You could always count on lilacs by Memorial Day in our part of New Hampshire and will see hedges of them along roadsides and around old farmhouses. Sometimes you can identify a foundation of a former house by the lilacs around it. I have always wanted a longer lilac season. This year, because they are blooming in Kentucky in late April and will be blooming in New England when we return in May for a time, I will.
When we came to Kentucky I did not think I would see one in spring again. But I was wrong. There are two bushes in our yard, planted by Miss Lillian who was an excellent gardener. They aren't as prolific in this region but they like it if planted here.
Yesterday our largest bush was alive with yellow swallowtail butterflies. I have never seen this before back in New Hampshire and the colors of the yellow wings, the deep blue and clear sky and the detail of the purplish indigo blossoms was as intoxicating as their fragrance.
Understandably, lilacs have been the subject of some famous American poets. Here is a stanza from When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed by Walt Whitman (for the complete poem, click here):
In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-washed palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle -and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-coloured blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.
Emily Dickinson also mentions lilacs, her home in Amherst, Massachusetts likely surrounded by them as most New England home sites are, in this from 342:
The Lilacs — bending many a year —
Will sway with purple load —
The Bees — will not despise the tune —
Their forefathers have hummed.
One of my favorite poems is called simply Lilacs by Amy Lowell. Like Whitman's poem it is a long ode, and has similarities to his style, but it is not quite as epic. It was included in her Pulitzer prize-winning book of poetry that she was awarded, posthumously, in 1926. I like this stanza especially (for the complete poem, click here):
Colour of lilac.
Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,
Lilacs in me because I am New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are of it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice
Since certainly it is mine.