Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sic transit gloria

 These tulips were glorious in the house for Thanksgiving, but didn't last long. A good lesson about transience, and all worldly things being fleeting. 

I don't know Latin, but a phrase floated up from somewhere as I tossed my "Thanksgiving" tulips on the compost pile. Tulips are a spring flower, so are totally out of season, but I chose them for their orangey-red that echoed the fall colours outside. Along with hydrangeas from my garden -- which are turning as many colours as a fading bruise as they age -- they were the backdrop for our recent Thanksgiving dinner. The hydrangeas will dry in the vase and preserve themselves indefinitely, but the tulips were more ephemeral. The first couple of days, they stood straight and chipper. The third, one bloom drooped. The fourth, half the blooms were aiming at the floor. On the fifth day, they were on the compost pile to provide food for the worms. As for the Latin, the full phrase is "sic transit gloria mundi,"  meaning "thus passes the glory of the world." The tulips' glory was fleeting indeed; the good old homegrown hydrangeas could be around until spring.

When I looked, I was amused at how often the Latin phrase is used -- no wonder it popped into my mind. Movies, songs, poems, and even newspaper headline writers have had a go at it. A New York Daily News story about a 1980 state transit bailout ran under the headline: "Sick Transit's Glorious Monday." It's also apparently the phrase used to warn triumphant Roman generals and new popes not to get too full of themselves, because, well, these things are fleeting.

The tulips on day one of their glory on the window sill; the hydrangeas are on the table, all ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

Three days in, one bloom is drooping. 

Four days in, and lots more are headed downwards. The hydrangea is hanging in just fine.

Five days and out. Something pretty for the worms to enjoy on the compost pile.

1 comment:

  1. I had a friend who loved the look of drooping tulips so kept hers on display for a long time. We were surprised to see acres of tulip fields in our little French village of Carqueiranne where we lived when Jim was teaching in the south of France. The tulip was on the city crest and tulips were big business. Now, these tulips didn't droop anytime soon. They were like little trees and lasted forever!