The Last Fire

This excerpt is from a short story by Colette called The Last Fire. Two companions remember childhood springtimes and violets . . . . .

Copy of violet1. . . . And the violets themselves, budding as if by magic tonight, do you recognize them?

You lean over, and like me you are astonished; aren’t they bluer this spring?

No, no, you’re mistaken, last year they looked less dark to me, an azured mauve, don’t you remember?

You protest, you shake your head with your serious laughter, the green of the new grass lightens the lustrous bronze of your gaze.

More mauves . . . no, more blues . . .

Stop this teasing!

violet3 Rather carry to your nose the unchanging fragrance of these changing violets and watch, while inhaling the philter which dispels the years, watch like me the springs of your childhood rise up and quicken before you.

More mauves . . . no, more blues . . .

I can see meadows, deep woods, which the first outburst of buds mists over with an elusive green, cold streams, forgotten springs drunk up by the sand as soon as they are born, Easter primroses, daffodils with the saffron colored heart, and violets, violets, violets . . .


I can see a silent little girl whom spring had already enchanted with a wild happiness, with a bittersweet and mysterious joy . . .

A little girl imprisoned by day in a schoolhouse, and who exchanged toys and pictures for the first bouquets of violets from the woods, tied with a red cotton thread, brought by the little shepherdesses from the surrounding farms. . .

violetbank1 Short-stemmed violets, white violets and blue violets, and white-blue violets veined with mauve mother of pearl, big anemic cowslip violets which raise their pale odorless corollas on long stems.

O violets of my childhood! You rise up before me, all of you, you lattice the milky April sky, and the quivering of your countless little faces intoxicates me . . . . .


2 thoughts on “The Last Fire

  1. Lord, what I did today was make tiny nosegays of violets for my love, my neighbor and a visiting friend. I adore violets, as I adored my Grandmother who was also named Violet, and would make a tiny bunch into a brooch on the broad lace collar of her dress with a tiny glass that came with a pin for just this purpose.

    What a sumptuous post!

  2. That sounds lovely!
    I don’t pick mine because they’re wild, but I’ve heard tell that violets used to be commercially grown in Devon from the 1890’s until WWII and sent by train from Dawlish Station to Covent Garden. How wonderful it must have been to open up boxes of perfumed Devon violets there in the city. And people taking the train south from Exeter could inhale the heavenly scent of violets wafting in when they passed through Holcombe.

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