Then to the bower they came
Naked they came to that smooth-swarded bower
And at their feet the crocus brake like fire,
Violet, amaracus and asphodel
Lotos and lilies
[Tennyson – Oenone 1.22]
Spring is just around the corner and life is bursting from the still cold ground. We always marvel at the delicate blooms which, against all the odds seem to be deterred by very little. A light sprinkling of snow, frost and interminable rain and yet they still come.
Among the first of these is the crocus, often in the distinctly Lenten array of deepest purple, sometimes, preaging spring in white and other brighter shades. These delightful, fragile flowers are determined and definitely not to be ignored. The flower of this wonderful spring bloom, well of certain varieties can be collected that most precious of culinary delights, saffron. So difficult and rare to find is this spice that it commands the highest prices but adds a delightful piquancy to the dishes to which it is added.
As with so many flowers the Greeks attached a creation myth to it, a simple tale, unlike that of Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection the tale of Crocus is far simpler.
Crocus, as a mortal youth, pined without success for the nymph SMILAX. Out of pity, the gods turned him into the saffron flower we call crocus. Another tale tells of him death at the hands of Hermes, his lover. Hermes then turned him into the crocus flower we know.
[See Stephen Fry – Mythos pp325]
Whatever the true tale here once we see the crocus bloom we know spring really is just around the corner and new life will soon burst upon us.
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