Violets, Hearts-ease and Pansies. My mother loved these but especially the Pansy. I came to appreciate them through music.
One of the family entertainments when we were growing up was listening to my father playing the piano. Having singsongs around him, or just listening as background to other pursuits. He wasn’t concert hall material but he wasn’t bad. We liked it anyway. He had inherited a whole stack of sheet music from his mother, who's tastes ran a little in the romantic way and many from his father more of the classical mode.
Mum had many favourite songs Dad would play for her. Barcarole, was one. But the tune that fits the garden was Pansy Faces. When I was young and full of the new world I was living through with its rock and roll and jive beats, its modern cutting edge feel, I scorned this song as such a sentimental load of old tosh and would bury my head in a book when he played and sang it. I wasn’t a gardener then and although I knew what a pansy was I had never really taken much notice of them. The whole subject turned me off.
When I had gathered some wisdom and maturity I began to think differently. It is still a hopelessly sickly piece of romance as far as I am concerned, and I have never got the hang of sickly romance. However, to have your man serenade you, with a song like that, is special. I learnt that in Victorian times the language of flowers designated the pansy the ‘flower of love’, it was believed that a pansy could bring the thoughts of one’s sweetheart. Pansy is supposed to come from the French pensee = thought.
In the writing of this post I went exploring in the attic to see if we still had the music as I was going to write the lyrics down. We did. However it took a great deal of detective work online to discover first the publisher and then the songwriter as there was nothing on the music. I cannot date this song to the year as the songwriter, Harry Bache Smith, was one of America's most prolific song writers of the time and his career spanned Victorian and Edwardian times. It is estimated that he wrote of 600 songs and was greatly involved in300 stage productions as well.
I rather like the idea that from sheet music produced at the beginning of the 1900s maybe earlier I am after a lifetime of memory discovering new aspects of that memory up here in cyberspace in 2015
We were not a demonstrative family, even for those times we were not used to spontaneous displays of public affection. My parents had sweetheart type names for each other but used them rather in a way that denoted just another first name. As we were NEVER, NEVER, at any time, allowed in their bedroom I couldn’t say if this degree of aloofness continued. We were aware though, and how we were I cannot fathom, that he adored the ground she walked on, as she did him.
Looking back at my parents from maturity I find it pleasing that this man,who headed to the City of London each day, suit, tie, rolled umbrella and briefcase. This man with degrees in law and banking, who wrote, in his spare time, articles on both subjects as well as plain English. That this pen pusher could serenade his loved one in secret, for what did their eye rolling children know of romance. He wrote poems too, not brilliant ones but every birthday and every anniversary he presented Mum with a poem. I have them still.
When you look at a pansy there are the faces right there in the petals. I prefer the hearts-ease for their smallness, pansies seem a little brash for my tastes. I have never had success in the growing of pansies, but I have a stowaway quietly colonizing the garden. Violets from whence the pansies came originally before the plant breeders changed them; they have, as the forget-me-nots, followed our path through the many gardens (hiding in pots) and now I can sit near them any where in the garden and hum that Edwardian /Victorian melody, while I sit.
Pansy Faces by Harry B. Smith 1860 - 1936
1) There’s a garden where the roses red are blooming, and perfuming all the air.
It belongs with all its arbours cool and shady, to my lady young and fair.
When she visits as a queen of all the roses, and reposes for a while
Tis the pretty purple pansies that my lady loves the best,
With their faces looking up to smile.
All the little pansy faces, growing in the garden there
Look for you with eyes of longing, for you are their lady fair
And when you come out to greet them,leaning like a queen
All the little pansy faces look at you with eyes of love
2) There the lily of the valley seems a ringing, bells a swinging, all for you.
There the marigold says ‘do not marry gold dear I am told, dear ‘tis not true.
All adore her from the daisy, almost hidden, that unbidden dares to love
But the pretty purple pansies with their human faces turn,
To smile at her, their queen above