The Romance of Nature; or, The Flower-Seasons Illustrated/Summer
Now each creature joyes the other,
Passing happy days and howers;
One bird reports unto another,
In the fall of silver showers;
While the Earth, our happy mother,
Hath her bosome decked with flowers.
A SUMMER EVENING.
It was a bright and cheerful afternoon,
Towards the end of the sunny month of June,
When the north wind congregates in crowds
The floating mountains of the silver clouds
From the horizon—and the stainless sky
Opens beyond them, like eternity.
All things rejoiced beneath the sun—the weeds,
The river, and the corn-fields, and the reeds;
The willow-leaves, that glanced in the light breeze,
And the firm foliage of the larger trees.
Nay, we'll have music; let that sweet breath, at least,
Give us her airy welcome.
Beaumont and Fletcher.
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears; soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
And at the last, the bird began to sing
So passing swetely, that, by many fold,
It was more plesaunt than I couth devise:
And whan his song was endid in this wise,
The nightingale, with so mery a note
Answerid him, that alle the wode yrong
So sodainly, that, as it were a sote,
I stode astonied, and was with the song
Thorow ravishid; that, till late and long,
I ne wist in what place I was, ne where,
And ayen, methought, she song even by mine ere.
Oh! leave the dull dim house, and come with me
Down to the rivers brink; and we will go
Floating in our light boat so silently,
Watching the sunset-tinged clouds, that glow
O'er the broad brow of heaven, and hanging low,
Like eyelids, curtain o'er the orb, whose hour
Of sleep is well nigh come. Oh! 'tis so calm,
So still, so holy, I could think each power
Of sin and sorrow from the earth had flown,
And Peace descending claimed it for her own,
Shedding from out her dove-like wings the balm
Which fills the evening air.
See, how the arrowy dragon-flies dart out!
Now here, now there,
They swiftly flit about;
Restless, as if we roused them from still sleep,
'Mid the tall river grass. Ha! what is that?
Start not—'tis only a poor water-rat
Crossing the river to his nest, that deep
'Neath yon old willow he has burrowed out.
See him, now, steering over;—his long tail
Extended for a rudder; and his route
Leaves on the glassy stream a double trail
Stretching out, fork-like, to the farther bank,
Where, from green nooks of Summer foliage rank,
Peeps Myosotis—fair "Forget-me-not,"
Looking with her bright blue eyes into ours,
As though to ask, if, 'midst earth's rainbowed bowers,
We ever had her gentle face forgot.
The willows and "long purples," too, recall
To fancy's eye the sad and fatal spot
Where poor Ophelia, with her coronal
Of wild-wood flow'rets, fell.
Now the low breeze
Which speaks soft music in warm summer-eves,
Comes sighing through the wood; but ere it pass
To ripple the calm stream, the giant grass,
Which one might fancy India's jungles bore,
Stays the young wanderer, with her whisper soft,
And each long streamer, trembling aloft,
Discourseth tones that murmuringly pour
Their music eloquent to listening ears;
And from the hills, that bend on either shore
Their gently-sloping and wood-clothed sides
Down to the rivers brim,
Comes, through the twilight dim,
Blent with the water's rippling as it glides,
The last small chirp of many a sleepy bird,
In varied tones, now near, now distant heard,
As if disturbed when close within the nest,
Their small heads warmly hid beneath their wings,
The wearied warblers had gone to rest.
Yet hark! a gush of melody, that rings
In rich full cadence o'er the silent earth;
A burst of music, whose soft echo brings
Tears, not of sorrow—smiles apart from mirth.
Oh! 'tis the silvery-voiced bird of eve,
The gentle nightingale, that now pours forth
Her love-lorn lay—so deem they who believe
That in her brilliant song she doth but grieve.
It is a fanciful imagining,
To blend aught sad or sorrowful with one
Who thus triumphantly doth round her fling,
Far in the silent night, her wondrous spell;
Reigning in air, upon her viewless throne,
The sovereign queen of else subdued sound.
The very leaves hang moveless—the small bell
Of many a river flow'ret, that all day,
Rang with the music of the busy bee,
And danced, delighting in the sunshine gay,
Now stilly hangs, as if attentively
It listened to the night-bird's music sweet.
