Moats: Lilac Time

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(HOST) For many of us, including Rutland Herald editor and commentator David Moats, Memorial Day is forever associated with the heady fragrance of lilacs.

(MOATS) It’s lilac time. At the Rutland Herald, we have a spring tradition. At the peak of every lilac season, we reprint an editorial called "Lilac time." It was written in 1929 by the former publisher William Field. We try to pick a day of maximum lilac.

It so happens that the peak of lilac time always seems to be about two weeks earlier than in 1929, when it appeared on May 29.

Dare I say global warming?

In any case, I wanted to share our "Lilac time" editorial with those who haven’t read it and with those who have.

It has an antique quality, which has to do with how the writer reverses the order of nouns and verbs, and employs what is called the pathetic fallacy, but also with the kind of poignant feeling that’s not so often expressed today. Calvin Coolidge had just left office. The stock market had not yet crashed.

So here it is. "Lilac time."

"Now is the brief season of the lilac bush, modest and enduring symbol of the depth and permanence of New England traditions. It has given a name to color, perfume, poems, songs, story. Translated into many languages, its name is upon the lips of millions in many lands. Yet it remains unspoiled by such widespread fame. It is still the sturdy, wholesome dooryard emblem of the New England home.

"With what eager anticipation has it been planted at the threshold of new, bravely begun homes. With what poignant grief has it been left behind for long bitter migrations from whose hardship and loneliness homesick thoughts have turned in anguished longing.

"To what strange and distant homes have its roots been transplanted, there to grow blossoms and, in turn, be abandoned again.

"On this very day in mountain pastures and along deserted roads, over the graves of dead homes bloom the lilac bushes planted by the founders of those pioneer households. Many of those graves would be otherwise indistinguishable, their timbers long since buried, their cellar holes filled in and grassed over.

"Were it not for the steadfast lilac bush, there would be nothing to mark that here once dwelt human souls who shared happiness, sorrow, hope, and despair.

"Who lived there, whither they went, or what their adventures nobody knows. No descendants make annual pilgrimages to remember and decorate these forgotten graves of the homes of ancestors.

"But each year at this season, the lonely, faithful lilac bush blooms again and lavishes its sweetness in memory of the hands that planted it."

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