Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Sweet Peas



The sweet peas, pale diapers
Of pink
And purple
And powder
Blue, are flags
Of a water color
In which morning
Is being born

File:Partially illuminated Ac with shadows.JPG

Sweet-pea flowers: photo by Giligone, 2005
Sunrise: photo by Simon Eugster, 2005


Zephirine said...

Despite my prejudice against the colour mauve, I love a sweet pea, and the idea of a water colour republic is wonderful.

TC/BTP said...


Curious how many colour-conscious people loathe mauve.

These particular sweet peas appear magenta on my private internal color wheel.

Here we touch upon a subject much worried among pedants.

Over years of amateur dabblings with paints and their histories I could not but become aware that both magenta and mauve are industrially produced chemical colour dyes that bear the unmistakable traces of artificial enhancement one finds in all the late nineteenth century aniline dyes. As if the old organic colours had not been quite good enough. (The decline of madder, ah, tears might be shed.)

Anyway mauve and magenta (or fuchsia--same dye) are as it happens practically twin arrivistes, mauve (from "mallow") created in 1856 by William Henry Perkin, who was trying to fabricate quinine when he spied a dirty pink/purplish residue in his flask one day and, voila! thus was born mauveine, or aniline purple. (So fateful was this discovery for Perkin that his biography is called "Mauve".)

The lavender-lilac grey/blue stain in mauve may well be a common sweet pea colour but you will note, it is absent from the sweet peas in our present virtual garden, which seem if anything soaked in fuchsine, or magenta, the red-purple dye synthesized in 1859, just after the Battle of Magenta. (How different the history of colour might read if it had been, say, the Battle of Lepanto.)

A. suggests it should be pointed out that the poem was written not in a chemical factory but outdoors beneath a wash line upon which nappies flapping in the ocean breeze looked a bit like Tibetan prayer flags.

We entirely agree that if the world powers were the Empire of Synthetic Acrylics and the Republic of Water Colours, it would be preferable to be a citizen of the latter.