The other day I posted about Sempervivum 'Pastel' and its variants and added some information about its breeder, Nicholas Moore, who was also, in his day, a well-known poet and philosopher as well as a horticulturalist. In addition to 'Pastel' he raised other good quality houseleek cultivars many of which are still on the market today. Sometime I will try to compile a list.
After writing my earlier post I tried to find examples of Moore's poetry on the Internet and finished up buying a slim volume entitled Lacrimae Rerum containing his last poems. On the cover there is a delightful illustration by Juliet Moore that includes a Sempervivum in flower.
For those unfamiliar with the title, it is taken from a famous line in Virgil's Aeneid written between 29 and 19 BC. The whole line reads sunt lacrimae rerum: mentem mortalia tangunt and there have been many attempts to translate it or to find words in other languages to give the full sense of what the Latin means (though one translation could not possibly do this). I always think of lacrimae rerum as signifying there are 'tears in things' (tears in the sense of drops that run down your cheeks), the knowledge that everything is temporary, doomed to fade to extinction. However wonderful a plant or a person or a galaxy they are destined to pass away and this tempers the joy of now with a sadness, the metaphorical 'tears'. This embodied sadness provokes the imagination to reflect that the present is moving inexorably towards some universal oblivion. Or is it? Sempervivum is Latin too and means 'always alive', a fact of which, no doubt, Nicholas Moore was well aware.