Lily of the Valley
Convallaria Majalis
Maia Berliner

The Lure of Lily

Heavy bloomed love. The early-March sun bounced off Lily’s white silk bonnet. He studied her; downward-facing, casting a soft shadow of sorrow beneath. She began to sway, side to side in a mystical, alluring motion. He wondered how many others she had intoxicated. Lily of the Valley. The name reverberated in his mind. It was as though she was carved from teardrops. He was unsure if those teardrops were of melancholy or joy, for when she looked up briefly the corners of her lips were slightly turned up. He wished he could trace them with his finger. Heavy bloomed love.

Researching Lily of the Valley was interesting because I could not actually see the flower in real life. I was told that this time of year it is not in season, and in May the plant blooms only for around 3 weeks. During its short season, there are traditions associated with this delicate, white flower such as the Fête du Muguet in France. On 1st May, Lily of the Valley is gifted to loved ones, as a token of luck for the year. I began to see this flower as being highly symbolic.

As well as a symbol of love, the colour of the flower (white) indicates peace, purity and serenity. These are the characteristics I wanted to portray in my depiction of ‘Lily’ as a beautiful woman. The downward-facing flowers were intriguing to me, as usually flowers face the sun. Therefore I wanted to show that Lily was enticing and elegant, but hiding beneath a ‘bonnet’ of modesty. Contrastingly, Lily of the Valley is also associated with sadness and loss. Their wilting appearance is appropriately funereal; they are a traditional funeral flower. I alluded to this in the alliterative description ‘soft shadow of sorrow’. This also links to the religious story of Lily of the Valley: the flowers are said to have grown where Eve’s tears fell when she left the Garden of Eden. I refer to this in the description ‘she was carved from teardrops.’ Interestingly, another name for the flower is ‘Lady’s Tears.’

Not only is Lily of the Valley delicate and majestic, it is also highly poisonous. It is considered to have a high level of toxicity that can even be fatal if it is eaten. If the flower is touched and then transferred onto the skin, it can cause irritation and tightness in the chest. This information made me all the more intrigued by Lily of the Valley. I was enthralled by the fact it could be something so mesmerising, and yet so damaging to human touch. I chose to describe Lily through the eyes of a man, who is weakened by his fascination with her, and the longing he has to be close to her. She is poisonous to him because she is out of his reach.

I thoroughly enjoyed my research of this intriguing flower. Next May, I will be looking out for the little white bells of Lily of the Valley.

Image by Josephine Mortimer

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