‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They called me the hyacinth girl.’
The appearance of The Hyacinth Girl in T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland is probably the most memorable part of the poem the for the budding and swooning flower acolyte, and many a romantic seventeen year old English student is probably sighing and dreaming on discovering her as I write this ( I know that I most certainly was; that age when I was blooming into consciousness).
The flowers in the first part of the work, ‘The Burial Of The Dead’ (lilacs, hyacinths) speak of desire, death, and romantic loss (the cruelty of spring), and Chamade, Jean Paul Guerlain’s great masterpiece of 1969 – inspired by a tragic love story by Francoise Sagan, ‘La Chamade’ – reflects this: it is an exceptionally tender, sensitive perfume; a perfume to own just for its own beauty even if you don’t wear it yourself, just to apply to the skin like a dream-touched portal to another sphere.
There is an inherent mystery under this scent’s outwardly romantic surface, a half-eyed melancholy brimming and swirling with sensuality. Beginning with a verdant overture of Persian galbanum and spring green leaves, this is followed by an emotion-filled, rich-bodied hyacinth accord cushioned and clasped with the classic Guerlain mastery.
But although the initial departure of Chamade is green and hyacinthine, slowly, gradually, a soft floral heart develops in the perfume’s central, of rose, jasmine, lilac and clove, leading, eventually to a gorgeously lingering balsamic and vanilla powdered heart that is one of the very finest dry downs in the history of perfumery. Resolutely sexual despite its outward temerity (Chamade means ‘moment of surrender’ or ‘the rapid beating of the heart’), extremely feminine, poetic, fully realized, and one of the very best perfumes I have ever had the fortune to be acquainted with, the treasured vintage parfum that I keep near my bed is one of my most prized possessions.