What do Tchaikovsky, Stalin and Annie M.G. Schmidt have in common? Not a lot – but all three have found inspiration in me.
The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky saw me as ‘the king of the flowers’, as he wrote in a letter to his benefactress, the Countess Nadejda von Meck, and he gave me a prominent role in the ‘lush garden’ of his last opera Iolanta (1892).
He also wrote a poem about me: ‘Quick, to the woods! I race along the familiar path. / Can my dreams have come true, my longings be fulfilled? / There he is! Bending to the earth, with trembling hand / I pluck the wondrous gift of the enchantress Spring.’ A little grandiloquent, perhaps, but deeply felt.
His compatriot Stalin went a step further. As a young man the Soviet dictator – then still called Ioseb Jughashvili – loved reading, and even published his own poems under a pseudonym.
One poem was about me: ‘The pinkish bud has opened, / rushing to the pale-blue violet / and, stirred by a light breeze, / the lily of the valley has bent over the grass.’ Hm.
The celebrated Dutch author Annie M.G Schmidt kept the mood lighter. In the lovely poem ‘De mooiste bloemen’ in the collection ‘Het Fluitketeltje’ (1950), she wrote:
‘Lily-of-the-valley, twenty pence, / they’re so pretty. Such spring scents!’, ‘Long-stemmed iris, / purple, yellow / Only sixty pence for ten! / What about some roses, then? / Or these, or these, or these? / Well, what’s it going to be, / are they for your mother, dear? / Oh, well take some Lady’s tears!’