Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wild Lilac and Forget-me-nots 1890

Sometimes we see flowers placed in extravagant vases. Here, Levitan has casually placed May-blooming white lilacs and blue forget-me-nots in a clay vase with a matte glaze. He didn't buy these stems in the florist but would have found them walking along the road or in a field nearby. They are modest, unpretentious flowers in an unpretentious vase.

There's an old German legend that says, God had finished naming all the plants and flowers when a tiny un-named one called out: "Forget-me-not, O God." And God replied, "So that shall be your name."  

And while Catholics have largely negative attitudes towards the Free Masons, they were the ones who in 1926, wore forget-me-nots on their lapels as a symbol for the government not to forget the poor and the desperate. We could do with some of that today.

Any parochial school Catholic who grew up in the 1940's, 50's or 60's will remember the May-Mary shrines we decorated with lilacs brought to school wrapped in aluminum foil. But for all their delicacy and heady fragrance, bizarre as it may seem, in folklore it was considered unlucky to bring lilacs, especially of the white variety, into the home. And they must never be taken to a hospital. 

Fortunate for us, Levitan didn't know about any of that or simply didn't care. I suspect he was too genuinely spiritual a man to allow superstitions to distract him. He has simply found these flowers and put them together in their simplicity. Let us enjoy them.


  1. I will always remember the May Crowning and the beautiful songs we sang to Mary. All with such enthusiasm, even the boys too. We truly loved Mary. Thanks to our parents, grandmothers and teachers.

  2. I remember in 1963 a couple of boys built an arbor made of icecream sticks to place over the classroom statue of Mary. Fabulous!

  3. The forget-me-not flowers call out for us to remember those who have gone or have been lost to us. That their memory should live on inside of us. Don't we all want this? To be remembered?

  4. I do not subscribe to superstitions either. I am just happy to sit back and admire this simple arrangement of wildflowers that very well might have been overlooked as many a person walked by them without a second glance. Levitatn thought to bring them to us. Beauty in simplicity.