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“I have kept you in a cocoon. I fear you have found it constraining.” Brushing away a tear, she replied:”Who would come to seek the wild carnationThat grew at such a rough and rustic hedge?”The note of self-effacement made her seem very young and gentle.

From the chapter “Wild Carnations” in the “Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu, 11th century translated by Edward G. Seidensticker (Penguin Books)

Prince Genji’s charming young ward is of course referring to herself when she speaks of the wild carnation, or Japanese pink. In the “Tale of Genji,” this flower of autumn is often used as a metaphor for a child needing protection from the storms of life. Over the centuries, the “Yamato Nadeshiko” has become a symbol of Japanese womanhood, for it is both delicate and enduring. After seeing countless references to the flower in literature, design and art, it is wonderful to find wild pinks actually blooming in the mountains of Japan, where they appear until the first frosts arrive.