Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"We Seek Him Here, We Seek Him There . . ."

When I was a kid I loved the Scarlet Pimpernel books by Baroness Orczy. I can't remember why I started reading them as they would have been quite old fashioned at the time.
I probably found a copy at a jumble sale book stall and bought it for pennies but I don't own any of them now.

I remember watching a black and white film based on the Pimpernel books that I was sure had Stewart Granger in the title role, but after looking at the film details on IMDB it seems I'd swapped him in my mind for David Niven-its funny how the memory plays tricks like that.

For some reason , the rhyme about the Scarlet Pimpernel stuck in my mind and I could recall it without hesitation:

"We seek him here, we seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? - Is he in hell? That damned, elusive Pimpernel?" Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel flower is the hero's emblem but I don't recall being aware of what one looked like when I read the book - apart from the flower being reddishl.

A couple of weeks back, I saw some tiny reddish flowers growing wild and took some photos in order to work out what they were. It turned out that they were, in fact, the elusive scarlet pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis. In French its called Mouron des champs [Pimpernel of the fields].

The flowers are very small, about the size of the tip of my pinkie and were obviously quite sensitive to light and shade. At different times of day or when it was overcast, the flowers were closed. When closed the flowers almost dissapear within the greenery of leaves and stems and only tiny points of orangey-red are visible.

The plant is also called Poor man's weatherglass, Shepherd's weatherglass and Shepherd's Clock because it responds to the weather and tells the time of day.

This is a different scarlet pimpernel flower from the side - i didn't realise at the time that it had 6 petals, I was more interested in the fact that it looked like a teeny, tiny hibiscus flower.
It does look remakably like a hibiscus but it should only have 5 petals - so this plant was very unusual.

Unfortunately scarlet pimpernels are considered weeds, and since I took these photos, the Nice council gardeners have been round and removed all traces of the plants; including the odd 6 petalled one.

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radiogirl said...

Hello, another Alison (aka Alison Wonderland, once) here... I love the Scarlet Pimpernel -- I read the book after seeing a more recent film (a miniseries, I think) on television, but for whatever reason, it never registered in my brain that the scarlet pimpernel was a flower. Somehow, that just makes it even more charming.

Mountain Dweller said...

I used to like the Scarlet Pimpernel too when I was little, although that seems so long ago, I'm not sure if I remember much now!

roger said...

I loved that movie - I though it was Leslie Phillips (groan) & then there was the dreadful remake with Anthony Andrews...
I learn the "they seek him here" lines as well! Sad, hey?
Where are you based? I am just across the line in Var (nr. Mons).

Tempest said...

I would say that I actually LOVED the remake with Anthony Andrews--the man is a fantastic character actor, and fits the part of Sir Percy quite well--one could tell that he did his research before jumping into the part. The cinimatography was, though, dreadful. Egad for TV-Movies.

I directed the musical two years ago, at my alma-mater. The show was a huge success, which goes to show you the classics still appeal!
A toast, then, to the greatest hero ever to grace literary works!

If you are interested, the entire collection of SP novels are now online.