Over the stream,
Where drooping willow-leaves the waters meet,
The moonbeams gleam,
Broadly and calmly, in a radiant sheet
Of lustre bright,
Which e'en the pinion of the smallest breeze,
With winnow light,
May break to shining fragments. The huge trees,
Bending their stately heads the river by,
Are mirrored in it, as majestical
As they now stand; while on each leaf-crest high
The lady moon has placed a coronal
Of her encrowning light. Now, over all
The slumbering vale she holds her silent reign,
Empress of sight, as the night-bird of sound,
Whose yet more rich and more exulting strain
Floats in its wondrous harmony around,
Rapid and changeful; varying in its tone,
Even as Flowers vary in their hue—
Each to the rest unlike, yet all her own.
Oh! they are Summer queens, the wondrous two,
The bird on earth, the fair moon in the sky;
Seems it as each from other magic drew:
The night grows brighter with that music nigh,
Whose thrilling tones are lit upon their way
Into our inmost spirit, by the soft
And harmonizing gleam of each clear ray,
Falling in smiling lustre from aloft,
And showing where the lilies lie asleep
Beneath their floating canopy.
THE LADYE'S CHAPLET.
And floures freshe, blue, red, and white,
Be her about, the more for to delight;
And on her heade she hath a chapelet
Of roses red, full pleasantly yset.
Hire yelwe here was broided in a tresse
Behind hire back a yerde long, I gesse.
And in the gardin, at the sonne uprist,
She walketh up and doun; wher as hire list,
She gathereth floures, partie white and red,
To make a sotel gerlond for hire hed,
And as an angel hevenlich she song.
At every turn she made a little stand,
And thrust among the thorns her lily hand,
To draw the rose; and every rose she drew
She shook the stalk, and brushed away the dew.
"I sigh for thee, Love, when the morning skies
Their earliest beams of rosy radiance wear,
And earthly things a heavenly brightness bear;
The bending Flowers upraise their tearful eyes,
Heavy with pearly dew that on them lies,
And the fond sun, with all a nurse's care,
Kisses the shining drops that lingered there
From each moist, downcast face; and soon arise,
In laughing beauty, all the glittering band.
How gaily dance they on the wavy air!
The fields and garden are a fairy land—
And sportive Mab, on some tall lily fair,
Or gayer tulip, holds her radiant court—
But I want thine eyes, Love, with mine upon the sport.
Without thee, Beauty is not beautiful—I know
That when with thee I gaze upon a flower,
E'en though the frailest bud that bears the name,
To thee 'tis precious, and then dear to me;
Love hides a charmed gem beneath each leaf,
Giving them value in our partial eyes.
But when alone, though Persia's roses bend
In graceful fragrance o'er my garden path,
And I may cull them,—yet they seem less fair,
Their blush less soft, and their perfume less sweet,
Than when thou last did'st sportively enwreath
Roses from that same tree around my brow."
So murmured the fair Emmeline, and sighed—
And then, the very flowers she had dispraised
Would fain have twined amid her clust'ring hair,
But that another's hand was gently laid
Upon the blushing chaplet, which not then
Out-crimsoned her soft cheek. Another's eye
Gazed upon her's, that dropped their deep-fringed lids,
As though o'ercome by full and sudden joy,
Nor e'en glanced up, until a fervent kiss,
Stealing the tear which weighed the dark lash down,
Called a long look, half fondness, half reproof,
On that proud, happy listener.
Leave we the Lovers to their own sweet thoughts,
For love doth teach such language to the face,
In its own silent eloquence, that words,
Not needed, are forgotten—is't not so?
THE JASMINE TREE.
A bard once sang of a Jasmine tree
That grew beside a castle wall,
The castle where dwelt his ancestry,
And where he is Lord of tower and hall.
And passing sweet was his gentle lay,
Much praising the fair and fragrant Flower,
Which robeth now in its bright array
The grey and ancient Border Tower.
But he deemed that in days of foray rude
The tree could not have flourished there,
When warriors in the court-yard stood,
And trumpets roused the slumb'ring air.
He asked the silv'ry flowers if they
Looked forth as now, when o'er the hill
Moss-troopers rode to feud or fray,
"And bugles blew for belted Will?"
Then said he, that he might not dream
Of deeds that stern old time did see,
While gazing on the starry gleam
Of his own graceful Jasmine tree.
