Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rainy weather: Mitsouko time

What can one possibly say about this iconic perfume? What can one add to the tome upon tome of literature on the subject?

Everything has been analyzed over and over : how it was inspired by a literary Japanese heroine in 1919; how the bottle was the same as the one for L’heure bleue; how the aldehyde C14 in there replicates peach skin; how it is a scent implicated in sex under a different perspective than the one in the West; how it is mixed in tragedy, greatness and cinematic art; how the name doesn’t mean what Guerlain has been telling us after all…(you can see all that on my Mitsouko entry on my personal site Perfume Shrine, section "Perfume in literature and film", linked in index)

Sometimes great works of art ultimately lose if one describes them too extensively. They lose their mystique, their spirituality, their rapport with the hidden forces that make them so compelling in the first place.
So we won’t dissect Mitsouko here. We simply won’t. Just because.
We’ll just let ourselves feel the yearning and sense of loss it evokes and slowly whisper my favourite poem. (I'd like it to be on my tombstone)

The god forsakes Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to
her, the Alexandria that is leaving.

Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears
deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one
long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given
this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion,
but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final
delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

- by Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

Translated from greek to english by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Note for understanding the context: The poem refers to Plutarch's story that when Marc Antony was besieged in Alexandria by Octavian the night before the city fell into enemy hands, he heard an invisible troupe leaving the city. He heard the sounds of instruments and voices making their way through the city. Then, he passed out; the god Bacchus (Dionysus), Antony's protector, was deserting him.

If you want to read Constantinos Cavafy's poetry, click here. Plutarch's Parallel lives link here

Mitsouko entry on Perfume in literature and film: here


  1. What a beautiful poem for Mitsouko. But, argh, don't plan your tombstone yet!

  2. Thank you Iris.
    Well, one can never be too prepared, can one?



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