Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional | Annotated Tale

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El Clavel [The Carnation]

THE carnation is the flower of predilection of the Andalusian peasant. His cottage does not seem like home without its scent; nor is the maiden's toilet complete without one of its glorious blossoms placed behind her ear, in the ebon setting of her massive hair-braids: it is the token of gladness in their festivals; of love, where coyly offered with a trembling hand. The people sing of its perfections and its meaning in a thousand little ditties.

Among all the trees of the wood     
The laurel bears questionless sway.     
What maid can compete with my Anna?    
What flower, with carnations, I pray [1]?

                They always speak of it, thus, as only next in order to female beauty, and the amorous swain is continually raising the comparison.

To January's biting frost     
No carnation trusts its charms,     
The tints that Heav'n thy cheeks has given,     
Are dyed ingrain and fear no harms [2],

he sings; or perhaps,--

My carnation was raising a plaint,     
I ask'd it to tell me its grief,    
And it said that thy lips were so fair,     
Of their charms it would e'en be the thief [3].

                The one his fair has given him he declares binds him to her for ever.

The carnation which thou gav'st me,       
On holy Thursday last,    
Was no flower, but a fetter       
To bind me to thee fast [4].

                The one she nurtures he watches as a token of all that is dearest and most beautiful in her.

My maid has a fav'rite carnation     
Which she watches both early and late;     
I give it a kiss on its petals,    
Whenever I pass by her gate [5].

                And she in her turn guards her charge with a jealous eye.

A ruddy carnation have I,     
But I keep it secure from the cold,     
And I shade off the gaze of the sun,    
Lest it tarnish, if he were too bold [6].

                Such a carnation was once thus tended by a poor village girl: it had grown up and blossomed and put forth its deep, rich hues under her care, though she was so poor that she had nothing to grow it in but a broken olla [7]. Nevertheless when she thought of the happy day when it should become a love-token to one worthy of her, she took such care of it, covering it up when the sun was too hot, watering it with water from the purest spring, sheltering it from the wind, bringing it into her room to guard through the night, lest any evil should befall it, that never carnation flourished so gloriously; it was her only flower, the object of her whole care.

               One day there came into the garden a maja [8] in her gala costume. According to the pretty Andalusian custom, she carried a bunch of bright, sparkling flowers twisted into her raven hair behind her left ear.

               "Ah!" cried the handsome carnation from the depths of its broken olla, "why should it not be my lot to adorn the head of this lovely creature, instead of being abandoned to the care of a penniless peasant?"

               The maja smiled, and passed round the garden two or three times, to see if the carnation persisted in his idea. Every time her black veil caught, as she passed, in the sharp edge of the broken pipkin, the carnation wafted a soft sigh,--

               "Ah, why was I not born to adorn that shining hair?"

               The maja deferred no longer to fulfil his wish: throwing the bunch of showy flowers on to the ground, she plucked the carnation and plaited it into her hair.

               Right proud was the carnation to find himself thus grandly enthroned; far too proud to have a thought of compassion for the other flowers cast away for his sake; too triumphant even to smart under the puncture of the hair-pin which fixed him on the maja's head. Many a scornful glance he cast at the broken olla which had been his nursery, and the cot of the lowly child who had nurtured him.

               Thus he was borne about, displaying his beautiful hues in the sun, and charming every one with his perfume all day. Then night came: the maja stood at her reja [9], looking out for her serenader. He came at last, and brought in his hand a beautiful white rose; the maja stretched out her hand to receive it with delight; with loud and joyous thanks she placed it on her head, flinging the hapless carnation from her without a thought.

               Instead of blooming on his lordly stalk as at the first, the pride and pet of the peasant maid, he was soon trampled to atoms by a drove of pigs, passing on their way to market!



[1] Entre los árboles todos
se señorea el laurel
entre las mujeres, Ana
entre los flores, el clavel.


[2] En énero no hay claveles
porque los marchita el hielo
en tu cara los hay siempre
porque lo permite el cielo.


[3] El encarnado clavel
viene publicando agravios
porque no le han hecho á el
hermoso como tus labios.


[4] El clavel que tu mi diste
el día de la Ascension
no fué clavel, sino clavo
que clavó mi corazon.


[5] En una teja de su casa
crió mi niño un clavel
y quando á su vera pasa
le da un besito en la sien.


[6] Tengo un clavel encarnado
á la sombra y bajo llave
para que el sol no lo vea
y con mirarlo lo aje.


[7] Pipkin.

[8] A name employed in Andalusia to designate a person who wears the national costume with great ostentation of correctness, and is altogether what we should term showy.

[9] Ornamented iron-work in front of the lower windows of Spanish houses.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: El Clavel [The Carnation]
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Book Title: Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1870
Country of Origin: Spain
Classification: unclassified

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