Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jasmine Too Girly for a Guy?

This morning I did something out of the ordinary: I pulled a volume of Cavafy from the bookshelf and read his 1915 poem “Orophernes,” while I sipped my cup of Assam (Golden Tips, for those theaphiles among you). I guess a poem about “delicious Ionian nights” was a good side to my northern Indian indulgence. What struck me most about the poem were the lines describing the royal Cappadocian ephebe “among the strangers” of Ionia:

In his heart was he ever the Asiatic,
but in his conduct and discourse a Greek:
arrayed in precious stones, in Hellenic garb,
scented all over with jasmine perfume.
Among the beautiful young Ionians
he was the most beautiful (ὡραῖος), the most ideal.

The Koine Greek adjective ὡραῖος comes from the word ὥρα which means “hour.” Beauty comes from ripeness, literally “of the hour” or -moment. Interesting, then, that the young Orophernes scents his body with jasmine, certainly the most indolic of smells (read “animalic”) – ripeness, indeed!

Jasmine eroticizes the youth, drawing attention to his fleeting hour of beauty “among the strangers.” I love how scent here makes quick work of the gender divide. It makes me wonder how, when a man or woman wears a scent at that appointed hour, regardless of all external limitations, it transforms him or her into an object of instant desire. This is the magic of perfume, the thing which has always made us view it as an elixir of love.

Good jasmines for men nowadays are hard to find. Caron’s 3-ème Homme comes to mind, along with Annick Goutal’s Le Jasmin (smoky and woody). Fougère accords traditionally used jasmine notes, but many shed them on account of added expense. I wonder what Orophernes would wear today, faced with a night out at the clubs. Any suggestions?

So.... I am raffling a sample of The Perfume House Private Reserve Yasminale, which IMHO is - along with vintage Joy - one of the most beautiful jasmine-lily of the valley perfumes available. The winner will be drawn from the pool of comments on this entry on Saturday, May 23.


Anonymous Suzanne said...

No need to include me in your drawing...just delurking to let you know how much I enjoyed this post and your blog in general. You're a very gifted writer--always a pleasure to read!

May 20, 2009 at 5:21 AM  
Blogger benvenuta said...

I have to admit I never smelled any jasmine-focused perfume on a man and I don`t know what the effect would be. Maybe I`ll test A La Nuit on my man tonight... I don`t think I have the AG or Caron in my stash.
Please include me in the draw.

May 20, 2009 at 5:35 AM  
Anonymous Musette said...

I'm currently in serious love with PG's Drama Nuui and think it would smell incredible! on a man, especially a man of such great beauty! The absinthe note razors the jasmine off into an interesting clean, clear, neon green space, perfect for a night out at the clubs.

This is one of those odd jasmine scents that might smell even better on a man!


gorgeous post, btw. I love reading about your life, as I wrangle steel orders and barking shop dogs.

May 20, 2009 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

Well, men from the East (Asiatics) do still drench themselves in floral fragrances... Strange to discover Cavafy in English -- I've got Marguerite Yourcenar's prose translation.
I wouldn't mind smelling Sarrasins on the right, hyacinth-curled ephebus, but Jasmin de Nuit by The Different Company would seem like a suitably virile compromise -- the spiciness might throw off the floral trail.

May 20, 2009 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Thanks Suzanne!

May 20, 2009 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Benvenuta- Let me know the how the A la Nuit experiment goes. That's a sweet one going on, so give it three or four hours.

May 20, 2009 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

D., Thanks. I've been reading Cavafy in English since college, first the translation that Auden did his famous introduction for, then the standard Keeley and Sherrard, a few minor translations (an Irishman, an Australian), this new one by Stratis Haviaras and ... now the much-awaited Complete Poems by Daniel Mendelsohn.

May 20, 2009 at 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Interesting post! I can't imagine my husband getting away with it, but never say never...I would love to be entered in the drawing.

