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Le Tilleul, Héros de la Poésie et la Littérature

The Linden Tree, hero of poetry and literature

The linden tree has always inspired mythology, literature and poetry . From Ovid to Proust and Rimbaud , including La Fontaine, Stendhal and Colette , many have celebrated this tree like no other, a symbol of love, appeasement and the prodigality of Nature . With its heart-shaped leaf, and its perfume with such strong memory power , it is at the origin of very beautiful pages of literature, and we are happy to bring some of them back to life before your eyes in our journal..

The linden tree, tree of love

The Greek mythology

  • Philyra (“lime tree” or "linden tree" in Greek), mother of the Centaur Chiron , ashamed of her half-man, half-horse son, asked to be transformed and was transformed into a lime tree. Chiron with his gifts of oracles and his knowledge of simple plants (medicinal plants) was a famous healer, personifying all the quintessence of the linden tree: it is a tree that heals and it is also that of the attachment of beings .
  • The myth of Baucis and Philemon, in Ancient Greece , illustrates the belief that the linden tree, representing fidelity , would help one find love . Taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses , it evokes a very elderly couple, Philemon and Baucis, the only ones to offer hospitality to the gods disguised as simple mortals, Jupiter and Mercury. To thank them, they offer to fulfill their wish, that of dying at the same time, and transform them into a tree that is half linden , half oak, with a single trunk.

Jean de La Fontaine

The fabulist poet took up the myth of Baucis and Philemon and the symbol of love that is the lime tree.

Baucis becomes linden tree , Philemon becomes oak.
We will see them again, in order to deserve
The sweets that in hymen Love made them taste.
They bend under the weight of countless offerings.
As long as spouses stay under their shadow

They love each other to the end, despite the effort of the years. »

Henri Beyle known as Stendhal

Famous scene from the 19th century French novel, that in Le Rouge et le Noir where Julien Sorel dares to take the hand of Madame de Rênal, under a linden tree. It was there that he made the oath...

“The hot weather arrived. We got into the habit of spending the evenings under a huge lime tree a few steps from the house. The darkness was deep there…”

For Madame de Rênal, her hand in Julien's, she was thinking of nothing; she let herself live. The hours we spent under this large lime tree that local tradition says was planted by Charles the Bold, were a time of happiness for her. She listened with delight to the moaning of the wind in the thick foliage of the linden tree, and the sound of a few rare drops which began to fall on its lowest leaves. »

Arthur Rimbaud

Written at the age of 16, this famous poem exalts the sensations of an adolescent associated with Nature, a walk under the fragrant flowering linden trees.

“You're not serious when you're seventeen.
One beautiful evening, hay some beer and lemonade,
Rowdy cafes with dazzling chandeliers!
We go under the green linden trees of the promenade.

The linden trees smell good on good June evenings!
The air is sometimes so sweet that we close our eyelids;

June night! Seventeen years ! – We let ourselves get drunk.

We're not serious when we're seventeen
And that we have green lindene trees on the promenade. »


The memory power of the linden tree, Marcle Proust's famous Madeleine

Who really knows that Marcel Proust 's famous madeleine, always mentioned when we talk about a little nothing, a taste, a flavor, a perfume, which shakes the whole memory with emotion , was soaked in an infusion of linden ? And this taste played such a role in his mnemonic process that it was the subject of sublime descriptions in several passages of In Search of Lost Time.

And suddenly the memory appeared to me . This taste is that of the little piece of madeleine that on Sunday morning in Combray (because that day I didn't go out before mass time), when I went to say hello to him in his room, my aunt Léonie told me offered after having dipped it in its tea or linden infusion ”.

And as soon as I recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine dipped in linden that my aunt gave me (although I did not yet know and had to postpone discovering why this memory made me so happy), immediately the old gray house…

And the extraordinary description of the linden tree ready to be infused… after reading it, you will never look at linden flowers the same way again! 

“After a while, I went in to kiss him; Françoise was brewing her tea; or, if my aunt felt agitated, she would ask for her herbal tea instead and it was I who was responsible for dropping from the pharmacy bag onto a plate the quantity of linden which then had to be put in the boiling water. The drying out of the stems had curved them into a capricious trellis in the interlacing of which the pale flowers opened , as if a painter had arranged them, had placed them in the most ornamental way. The leaves, having lost or changed their appearance, looked like the impossible disparate things, like the transparent wing of a fly, the white back of a label, a rose petal, but which had been piled up , crushed or braided as in making a nest. A thousand little useless details—charming prodigality of the pharmacist—which would have been suppressed in an artificial preparation, gave me, like a book in which one is amazed to encounter the name of a person of acquaintance, the pleasure of understanding that it They were indeed stems of real linden trees, like those I saw on avenue de la Gare, modified, precisely because they were not doubles, but themselves and because they had aged. And each new character being only the metamorphosis of an old character, in small gray balls I recognized the green buds which have not come to fruition; but above all the pink, lunar and soft radiance which made the flowers stand out in the fragile forest of the stems where they were suspended like little golden roses - a sign, like the glow which still reveals on a wall the place of a faded fresco, of the difference between the parts of the tree which had been "in color" and those which had not—showed me that these petals were indeed those which, before flowering, the pharmacy bag had embalmed the spring evenings. This pink candle flame was still their color, but half-extinguished and dormant in this diminished life that was theirs now and which is like the twilight of flowers. Soon my aunt was able to dip a small madeleine into the boiling infusion of which she savored the taste of dead leaves or faded flowers, a piece of which she handed me when it was sufficiently softened. »

The linden tree, prodigal tree

The linden trees, symbols of fidelity , exhale a sweet smell when the flowers bloom , but this delicious scent also corresponds to a sound. They buzz with thousands of bees who come to draw precious nectar and pollen . And what's more, they heal ... From Colette to more contemporary poets, their incredible virtues have been sung with touching emotion.

