Can we conceive what humanity would be if it did not know the flowers? If flowers did not exist, if flowers had all been hidden from our gaze, as are probably a thousand no less fairy sights that are all around us, but invisible to our eyes, would our character, our faculties, our sense of the beautiful, our aptitude for happiness be quite the same? We should, it is true, in nature have other splendid manifestations of luxury, exuberance and grace; other dazzling efforts of the superfluous forces: the sun, the stars, the varied lights of the moon, the azure and the ocean, the dawns and twilights, the mountain, the plain, the forest and the rivers, the light and the trees and, lastly, nearer to us, birds, precious stones and woman. These are the ornaments of our planet. Yet, but for the last three, which belong to the same smile of nature, how grave, austere, almost sad would be the education of our eye, without the softness which the flowers give!
Suppose for a moment that our globe knew not flowers: a great region, the most enchanted in the joys of our psychology, would be destroyed, or rather would not be discovered. All of a delightful sense would sleep for ever at the bottom of our harder and more desert hearts and in our imagination stripped of worshipful images of flowers. The infinite world of colours and shades would have been but incompletely revealed to us by a few rents in the sky. The miraculous harmonies of light at play, ceaselessly inventing new gaieties, revelling in itself, would be unknown to us; for the flowers first broke up the prism and made the most subtle portion of our sight. And the magic garden of perfumes: who would have opened its gate to us if not flowers? A few grasses, a few gums, a few fruits, the breath of the dawn, the smell of the night and the sea would have told us that beyond our eyes and ears there existed a shut paradise where the air which we breathe changes into delights for which we could have found no name.
Consider also all that the voice of human happiness would lack flowers! One of the blessed heights of our soul would be almost dumb, if the flowers had not, since centuries, fed with their beauty the language which we speak and the thoughts that endeavour to crystallize the most precious hours of life. The whole vocabulary, all the impressions of love, are impregnate with flower's breath, nourished with their smile. When we love, all the flowers that we have seen and smelt seem to hasten within us to people with their known charms the consciousness of a sentiment whose happiness, but for them, would have no more form than the horizons of the sea or sky. Flowers have accumulated within us, since our childhood, and even before it, in the soul of our fathers, an immense treasure, the nearest to our joys, upon which we draw each time that we wish to make more real the clement minutes of our life. Flowers have created and spread in our world of sentiment the fragrant atmosphere in which love delights.
Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck (1862 - 1949) was a Belgian poet, playwright, and essayist.