post
    ...There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
    Sweet as oboes, green as meadows

    — William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
    This portion, along with the nature motifs and the allusions to a past age, remind me of Virgilio by Diptyque. That is a pastoral, basil-cool and very bright green scent.
    odysseusm

    "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower // drives my green age..." Dylan Thomas

  18. #18
    Hillaire
    Guest

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    I am thinking of vintage Narcisse Noir. With the art nouveau logo.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    What lovely poetry, Nostalgie! For Elevation, I nominate the ethereal and joyful TIMBUKTU.

    Quote Originally Posted by odysseusm View Post
    .....There was a good thread on the men's side, it had some great posts but perhaps it has run its course. Anyway, here is the link.
    http://community.basenotes.net/showt...=poetic+scents
    That was a great thread! Let's revive every once in a while.

    Quote Originally Posted by lilybelle View Post
    Correspondences is beyond my perfume knowledge at this point. ;D
    Ditto here.

  20. #20
    DON'T DRINK AND DRESS

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    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    L'Heure Bleue (1912) by Guerlain
    'Those who grow too big for their pants will be exposed in the end'--anon

  21. #21

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    You are such a creative bunch!

    For Correspondences I finally went with Youth Dew Amber Nude--all in one, and all separate, bouncing off one another

    1) It has so many notes--green, floral, spice, musk--all singing together
    2) The name is almost poetic, yet sort of repulsive, just as I find the line about children's skin a bit disconcerting.
    3) The old and new of it --Baudelaire was a romantic, yet a symbolist, using old-school form for ground-breaking content. He mixed trendy and arcane language and images.

    For Elevation I always think of Lesnez Antimatière--airy, open, and a bit synthetic and plastic.

    For Le Flacon, I think of Chanel 19 or Tabac Blond (something about male/female notes, the male poet-as-bottle housing the rich, female scent, the age and dustiness of both scents...)

    Thanks for giving me so many more scents to test!
    Last edited by Nostalgie; 6th February 2009 at 03:08 PM.
    "You...put on cologne to write?"(From Midnight in Paris)

    Stop by for a chat: http://perfumedletters.wordpress.com/
    My book reviews: http://www.nstperfume.com/author/Cheryl/

  22. #22
    kumquat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    For Le Flacon, I think of 'Djedi' which is actually about bringing to life an ancient mummy.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Quote Originally Posted by Brielle87 View Post
    Le Flacon is one of my favorite poems, I love the rhyme and rhythm in the original french. I know this fragrance is not as old as what the poem implies as a requisite but I am thinking of vintage My Sin by Lanvin....
    Brielle, the first scent that came to *my* mind reading Le Flacon was Lanvin Scandal! Great minds... I think I'm influenced by the fact that because it's discontinued, my vintage Scandal extrait is housed in a yellowed heavy cardboard container, and the glass stopper is tied to the bottle with old black cord that has absorbed precious drops of the leather/incense/civet-heavy scent... Just gorgeous, and evocative of all sorts of memories from all sorts of lives.
    It’s thought that people who hope too much will just waste their life away and never get down to doing any real work. They’re confusing Hope with Wish, its lazy cousin... When Wish whispers, “Something is just around the corner,” what comes or not is never what was wished for. When Hope whispers “Something is just around the corner,” something always is. -- Charlie Elberson

    My sale thread has some of my underappreciated fragrances looking for a good, new home...

  24. #24

    Default Re: Match a perfume to this poem

    Great post! Charles Baudelaire is one of my all-time favorite poets. My poor knowledge of perfume doesn't allow me to answer the question

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