A maiden chanced to hear this lay,
Who, marv'ling much it did not tell
Of ladyes beautiful and gay,
Who must have loved the Jasmine well—
Ventured, all humbly, then to sing
Unto the Bard an answering strain,
Which, while the flower we hither bring,
Perchance ye'll listen to again.
And might not e'en the Jasmine tree
In sterner days enwreath the tower,
Which now it robes luxuriantly,
With em'rald leaf and pearly flower?
Were none but warriors tenants here—
The armed serf, the belted knight,
With falchion keen, and poised spear,
Helm, shield, and cuirass gleaming bright?
I know they'd pass the Jasmine tree,
Nor even glance at aught so frail,
While o'er them waved triumphantly
Their banner in the morning gale:
I know the fragrance that it cast
Their rugged souls no joy could yield;
They only heard the trumpet's blast
That called them to the battle field.
But did none love the Jasmine tree?
Yes;—Beauty, in her turret bower,
Cherished its gentle purity,
And culled the fair and fragrant flower.
It nestled 'midst her raven hair,
It wreathed around her lofty brow,
And, sooth, no easy task it were
To say which wore the purer snow.
The free and sportive Jasmine-tree!
O'er the lone captive's darksome cell,
How many a tale of liberty
Could'st thou to his sad spirit tell!
Each slender tendril floating there,
Laughing in sunshine, nursed by showers,
And gemming the perfumed air
With winged wreaths of starry flowers.
The captive saw the Jasmine-tree,
Whose slight and fragile branches crept
Through the dim loop-hole stealthily—
He sadly gazed on them, and wept;
Each wandering breeze their light leaves stirred,
They looked up to the glorious sky,
And, poised upon them, many a bird
Trilled forth its free wild melody.
Perchance there grew a Jasmine-tree
Beside his own ancestral hall,
Where he had loved, in childhood's glee,
To watch its short-lived blossoms fall:
Alas! how soon those blossoms died,
When severed from their native stem!
Did not like early doom betide
That captive? Drooped he not like them?
Well knew the slender Jasmine-tree
Within which casement high to peep,
And where on soft winds gracefully
With pendant starry branch to sweep.
She looked in bowers where ladyes sung
Of love and knightly fealty,
And silently her sweet sighs flung
O'er many a tale of chivalrie.
And when to battle's sanguine plain
Each gallant knight must fearless hie,
And ladye-loves gazed on the train,
With heaving breast and weeping eye,
The lovely Jasmine drooped her head,
As if in grief for those so dear,
And from her snowy chalice shed,
In sympathy, a dewy tear.
THE COUNTRY MAID AND THE PIMPERNEL-FLOWER.
"I'll go and peep at the Pimpernel,
And see if she think the clouds look well;
For, if the sun shine,
And 'tis like to be fine,
I shall go to the fair,
For my sweetheart is there:—
So, Pimpernel, what bode the clouds and the sky?
If fair weather, no maiden so merry as I."
The Pimpernel-flower had folded up
Her little gold star in her coral cup;
And unto the maid
Thus her warning said:
"Though the sun smile down,
There's a gathering frown
O'er the chequered blue of the clouded sky;
So tarry at home, for a storm is nigh."
The maid first looked sad, and then looked cross,
Gave her foot a fling, and her head a toss;
"Say you so, indeed,
You mean little weed?
You're shut up for spite,
For the blue sky is bright;
To more credulous people your warnings tell,
I'll away to the fair—good day, Pimpernel.
Stay at home, quoth the flower!—in sooth, not I,
I'll don my straw hat with a silken tie;
O'er my neck so fair
I'll a kerchief wear,
White, chequer'd with pink;
And then—let me think,
I'll consider my gown—for I'd fain look well:"
So saying, she stepped o'er the Pimpernel.
Now the wise little flower, wrapped safe from harm,
Sat fearlessly waiting the coming storm;
Just peeping between
Her snug cloak of green,
Lay folded up tight
Her red robe so bright,
Though broidered with purple, and starred with gold,
No eye might its bravery then behold.
The fair maiden straight donned her best array,
And forth to the festival hied away:
But scarce had she gone
Ere the storm came on,
And, 'mid thunder and rain,
She cried, oft and again,
"Oh! would I had minded yon boding flower,
And were safe at home from the pelting shower."
