‘The Camellia’ by Honoré de Balzac
~ from an English translation of his novel Eugénie Grandet
In Nature’s poem flowers have each their word
The rose of love and beauty sings alone;
The violet’s soul exhales in tenderest tone;
The lily’s one pure simple note is heard.
The cold Camellia only, stiff and white,
Rose without perfume, lily without grace,
When chilling winter shows his icy face,
Blooms for a world that vainly seeks delight.
Yet, in a theatre, or ball-room light,
With alabaster petals opening fair,
I gladly see Camellias shining bright
Above some stately woman’s raven hair,
Whose noble form fulfils the heart’s desire,
Like Grecian marbles warmed by Phidian fire.
These are just a small selection of the many lovely varieties of camellia blooming in Bute Park here in Cardiff. Unlike the ‘stiff and white’ camellia of de Balzac’s poem, their wonderfully delicate hues range from the purest white through to a deep blushing pink. They have such beautiful flowers that it’s easy to see why the camellia is considered a symbol of good luck and used as an offering to the gods during Chinese New Year celebrations.