Colette “For a herbarium”

“My god, breathe the linden tree when it is a volcano of bees,
a bush of red flowers, the rival of the orange tree,
the insidious lover , the pollen in golden rain , is that not enough?
and boiled, it still falls to him to cure our fevers ! »

And even Guy Bontempelli , songwriter, added his little music! 

And then the button opens and releases a tiny drop of water back to the earth. A few hours, a day or two, and the tree puts on its sublime coat of flowers.

Then begins the silent and very subtle nostril party. Because to its beauty, we must add this sweet and insistent perfume which bathes the surroundings and makes the air alive. It's like jasmine and iris without being either. It would be similar to vanilla or hay without having a dusty background. It's clear, fluid, fresh and sensual at the same time . This spreads throughout the house through all the windows, accompanies the wine at the meal, bathes every gesture and envelops the inhabitants in their sleep .

As the storm threatens, the sky turns dark, and in the middle of this false night, the tree seems to radiate on its own as if it had imprisoned the sun in its heart . And it always spreads this smell of health , which is, to the nose, what its color is to the eye...”

And finally Sabine Sicaud, in her short life, also expressed the need to pay him an enchanting tribute in “Les Vieux Tilleuls”: 

“Perhaps, some time, people will find themselves
To say: “There were venerable trees there”;
from a shadow so broad, and fresh, and helpful ,
At the threshold of these weary houses, bowing your forehead;
Of a branch grazing in a gesture that rocks
The wall of the old convent gently asleep;
The green they had one evening in a downpour;
Of this blond virgin honey and young ears
That they took flowers and bees in the month;
Of all those who held out their baskets towards them;
Of those who were enchanted by who knows what ancient thing,
An air that everything around had made its own,
Air of hospitality, peace, good nature,
Who gave the city a friendly face,
Of everything that goes away when the woodcutter comes,
Who will remember as I remember?..."

…This scent of linden trees, you don’t understand
What he perhaps slipped into closed walls;
Perfume that contains amber and elderberry, roses,
Broom, ripe hay, a little orange tree,
Moist and sweet perfume with which the fly is intoxicated
And above the three a light wind shakes,
Perfume that made you believe in the sweetness of life...
Maybe some of you will remember
From a blonde herbal tea where this scent persists…

...It was necessary, you see, in front of this window,
Buzzing swarms, the signs of friendship
Of an old tree that moves
, and shadow, and leaves,
This green darkness where noon gathers,
A ladder and flowers to pick freely,
So that these old homes had their reason for being…
O Linden trees reflected in the hollow of a window,
You fall, and the enchantment is broken..."

And today, always, our contemporary poets pay tribute to him, such as Christian Bobin in “Ressuciter” where he once again demonstrates his ability to marvel at the simplest things with his delicate prose:

“The wind visits each leaf of the linden tree without forgetting a single one, like a pilgrim coming from the end of the world and entering each house in a village to give his blessing. »

Or here, praising the grace of the tree and its qualities of inspiration: 

“The linden tree in front of the window
is the master I chose to write
and which I know in advance that I will not be able to equal:
even the greatest writers have never written
with as much grace as this tree delicately inscribing light and shadow
on each of its leaves, and renewing its inspiration
every second. »

And what can we say about Muriel Barbery who literally delights in the linden tree in “Une gourmandise”:

“A linden tree that scents at the end of the day is a delight that imprints itself on us indelibly and, in the depths of our joy of existence, traces a furrow of happiness that the sweetness of a July evening alone cannot explain. »

And finally, a young gem, still French, artist, painter and poet whose favorite themes are the joy of living, love, gratitude and wonder and who speaks with tenderness about our beautiful tree... We were happy to discover that she was part of the TiL circle, on Instagram; Fanny Aotw !

“Under the leaves of the linden tree
There at the end of the road
I saw the time gone by
I lay there several mornings

Near the trunk I often daydreamed
I experienced my joys there
I laid down my weapons there
Also, more than once.

I remade the world
Listened to my sorrows
Loved without respite
Love without embarrassment

I brought my lovers there
My passing friends
Near the big lime tree
In the shade of its foliage

I saw the seasons go by
Like a quarrel dancer
Where the leaves fight to stay
Depending on the colors they waver

Eventually fall and remind us
Let the seasons come and go
Let the fruits fall and sow
That the wind comes and goes
At the bend of the path

Under the leaves of the linden tree. »

With TiL, we also wanted to pay homage to this fabulous linden tree , in all its dimensions, by revealing all its powers and appealing to all the senses , in joy, generosity but also in scientific rigor . 

May the linden tree, celebrated since the dawn of time, bring you calm and rejuvenation in these turbulent times...


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