Now, maidens, the tale that I tell would say,
Don't don fine clothes on a doubtful day;
Nor ask advice, when, like many more,
Your resolve was taken some time before.
THE WHITE WATER LILY.
THE QUEEN OF FLOWERS.
Oh! vainly seek ye, 'mid the gardens store,
For one Flower so pre-eminently fair
O'er all the rest, that right of sovereignty
Must seem her heritage. The Rose is bright,
And wondrous fragrant; yet the Woodbine sheds
From her long bloomy streamers, breath as sweet:
And on them both the Violet might turn
Her soft blue eye in gentlest reproach,
That perfume such as her's should be o'erpast.
E'en the white maiden Jasmine, in her pride,
Would take the hue of jealousy, and turn
To envious yellow her complexion pure,
Were she deemed than the rest less fit to reign.
Seek not the Floral Queen among them all:—
But, leaving far behind the garden trim,
And shining palaces, where dwell the bright
Sun-worshippers of many a fervid clime,
Go to the lake's o'ershadowed margent, where,
Over the waves like fairy-carpets spread
For summer revelrie, lie leaves afloat,
Extending many a rood:broad dark-hued leaves,
Clothing the bosom of the water clear,
And gently heaving up and down, as though
Her breathing thus disturbed them. 'Midst these, rise
In pure and stately beauty, urn-like forms,
Just 'bove the water's height; some, not unclosed,
Are tinged with tenderest green; while others spread
Full to the warm down-gazing sun their deep,
White, sculptured-like, and softly-glowing cups
Of modelled petals, lit up from within
By one large anthered star of golden flame:
And, leaning on the dark green leaves, they lie,
These lovely, nymph-like Lilies,—looking up
In worship and in love unto the sun,
On whom alone they smile; for when he goes
From his blue mid-day palace over head,
And the trees cast long shadows on the lake,
The loving water-nymphs, no longer joyed
By the bright presence of their radiant god,
Fold their rich snowy robes, and, bending low,
Suffer the waves to sing a lullaby
Over their sleeping heads.
When mornings beam
Looks gaily o'er the earth, the Lilies lift
Slowly above the waters their fair forms,
Yet still enwrapped close. When noontide brings
Their worshipped deity to his wonted shrine
O'er their blue-bosomed lake, they fondly rise,
To greet and welcome him with every charm
That lavish Nature has endowed them with:
And ne'er did forms more exquisitely fair,
More stately, chaste, or beautiful, emerge
From earth to tell her praise.
Oh! well might they,
The dusk, untutored Indians, bend before
Such perfect loveliness in adoration;
Well might they deem some god or spirit shrined
Within so bright a temple!
And shall we
In fancy e'er create a meaner flower
The sovereign of these sweet and beauteous ones?
No—seek the Lilies' still, calm haunts, and see
The waters sporting round their pearly cups,
And flinging sunny gleams upon their snow,
Like smiles and blushes o'er a maidens cheek.
—If ye e'er gazed on aught more beautiful,
Oh! tell me what it was—for ne'er have I.
I said the Lily was the queenly Flower,
And these bright creatures, sure, her Courtiers be!
For they are robed all so royally,
E'en like the glittering guests of regal bower;
And, like them too, their chiefest rank aud power
Lie in their sounding titles, and we see
That both do value the embroiderie
Of their gay-tinted garb. In their first hour
Of modish fame, see how to both down bend,
In fashion's homage, all the wondering crowd
Of sycophant adorers! Should chance send
A newer star, how soon into a cloud
Shrink the late idols! whom no more ye find;
Nor have they either left ye any sweets behind.
THE COMPLAINT OF THE FORGET-ME-NOT,
SHOWING THE PAINS AND PENALTIES OF POPULARITY.
The blue-eyed Forget-me-not, beautiful flower,
Half-wooed and half-stolen, I brought from her bower,
By the bright river's brink, where she nestled so low,
That the water o'er stem and o'er leaflet might flow;
As if, like Narcissus, she foolishly tried
To gaze on her own gentle face in the tide.
Half inclined, half reluctant, the flower bade adieu
To the friends left behind in the dell where she grew;
And a few shining drops, from the river-spray flung,
Like tears of regret on her azure eyes hung;
But I kissed them away, as a lover had done,
"In joy that my fair river-beauty I'd won.
