Monday, 29 September 2008

"Il faut cultiver son jardin"

Voltaire's Candide contains the words "il faut cultiver son jardin" at the end.
In popular speech these days the phrase is used for quite a spectrum of meanings from following one's true passion in life, to giving oneself time away from everyday concerns. Voltaire's original meaning was almost certainly multi-layered. It may have been a swipe at the Catholic Church - we should concentrate on cultivating our earthly gardens rather than the garden of paradise. It may also have been in praise of simple honest work rather than worrying and philosophising about life all the time - get on and plough your furrow. It is a lovely expression, even if these days the garden of Voltaire's chateau here in Ferney Voltaire is in need of a fairly serious makeover.
In recent days, thanks to John and Heather, my own garden has received a serious tidy up. It is dreadful how we manage to be untidy even in the garden. However, this is mainly my responsibility, over the past 18 months I've let the bindweed and couch grass take over so that the poor pasque flowers and most other things apart from the hardiest of lavender, sage and rosemary bushes. Dr B it should be added still confuses crocuses with chives and is not to be trusted with greenery of any kind. On Friday evening Heather brought around her plans for the garden so now we can think about the future, building steps, putting in raised beds and maybe even planting spinach.
We're talking about a space that is just six metre's square with a steep 1.5 metre bank 3 metres in so it's quite a challenge. Anyway it's been wonderful all weekend to wander out there and smell the ripening fennel seed and see more and more of the virginia creeper turning red each day. I think there's alot to be said for letting others cultivate your garden.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Candide inspired thoughts. It's been a personal favorite for years since reading Candide in French classes multiple times. You helped me realize that part of the appeal is in the multiple layers of possible meaning. I'm trying to use the French phrase and translate it to English for a talk on starting a small scale horticultural farm as a business. The hard work but the joy, etc. Reality vs the dream (Candide vs Pangloss?)
Ran across your article via google search on "il faut cultiver". Nebraska USA