Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/141

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.





JUNE, 1874.


By Professor W. D. GUNNING.

WE have lately been reminded, by a writer in the North American Review, that the builders are the metaphysicians, and that science is only a brick-yard. How many, then, would quit the service? No! wiser we think were the words of the late Cambridge professor: "We have reached the point where the results of science touch the very problem of existence, and all thoughtful men are listening for the verdict which solves the great mystery." There is a great truth here which people are beginning to recognize, and there can be little doubt that the strongest hold which Science now has upon the public mind, comes from the light she is supposed to be able to throw on "the problem of existence." The vegetable kingdom has many aspects of interest, but Science has now raised the profound inquiry how it came to be—that is, the problem of its existence. We propose to set forth in this paper part of the testimony which plants give on the question of their origin.

In the floral world that which first catches the attention is color, and, although in classification it passes for almost nothing, no other property or quality affects the mind so deeply. The great poets, who are always wiser than they know, hate literally painted the vices and virtues. Anger is scarlet—

"The ashy paleness of my cheek

Is scarleted in ruddy flakes of wrath."

Jealousy is yellow; modesty is crimson; melancholy is blue; cheerfulness, hopefulness, youth, are green; malice, vengefulness, falsehood, are black, and truth and purity have never been painted to the imagination more simply and beautifully than by Shakespeare in this:

"White-robed truth;"

and by Milton in this:

"The saintliest veil

Of maiden-white."