And then swiftly I hied to my lone desk away,
Lest my flower should droop, grow dim, and decay;
For methought I once more would pourtray the soft hue
Of that smooth vivid green, and that delicate blue;
And while o'er the semblance I silently bent,
My fair sitter sighed forth this touching lament.
Alas! it is a weary thing
To have such great renown;
Ten thousand bards my praises sing,
Through city, shire, and town.
From scribblers that earn pence a line,
To those that win a pound,
None think their poesy will shine,
Till it my praise resound.
And misses, in those curious books
Called "albums," and so forth,
Paint a blue marigold, whose looks
Proclaim her none of earth;
On which the parson, if he's young,
Or doctor, if he's handsome,
Must perpetrate a doleful song:
Oh! will no fairy ransom
My face from such a libel vile?
And clear my reputation,
So slurred by treachery and guile,
From such an imputation,
As that I set the twaddlers on
To so be-rhyme and saint me?
As I'm a flower, they know no more
Of me,—than those who paint me.
The human beauties of the land
Must sit for days and hours,
To let the painter's mimic hand
Each feature scan—but flowers,
They think, may just be drawn
As ignorance may like them;
Leaves snipt and shaped, like gauze or lawn,
As whim or fancy strike them.
E'en "Botanists" mistake my form
That's seen by brook and fountain,
For my rough cousin's, who's clad warm,
To dwell on moor and mountain.
But this I'd pardon, if the Bards'
And Poetasters' chorus
Were silenced once—we'll give rewards
To all who'll no more bore us.
That silly Lover, tumbling down
And drowning in the Rhine,
First set the jingle-makers on,
And then that book of thine,
Oh! Ackermann! like finger-post,
Directed sumphs to me,
And e'er since then, the buzzing host
Have dinned incessantly.
Oh! ye fair Ladies of Parnassus,
(Although ye are old-fashioned),
If ever in your flights ye pass us,
List to our prayer impassioned;
And find another victim-bud
To serve your superficial
Vot'ries—'twould do in wax, or wood,
Or cambric artificial.
Give it a name that nicely heads
An elegy or sonnet,
And the whole clan of X. Y. Z.'s
Will start a-rhyming on it.
ON A FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY.
"Bring Flowers, young Flowers," a wreath I'l twine,
A crown for that mind-written brow of thine—
A radiant wreath—not one drooping spray
Shall dim, with ill omen, thy natal day;
Not a lurking dew-drop shall dare appear,
For, though bright and lustrous, 'tis like a tear:
And smiles must dimple each cheek to-day,
Tears, sorrow, and care shall flee far away!
But, alas, for my wreath! The transient Flowers
Have passed away with the Summer hours:
They are all, all flown, the wild and the sweet,
Their slight forms may never the cold winds meet:
All flown and faded—or one loved gem
I had sought and wreathed for thy diadem.
Not the rose—that has thorns—and I would not bring
In my simple garland so false a thing;
Did I the leaves of thy destiny twine,
No thorn should approach e'en a thought of thine.
Of the Flower I'd bring, I have often told
How brightly its petals of blue unfold,
And oft I've repeated its name, to tell
What no other words breathe half so well.
Then know ye that Flower, so dear to me,
The flower that to-day should my offering be?
For though less than nothing my gift and line,
To thee they would both be dear, as mine.
That flow'ret aye hallows the loneliest spot,
And its name is my boon—"Forget-me-not."
FEUDS AMONG THE HEATHER.
Methought, when these my flowers entwined were,
I heard a tone,
Like young leaves rustling in the Summer air,
When every one
Whispers forth gentle music:—and I bent
To catch the sound
(If sound that shadow of a voice might be),
Which, murmuring round,
Seemed as though one discoursed displeasedly,
And then another
Answered in softer and more even speech;
It was the Heather—
And this the converse that mine ear did reach.
Gems of the sheltered bower are we;
What know we of wilding flowers like thee?
Thy rugged stem, hung with purple bells,
The tale of thy lowly lineage tells;
Thou may'st be met on each open moor,
'Mong gorse and ling,
Thou common thing!
Thy paltry blossoms the children poor,
And gypsies, bring
Bound up in bundles to sweep the street;
And art thou for our high presence meet?