May 20, 2009 at 9:49 PM  
Anonymous maitreyi1978@yahoo.com said...

I've never heard of this one. I'd like to try it. Please include me in the draw.

May 20, 2009 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Mark Evans said...

Wow, aren't the Private Reserves only available from the house by appointment? I would love to be able to experience the Yasminale myself. If I do get lucky, I'll let you know the results - let's see if a beautiful jasmine can transform me in the manner of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. LOL
Very generous of you.

May 20, 2009 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger waftbyCarol said...

Perhaps he was adorned with a wreath of Jasmine in those curly locks...
I recently recieved a vial of Le Galion Snob...my first thought was vintage Joy ! So crystal clear and beautiful it made me want to weep with , well , Joy .
I would love to sniff Yasminale .

May 21, 2009 at 4:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jasmine et Cigarettes by Etat Libre D'Orange is the perfect choice, I think.
Fausto from Italy

May 21, 2009 at 6:13 AM  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

I am always happy when I pass by and find a fresh post. Am enjoying some tips of my own at the moment, but of the mass market PG variety.

Hmm, you've made me want to go back and try Third Man again. I of course remember the lavender...need to find the jasmine...which may well have been under my nose the entire time. (har, har)

Poetry, tea, perfume...what a great way to start the day. Please include me in your draw, as you've completely piqued my interest in the Yasminale.

May 21, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

Oh, and I just saw Carmencanada's comment...Jasmin de Nuit could be quite interesting on a man, I also think.

May 21, 2009 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Mark- Jasmine is very transformative. Let us say that it can complete a man. I for one find it much more alluring than musk, though ambroxan does (Bois d'Orage and Escentric 02) similar duty. For beauty.

May 21, 2009 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

waftbyCarol- Thanks, I must try the Le Galion Snob one of these days.

Fausto from Italia- Yes, of course, how could we forget Etat Libre d'Orange's phenomenal rendition. Jasmin et Cigarette will never leave my collection. Thanks for reminding me to buy a backup bottle :)

May 21, 2009 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

ScentSelf- I'd like to think we've got the better things in life to improve our lives (and moods), not to show off in some crass way. Now I'm thinking about Osmanthus tea in the morning.

May 21, 2009 at 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Chris G said...

I enjoyed this take on jasmine very much. I've often wondered why men don't wear it more often.

May 22, 2009 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Carmencanada, Congratulations! You are the winner of my Yasminale sample. Please email me vetivresse at g mail dot com with contact info. I hope you enjoy it :)

May 24, 2009 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Parfum said...

I certainly do love SL's A la Nuit and wear it sometimes, but the best men's jasmine in my opinion is Patou Pour Homme :)

I know people may not see it as primarily a Jasmine perfume, but I find that is the most important element in it.

May 25, 2009 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Interesting about the Patou. You have me digging for my vial of it now!

May 25, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Perfumeshrine said...

I came late to this and not with the intention of being in the draw. Just saw Cavafy and my ears ~or eyes in this case~ perked up and stood in attention. What beautiful explanation of the Greek word: indeed, my friend, you pined it well. Όμορφος is well-formed, but ωραίος requires some effort to attain....Orophernes woould be proud of you. I think he'd wear Sarrasins and a little twig of Greek jasmine just like the one we have here right about now...

Hope you're well!

May 29, 2009 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

E., Sad indeed that the melodies of Cavafy's poems (the historical ones, my favorites) are lost in translation. But the perfume of them lingers in the air. Best to you in the Greek spring, C

May 29, 2009 at 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Parfymerad said...

Thanks for a great post, both poetry- and perfume-wise :) I only know Cavafy via quotations in Lawrence Durrell & should really investigate..
I've always thought of jasmine as very vegetal, ungendered in an erotic kind of way, unlike roses & violets. 'La Reine Margot' is a favourite; it's quite feminine but will test on the DH

July 17, 2009 at 7:00 AM  

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