2009, ik zat gisteren in de trein, het is oktober en buiten zijn prachtige herfstkleuren. Ik mijmerde over het afgelopen jaar, herinnerde de lente en ineens wist ik, ik wil een blog over rozen maken.
Foto's, gedichten, wetenswaardigheden.

Als jong meisje las ik een boek over Gertrude Stein en was geraakt door de woorden

a rose is a rose is a rose

Een cryptische zin die zoiets wil zeggen als: de roos verwijst naar niets anders dan zichzelf, voor eeuwig en voor altijd.

Rozen en bloemen, ze zijn via de liefde, liefdesbrieven en liefdesgedichten tot metaforen van taalraadsels geworden. Niet alleen Gertrude Stein wees ons hierop, ook Mallarmé gebruikte het beeld van een bloem – nog iets algemener dan de roos – als voorbeeld voor het abstraherende karakter van taal. In een prozagedicht schreef hij dat met de uitspraak ‘une fleur!’, alle contouren van die ene bloem naar de vergetelheid worden verbannen, en iets anders dan alle bekende bloemen ontstaat, namelijk de idee van de bloem.

zondag 2 mei 2010

The Apothecary's Rose

In the Renaissance art of the 15th and 16th centuries, it was one of the two most often painted roses — Rosa alba being the other. As such, its red color (really a deep pink) represented the blood of Christian martyrs. In fact, the petals of this rose were dried and rolled into beads, then strung into what became the rosary and from which the rosary received its name.

The Apothecary’s Rose dates back much further in history than the Renaissance, however. Believed to have come from ancient Persia, not much is known about the rose prior to the 7th century when Islam swept through the area and zealots destroyed much of the texts of that time. Persian legends maintain that the rose’s red coloration came about because a nightengale so dearly loved the white rose, it grasped it tightly and the thorns pierced its breast; its blood turned the white rose red. Hence, the rose was called The Red Damask.
The rose came to Europe, depending upon whose text you read, either in the 12th or 13th century. Everyone agrees, however, it came via noble knights returning from the Crusades.

One story, the English side and by far the more colorful, says that the rose was returned to King Louis VII after the Second Crusade in Syria. Since England, in those days, also included Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine, the rose made its way to King Henry II. (Henry II, as you may remember, was the first to implement the jury system in adjudication.) Henry had married Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, but had done so probably out of need to solidify the kingdom. As it sometimes happens, Henry had a mistress named Jane Clifford, later renamed (according to legend) The Fair Rosamond. Queen Eleanor got wind of this affair, concocted a poison to give her husband’s mistress, and disguised the deadly potion with the oil of the Apothecary’s Rose and R. alba. After Rosamond’s death, so the legend goes, a new rose sprouted outside the castle — one of both red and white stripes — called Rosa mundi. To this day, R. mundi, a genetic “sport” of the Apothecary’s Rose, will sometimes revert to its original heritage.

By the middle of the 15th century, civil wars in medieval England had broken out in a melee of power grabs for the throne — known to historians as the War of Roses. The Apothecary’s Rose had become the symbol of the House of Lancaster (and renamed The Red Rose of Lancaster); the white R. alba, the symbol of the House of York. After Henry VII (“The Great Administrator”) came to power in 1485, he chose to symbolize the “marriage” of the warring factions by creating a new symbol — the Apothecary’s Rose laid atop R. alba — and labeled it the Tudor Rose, to this day still the emblem of England.

The other story of how the Apothecary’s Rose came to Europe, the French side, is less dramatic. It is believed to have been returned to the Castle of Provins, a city close to Paris, by Thibault IV in 1250 upon his return from the Seventh Crusade. (Thibault died just three years later — apparently not because of the rose, however.) Provins became the European capital for the Apothecary’s Rose and it was renamed The Rose of Provins.

Chiefly grown in monasterries by monks eager to capitalize on the rose’s medicinal values, by the end of the 13th century it was also grown for its perfume and dried for potpourri (literally translated, “rotten pot”). By the 16th century, dried petals from the Apothecary’s Rose were steeped in wine as a cure for hangovers — although this idea was not new; coming from the Early Romans who used roses for the same purpose almost 1200 years before.

By the time of Napoleon in the 19th century, there were more apothecaries on the main street of Provins than any other type of shop. At each, an Apothecary’s Rose was planted outside the entrance. It became as much a symbol of the druggist as the balanced scales were to the lawyer and the three globes to the pawn broker.

Druggists dispensed remedies containing the Apothecary’s Rose that reportedly aided indigestion, sore throats, skin rashes and eye maladies. Women believed that the petals would eliminate wrinkles and preserve their youth if rubbed on the skin. (It was proven, late in the 19th century, that roses contained essential oils, potassium and iron.)

A recipe for rose tea comes from this era. Translated: 5 teaspoons of rose petals are steeped in 4 cups of boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes; then sweetened with honey and served warm.¹
To this day, the Apothecary’s Rose is still used for its highly fragrant qualities in potpourri, soothing teas, lotions and other cosmetics.

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