Of Hitler and Lilies


“Consider the lilies.”

Leonard Woolf (1880-1969), the English writer, political theorist and husband of Virginia Woolf, wrote a book entitled Downhill All The Way. Published in 1966, it is an autobiographical account of the years leading up to World War II. Leonard Woolf closes Downhill All The Way with these words:

I will end with a little scene that took place in the last months of peace. They were the most terrible months of my life, for helplessly and hopelessly one watched the inevitable approach of war. One of the most horrible things at that time was to listen on the wireless to the speeches of Hitler—the savage and insane ravings of a vindictive underdog who suddenly saw himself to be all powerful. We were at Rodmell during the late summer of 1939 and I used to listen to those ranting, raving speeches. One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers, which like the daffodils come before the swallow dares and take the winds of March with beauty. Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: “Hitler is making a speech.” I shouted back, “I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.” Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard.

Consider the lilies.
Fear no evil.
Fret not because of evil men.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
This too shall pass.


0124 Leonard Woolf
Bust of Leonard Woolf in the orchard at Rodmell.

0123 Monk's House blue bells
The irises beneath the apple-tree.

(The painting is Irises by Vincent Van Gogh.)