So with my mind I encompass an eternity,
And the seasons die, and the present lives
In that sound. And in the middle of all that
Immensity, my thought drowns itself:
Sweet to me, to be shipwrecked in this sea.
I want time to stop. With the cherry tree blossoms just about to drop and the lilacs just opening, this phase of spring sings perfection.
In an American literature course a million years ago we read poetry. When we analyzed Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” we discussed the theme of grief and considered the pastoral elements in the poem.
What about the lilacs?
“Have you ever smelled lilacs?” Dr. Chianese, our professor, asked us.
Most of us had not. We were Los Angeles types moved by scent of jasmine and orange blossoms. We had no source of reference.
I now understand Dr. Chianese’s question, for the scent of a lilac is truly exquisite, ephemeral, and unique. The short space of time when Whitman contemplated the death of President Lincoln, and I rejoice in the rebirth of the garden.