Dawn Spencer Hurwitz: Perfume in a Poem
Vero Kern: Perfume in a Poem

Rachel Jones: Perfume in a Poem

Rachel Jones

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
- Ezra Pound -

I imagine the author "scences" in each face
A fragrance all its own,
A beautiful signature
Each unique,
Content to stand alone.

Sweet strawberries from the girl with the long blonde hair Vanilla from her mother, with face so fair

Musk from the man in the sharp tailored suit
Vetiver from his friend standing astute

Rose from the woman with the silvery hair
Maple from the cook selling his wares

Mint from the man with the bright red nose
Lily from the lady, ready in a pose.

Stirred together in their rush, a rainbow palette on display;
These hallmarks marry, lift up, support,
Give way.

Like a bouquet, they rise up
To more than the sum of their parts
A glimpse of heaven?
A symphony …

A harmony of hearts.

Rachel Jones
Virtue and Valor

Editor's Note:

One morning in 2003, Rachel Jones awoke from a dream, inspired by biblical women and thinking of perfume.  Before long, she set out to develop the company that would become Virtue and Valor. She started by  "mapping the fragrance" she had in mind, choosing top, middle, and bottom notes, then selecting the perfect etched-crystal bottle reminiscent of an arched Persian dome.  Of the process that brought Virtuessence of Esther to life, she says:Queen Esther

"Since I am a perfectionist and felt no rush, I took my sweet time, which is why it wasn't released until early 2007.  (That and I ran into every thinkable roadblock of the process, and, the demands of my family can leave little time for other pursuits)."

What resulted from this four-year development is a single perfume "inspired by the integrity, strength, and beauty of Queen Esther."  In composing the formula, Rachel was particularly sensitive to the imagined court of "Ancient Persia with the flower gardens, sweet incense, and rich oils."  I heard about this intriguing perfume concept first on the Sniffapalooza forum and then on Perfume of Life and, reading her website, came to admire her spirit and her dedication to this singular vision.  The story of Esther was one of my favorites as a child, and during long church services, I frequently re-read the ten short chapters of her story while my mind wandered through the flowered, perfumed halls of King Ahasuerus's court.

A subdued, elegant floriental, Virtuessence of Esther is subtle yet distinctive with a warm opening in which no one note clamors for attention.  The blend is superbly balanced, and as the dry oil sinks into the skin, the oriental base of woody amber, spice, and comforting vanilla begin to appear.   This is not a fragrance that most other people will know you are wearing; there is no sillage to speak of.  It is as discreet and lovely as its namesake, and is perfect for the wearer who normally doesn't wear perfume or who finds the marketing of many contemporary perfumes to be distasteful.   It's a fragrance that I particularly enjoy on evenings when I've seen and heard too much and simply want to return to myself for a while.  It is available in an absolutely gorgeous etched crystal flacon, as well as in 5- and 10-ml sizes suitable for traveling.

Rachel guides her creations with a single-minded purpose: "We are motivated by the virtuous women of the Bible and want the women of today to see themselves in them as they triumphantly faced their fears, endured their hardships with valor, walked in the strength of God, and embodied virtue."  Scents inspired by Ruth, Hannah, and Sarah are all in development.  But no matter what short-term successes or hardships she might face on the way to fulfilling this dream, she says that the "most important result of it all for me is to have taught my girls to follow their dreams, tough out the hard times, and live with no regrets of an inspiration unfulfilled."

A vial of her beautiful, courageous Virtuessence of Esther will be included in our extraordinary giveaway on March 31, but all who are interested may to request a free sample (pay only shipping) through her lovely site.

Metro Perfume Giveaway


Photo of Rachel Jones provided by the artist and used with permission.

Painting of Queen Esther by Minerva Teichert (1888-1976) via the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University.

Comments are encouraged!  Please read the initial post in this series for the details on our extraordinary giveaway which will take place on March 31.

Posts prior to 2015 first appeared on my previous website, memory & desire (memoryanddesire.net).


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sounds like a well-rounded crowd (as well as the notes to represent them). so cute to write in verse!

Lisa A

What a beautiful interpretation - a poem of scent for the poem. Seeing the notes representative of people would make this perfume a pleasure to wear. It captures the moment in such a joyful way.


It's interesting how each of these perfumers is reading the poem so differently. Variety is the spice of life.

Thanks for including this less well-known perfumer. I'm looking forward to the next offering in the V & V series.


I am impressed with Rachel's interpretation of a poem, with a poem of scent. How ethereal!


I don't know how I missed this one! What a lovely post, making me want to re-read Esther's story (wasn't her name originally Myrtle? Or am I remembering incorrectly? Will have to research...) Must get the Virtuessence first, though! Many thanks, Rachel.

Ruth Ruane

Rachel really enjoyed this one, I don't know how I can tell but I can. For her to be able to create a perfume from a poem that allows such room for creativity must have just been a sheer thrill a joy.


I think this post was the most evocative of the potential scent than all of the others I've read so far. Beautiful!


Lovely poem in response to a poem, and the idea of each face having a distinct aroma is very appealing, simply because it rings of reality. Thank you for the different interpretation!


What DW Rosengard said. I was struck by the pefect idea of assigning different smells to the different characters -- which is, after all, what happens when you brush by people in a close space like the Metro.

DW Rosengard

This is a lovely approach to Pound's poem. I love the different characters. It brings the poem's many faces to life, and the combination of strawberry, vanilla, and mint gives a sweetness and freshness I had not considered. - a sort of livelihood to poem that might otherwise read somberly.

Robert Upton

From Strawberries to Vetiver...this is exactly the type of contrasts you find in real life. People's hearts. Love this one!


What a lovely poem! And the crystal bottle that houses the oil is the most beautiful container I have ever seen.


How fitting to post this on Purim, the holiday marking the fascinating story of Queen Esther!

I'm certain the perfume would be just as poetic as Rachel's poem.

Rachel, I hope you come up with a perfume in your namesake; the suffering of Mother Rachel in the bible could be distilled into a beautiful perfume and I would love to smell it :)


I have had the chance to smell the beautiful Virtuessence of Esther myself just recently and I love the quality of quiet strength it seems to speak. It is refreshing to read a poem that highlights the contradictions within the original poem and translates them into an image of uniqueness and ultimate harmony.

Scent Signals

As much as I loved the earlier look into the grave and into the face of death, I love the happiness and lightness of spirit of this one. The poem and the perfume. They both ring with joy. - minette

Darlene Johnson

A perfumer AND a poet! Is that fair? (smile)

All kidding aside...Rachel that is very beautiful!

Nicole Meredith

i appreciate the galloping cadence of what you wrote - the music of it - and for me you hit it with "more than the sum" of all of those parts and characters that you describe so vividly. exactly what art "should" do. :-)

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