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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thurber, Bunyan, Tolkien and MacDonald on odors

From The White Deer, by James Thurber (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1945):
You'll know the woods when you are still a long way off by virtue of a fragrance you can never quite forget and never quite remember. (3)

From all the trees a sticky thickish liquid dripped and oozed and gave or rather lent the air a heavy sweetish fragrance, for the sweetish heavy fragrance died and rose and died again and rose and died and rose again. (50)

Yet hints come to me from the realm unknown;
Airs drift across the twilight border land,
Odoured with life; and as from some far strand
Sea-murmured, whispers to my heart are blown
That fill me with a joy I cannot speak,
Yea, from whose shadow words drop faint and weak:
Thee, God, I shadow in that region grand.
A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul, by George MacDonald (public domain, entry for May 29.)

Ned's eyes were white with wonder. "May I look at it, Dad?" he said. He took it with careful fingers and peered into the flowers. "The work is a marvel!" he said. "And, Dad, there is a scent in the bells: a scent that reminds me of, reminds me, well, of something I've forgotten." J. R. R. Tolkien, Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham (New York: Ballantine, 1972), p. 49. Smith, the Dad, has brought home a marvelous flowering head from fairyland.

Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I might date this letter from the Land Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks a happy inhabitant. The Celestial City is full in my view. Its glories have been upon me, its breezes fan me, its odours are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the River of Death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. Included in the on-line version, here, of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (public domain). This was not written by Bunyan, but in a letter from a Dr. Payson, near his death.

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