We have been bred up with tenderest care;
We know not the breath of the common air;
Our delicate stems and modelled forms
Are shielded from winds, and frosts, and storms;
For we are the beautiful, great, and rare;
But what are ye?
How can ye see
Our stately pride, yet boldly dare
To raise your heads of humble name
With us, who have titles, and rank, and fame?
Buds of the mountain and moor are we,
The dear and the gleesome, the fearless and free!
Our strong stems shrink not from storm nor rain,
We shake off the tears, and laugh out again.
When Zephyrus drives the red clouds i' the morn,
The lark upsprings
On her dewy wings,
From our sheltering sprays to the sky upborne,
And, soaring, sings
Her love for the wild and purple Heather,
Where her callow nestlings lie safe together.
Glorious, and glad, and dear are we,
Ringing our bells o'er the heath in glee.
Glorious and glad—and oh! most dear
Is the Heather-bloom to the mountaineer;
And dear to his children, who, laughing, come
And carry bright wreaths to their cottage home.
As the blessed things roam, neath their fairy feet
We rustling dance,
And our heads advance
Their innocent hands to gift and greet;
For childhood's glance,
When playmates laugh merrily out together,
Like sunlight shines on the bells of Heather
In our freedom we scorn such slaves as ye,
Your empty pride, and your vanity:—
Ye are fine, 'tis true—and neat and trim,
But are ye not shut in a prison dim?
Ye are captive slaves, though ye boast and sneer,
And think we should bow to your grandeur here.
Ours be the grandeur, and ours the glee,
For we o'er the hills and the heaths wave free.
We bend not our purple and fearless crests,
To meaner things, though in gaudier vests.
Freely above us the wind may blow,
Merrily round us the streamlet flow;
And the promise-toned hum of the busy bee,
The glad day long,
Seems a harvest song
Of joy, for the sweets that from flower and tree,
Around us flung,
And the honeyed bells of the purple Heather,
She hath gathered in store for the wintery weather.
Ye are sheltered, ye say, from the blights of even;
Oh! are ye not hid from the sunlit heaven?
Ye are cultured, and cherished, and tended—true;
But are ye not exiles and captives too?
Are ye not victims of pride and art?
From Nature's paths do ye not depart?
For eve's gentle dew, and morn's bright beam,
Have ye not fires, and stoves, and steam?
And while we quaff gaily our Summer rain,
A few stagnant drops your lives sustain:
And while we are kissed and rocked by the breeze,
Ye stand erect in your palaces,
Each, ranged in his special rank and place,
Holding proudly on high his titled face.
Yet ye are the beings would smile in scorn
At our claims—at "things on the wild heath born;"
That would shrink from our presence as all unmeet,
Because we are useful, and keep ye neat.
Your dwellings, ye idlers, would soon look dim,
If ye had not our kindred to keep them trim.
Ye find even besoms of use, no doubt;
Then let arrogance cease such things to flout.
We may ask, perchance, of what use are ye,
When such o'erstrained pride we feel and see.
The lark dwells not in your slight weak sprays,
Not glassing your blossoms the streamlet plays,
The happy and hard-working bee ne'er comes
Within your well-guarded and glittering domes—
Ye suffer not even the breeze to bring
A breath of your sweets on his downy wing—
Ye do not—perchance ye too well feel
Ye have nought he would condescend to steal—
No—vain ones—we pity, but envy not
Your rank and state,
Ye little great;
Ours is a prouder and happier lot—
A nobler fate;
For we live in gladness and love together,
We fearless flowers of the mountain Heather!
THE FLOWER AND THE FAIRY.
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moone's sphere.
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
And that same dew, which sometimes on the buds
Was wont to swell like round and orient pearls,
Stood now within the pretty flow'ret's eyes,
Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail.
A Fairy, whose task was to dwell upon earth,
Watching the birth
And height'ning the beauty of Summer Flowers,
As the little buds oped to the dews and showers,
Of each tint and hue
That so long she had gazed on through days and hours.
And the Fairy threw
Around o'er the garden a wistful gaze,
That rested on bower, and bank, and maze;
And the Fairy sighed,
And the flowers replied,
In echoes of fragrance, that fanned along
Like a butterfly's wing or an elfin song.
