There are as many as twenty species of flowers in this tapestry. They are depicted with great scientific accuracy--greater than in any of the botany textbooks of the time. They include English bluebells, oxlip, bistort, cuckoopint, and Madonna lily. Botanists haven't been able to identify a few; it's possible that they are flowers that have gone extinct since 1500.
--Richard Preston, in The New Yorker
Extinct Although we commonly apply it to species, it's only another way to say "extinguished." So a single candle flame can be, and obviously will be soon, extinct. Or a person: look at these people walking out of a square of the sepia morning light from the 1940's: what were they, to Time, these little parents, if not candle flames? My mother is holding a clutch of flowers they must have picked together, or that he handed to her as a gift, although the kind of flowers by now is as mysterious as the ones in the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters, 1940 and 1500 being equal flames to the breath of the world. As the Blahdy-Blahdy-Blah Distinguished Professor of Humanities where I teach, I sometimes have my students select one of the seven Unicorn Tapestries to inspire an in-class essay. I have two things to say. The first: the best included this: "So often I've heard the phrase 'the fabric of Time' used loosely, casually; it's a pleasure to find it made literal here. The weft and warp are so excellently plied, that over 500 years later these stems and petals look as if they were just whisked out of a cone of florist's wrapping paper." I like that. The second: my friend's daughter Zoe, three, once blurted out: "Extinguished Professor!" Well, not yet. Still threading my way on through. And some went horribly: they were dragged behind a car and partially skinned alive in the process; shot, while kneeled and begging the child's release; or slowly turned to stone by a fatal witchery in their own cells. Others, easily: at ninety-five, in a restful sleep. And some, in an unsolvable obscurity: a weekend out of town, and then ... an open-ended nothing. So we see there's no such thing as Death--it's more of an ensemble cast; each, a different assignment. A different one of us. And what we are is names that linger only for a while, until the names too disappear. Goodbye, Sweet William, Daisy, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lily, Black-eyed Susan.