Lilac and Hawthorns

   The season for lilac is drawing to a close. A few of them, still in full bloom, were spreading their delicate froth in towering mauve chandeliers. But more often in the delicate foliage of outstretched heart-shaped leaves from which previously unfurled their mauve and fragrant foam, a few grape-like clusters diminished by their hollow, withered flowers had no more perfume to give off. Above the wall of the park a few still inclined their slender heads with nonchalant grace, allowing themselves to be lightly grazed by the leaves above them. But that was also the moment when the sixty arborescent hawthorns, high as an apple tree or a cherry tree, that encircled a sheet of water appeared with their long horizontal arms, their slender and delicate hands, attached, wreathed with innumerable pompons of pink flowers, so much so that from certain angles no foliage could be seen, but like a saints' day tree consisting only of flowers, whose branches were pomponed like Louis XVI croziers. After three completely pink trees, there was one with reeds of flowers the colour of red wine with a dash of white. Then another with branches of red flowers but this time double, like red hawthorn. Then white ones but again with double flowers. "What are they?" asked Jean. "They are hawthorns" replied the gardener as in a zoological garden one might say "they are seals". "All of them?" - "Yes they are all hawthorns". And indeed there is something that very much gives the idea of a person, of a race apart, within one species. Each of these trees, its season come, with no concern for its neighbours the lilacs, making no allowance for the chestnut trees, by a sort of obscure instinct, its nature fixed, appears, its time come, reddens, bursts forth, opens out.

From the manuscript of Jean Santeuil, c 1896.


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