As the soft breath died
Into stillness and calm o'er the garden wide,
The blushing Rose,
The nightingale's young and gentle bride,
Her delicate leaves begun to unclose,
And spread to the sunshine her grace and pride;
And then she spoke,
In tones that like audible perfume broke
On the wingless air—and each other flower
Bent in listening mood on her slender stalk,
To hear the Rose and the Fairy talk.
"Beautiful spirit!—what grief is thine?
Why doth thine eye
With less love and joy on thy children shine?
Why doth thy sigh
Bid each petaled bosom to heave with fear?
What raiseth our Fairy's anger here?
Do we not ever rejoice to greet
Thy guardian love
With tributes of homage? Beneath thy feet,
O'er lawn and grove,
Do we not lift up our heads to bless
Our Fairy's fond care and loveliness?
How have thy children displeased thee,
Loved Fairy, tell:
Oh! look now around thee, Fairy, see
Each bud and bell,
And star-like blossom, and trembling leaf,
Awaits thy wishes in fear and grief.
Has the Jasmine's perfume become less sweet?
Or the Woodbine frail
Too eagerly flung her arms to greet
The Summer gale?
Or has the Ceris-flower not blown?
Sweet guardian, why is thine anger shown?"
Then the Fairy besought the flowers to clear
From their glistening petals each dewy tear;
And unfold on the breeze each pencilled leaf,
For they had not the power to ease her grief:
And she told them how long she had dwelt away
From her home-land, where sprite, and elf, and fay,
Were her frolic-mates—and where sky and air
Were brighter than ever earth's flow'rets were:
And she told them that much as she loved each face,
Blooming around her in light and grace,
Sometimes a sigh
Would rise in her breast, a tear to her eye,
As she thought on sweet Fairy-land's glittering sky;
For though the hue,
To earthly view,
Of many a bud seemed soft and blue,
There was not one
Which recalled to her eye the exquisite shade
Of which Fairy-land's radiant heaven was made.
When this plaint had gone
Wafting along o'er leaf and stem,
Full many a flower
Who deemed her own beauty a peerless gem,
Began to lour,
And sulkily shut up her leaves an hour
Before the sun
Had gone to his rest in his western bower.
One sly little bud resolved to see
What the tint of this elfin heaven might be;
And when the Fay
Spread her gossamer wings, to fly away
For a transient glimpse of her home so bright,
There clung to her foot a seedling light
Of the Commeline-flower—and up they go
(While marvelled the Fairy what pinched her so)
On pinions soft,
The Fairy flew onward with strengthening speed,
And taking heed
To be mute and still, and watchful, too,
Went on the adventurous Commeline-seed.
And when over them, clear, and bright, and high,
Rose the dazzling canopied fairy sky,
No longer wondered young Commeline
That the azure of earth as dim was seen
By their gentle and guardian elfin queen;
For the Irises deep, and Convolvuli fair,
And each Blue-bell, though brilliant, and sweet, and rare,
Aye, even the famed Forget-me-not,
Were dim 'neath the sky of that fairy spot.
But the Commeline-seedling resolved to show,
Among earthly flowers, that radiant glow,
And eagerly gazed unwearied up,
To catch a ray in her tiny cup,
That when on her young stem flow'rets grew,
They might robe them in Elf-land's purest blue.
When the Fairy returned to the flowers of earth,
Young Commeline sank to her place of birth,
And quietly slept in a darksome cell
While the leaves grew sere, and brown, and fell.
Through the chill frozen winter she lay asleep,
Nor till Spring called her forth began to peep;
But when Summer's gay wreaths had clothed the bowers,
Then, brightest of all, came the Commeline-flowers,
All clad in the pure and the beautiful hue
Of the Fairy-land heaven—celestial blue.
The Flowers' Fairy-queen paused, pleased and amazed,
As, descending one day, for the first time she gazed
On the brilliant and deep hue the Commeline wore,
So far fairer than e'er she had seen it before.
And from that day the sprite to loved Fairy-land flew
Less often than e'er she was wonted to do;
For whenever she pined for its brilliant blue sky,
She need but to gaze on the Commeline's eye;
And the garden grew fair, and the groves became tall,
For their guardian was with them to cherish them all;
The flowers sweetly replied to the smiles of the Fay,
Who caressed them more tenderly day after day,
And rarely to Elf-lands enchantments would roam,
For all of its loveliness gladdened her home.
