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The Summer Garden

Summer 2019

It holds secrets all its own, no matter where the botanic creation thrives. The concept is the same, no matter where the plants and flowers are asked to bloom:

Serenity, beauty, and security.

I recently finished the translation of Book 3, Guillaume, of THE DAWN into the French version, L’AUBE. The last chapter, Chapter 31, contains, in the present tense, descriptions of a garden setting, the parterre. The garden is Provençal French, of course; but the sensibility is one of lush voluptuousness as expressed by poet Charles Baudelaire in his « L’Invitation au Voyage » :

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,

Luxe, calme et volupté.

There, all is order and beauty,

Luxury, calm and voluptuousness.

I love the French garden, but I love the English garden just as much, perhaps a bit more. There are fundamental and unvarying differences between the French and the English gardens, just are there are those remarkably basic and unyielding differences between the French and the English peoples.

The approach to touching the senses is at the heart, or root, of these distinct distinctions.

The French garden is boldly sensuous and organized, capable of creating impressions of the unforgettable in ways that the English garden eschews, preferring instead to suggest memory through discreet means of serene disorder. The carefully trimmed and precisely organized French garden is an undeniable statement of botanical form and beauty, utilizing tradition and organization to the hilt. The supposedly free-form flow of nature in the English garden is a soft whisper of the allure of the plant kingdom in quiet riot.

In truth, I like a mixture of both gardens: plants that prolifically meander at their own will, and flourishing roses that I prune into orderly growth.

The English garden divulgences enigmas within your own self; the French garden affirms your sense of composure and vigorously vouches for a firm belief in a bounteous future. To plant a garden is to believe in the future, to aspire to forever in terms of beauty, the beauty called a dream. The freedom to choose that wish is inherently human, but I believe the English fight for freedom to realize that wish a bit more fervently than do the French.

The Anglo-Saxon possesses passions in a manner that resembles the steely magnolia, even though the magnolia is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol. The magnolia is an ancient plant, a flowering species that showed up on the surface of the Earth long before the bee; thus pollination takes place as a result of the activity of beetles. Through the sheer necessity to survive, the carpels of the magnolia flower became extremely tough and durable.

The ancestral state of England is wondrously symbolized by the ancestral state of the flower bud of the magnolia: housed in a bract, not a sepal. Lovely and elegant, the magnolia has survived millennia through hardy propagation performed by outer parts of the flower called tepals, and not by the function of petals. Uniquely magnificent and enduring, the magnolia masks its own tenacity and ingenuity through the soft and startling beauty of its radiant whiteness.

By virtue of its means of survival, the magnolia is closely related to the lily (Lillium), which also makes use of tepals, not petals to ensure reproduction. The magnificent lily known as the fleur-de-lys is the emblem of France. This flower, and its mere depiction, have historically stated the claim for France in her historic quest for grandeur.

Unlike the Anglo-Saxon, the Gaul asserts passions more than possesses them. As such, the French garden evokes grandeur while encompassing the splendour of the fleur-de-lys and all that this flower has come to represent:

Saints of the Roman Catholic Church, heraldry, artistic achievement, dynastic rule, the beauty of purity and simplicity.

A lily was employed in 499 during the baptism of Clovis I, or Chlodovech, the King of the Franks and originator of the Merovingian dynasty in France. The fleur-de-lys subsequently became the symbol of France, just as the Christian baptism of Clovis I became the template for future coronations of French monarchs.

The French garden is a symbol of freedom that is organized and free of intrusion. The English garden is the hallmark of liberty that persists in spite of intrusion. Each garden, like each nation, has innate, indispensable strengths, forces of will that are part and parcel of Western Civilization. Life was born in a garden; it shall not die there, unless the fundamental love of country is killed.

The roots of liberty are nurtured by the desire to live freely, and to fulfill, with passion and with dignity, the life that any individual was born to live. The English Garden became the Victory Garden during World War II. The potager, the vegetable garden, fed many a soul-starved French citizen during that same test of faith in the survival of a civilized humanity.

Let us plant gardens of hope, in whatever shape and form will permit the visions of the future to become more than mere wishes. Let us tend to those gardens with all of the love that liberty demands, starting with the commitment to honor the truth, and not to disfigure the present through looking back to become mired in a sense of failure and paralyzed through regret. The past is a primer for the future, only if we learn to prune our mistakes so that they yield even greater blooms of heroic destinies.


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