And now, my fair Dames, there's an argument due
To this story of fairies and flow'rets of blue.
Ne'er be vain over much of the charms you possess,
For such vanity serves but to make those charms less;
But ever and earnestly strive to acquire
New wealth, such as they who best love you admire.
And thus bind in wreaths of affection at home,
Hearts, which otherwise oft might be tempted to roam.
Be e'en like my Flower, who gained her bright tint
By not feeling too proud to amend from a hint.
TO THE PASSION FLOWER.
Well art thou named—thou warm-hued Passion Flower,
Fit emblem of the ardour and caprice
Of that wild passion, Love:—for thou dost change,
Even like him, thy semblance; and thou art coy,
Aye, as the fairest maiden whose young heart
Thy namesake hath invaded. Coy, and proud,
For thou, forsooth, must have the bright sun come,
And wait, and gaze upon thy sleeping face,
Before thou wilt vouchsafe to ope thine eyes
Of starry beauty to our wondering gaze.
And then, ere long, the jealous petals close,
And shut within their selfish clasp the gem
They darken, not admire. And are there not
Some other selfish things in this strange world,
That do the like with flowers of lovelier growth?
Oh! ye are coy and proud—but beautiful—
Wondrously beautiful is every one
Among your varied tribes. Some of ye, pale,
That hang in rich profusion o'er the porch
Of many a cottage in our own dear land,
Clasping the Jasmine and the monthly Rose,
As in affection, for that they are not
The natives of our soil, but, like ye, deign
To glad a clime less genial than their own.
And some of ye are bright as the young clouds
That blush with joy to see the sun arise.
Such was the flower named after Her whose loss
The isles long wept; alas! too true a type
That fair frail flower of early fading youth.
And how fantastic ye do sometimes go!
With nect'ries like to hair that stands on end,
And long-lobed leaves, and tendrils curling close,
Strongly upholding all the tangled mass.
Oh! to behold ye in your native homes,
Ye strange and glorious creations! There,
Springing 'mong giant trees, whose soaring tops
Are roofed by the o'er-arching sky, ye climb,
And bloom, and flourish in uncultured pride,
Gorgeously beautiful. I close mine eyes,
And fancy paints a wilderness of wealth,
In those scarce-trodden wilds, and forests vast,
And sunny prairies, of the western world,
Where birds on wings of every glittering dye
Flit in gay freedom through their forest homes,
And insects, sparkling in the sunlight, fill
The solitude with Nature's eloquence.
THE FLOWER OF THE FOUNTAIN.
(IVY-LEAVED BELL FLOWER.)
Thereby a chrystal stream did gently play,
Which from a sacred fountain welled forth alway.
Like to a little hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.
It was a blest retreat where I did find
This modest gem:
The forest trees above were intertwined,
And, under them,
From an old ruined fountain, gurgled out
A small clear stream, that circled them about.
And rippling gently onwards through the wood,
Leaped into light
Beyond the last old gnarled oak that stood
Beside the bright
And sparkling rivulet, like hoary age
Smiling at the pursuits that youth engage.
Over the fount's damp, mossy stones there grew,
These little bells of faint and tender blue,
Bent their small heads in every breeze which strayed
From lawny sunshine to the woodland's shade.
And there they bud, and bloom, and close, and die,
Their lives are brief, but calm.—Alas! that I,
But innocently gay, as these small flowers,
In like retreat might pass my future hours!
Weary with uncongenial employ
I sat in my lone room all spiritless,
The very type of gloomy idleness;
My most-loved books I could not then enjoy,
But, like a tired child, craved some newer toy
To call back pleasure out of weariness.
My cheek leaned on my hand, and a stray tress
Of hair writhed in my idle fingers. To destroy
At one blest moment, my most gloomy mood,
A small hand oped the door—a loved friend stood
Smiling beside me, and these fair flowers placed
On my neglected palette: swift away
Flew my dark vapours, while aroused and gay,
Pencil in hand, the portrait-group I traced.
SUMMER, AND SUMMER FLOWERS.
Then came the iolly Sommer, being dight
In a thin silken cassock, coloured greene,
That was unlyned all, to be more light:
And on his head a girlond well beseene
He wore, from which, as he had chauffed beene,
The sweat did drop, and in his hand he bore
A bowe and shafts, as he in forest greene
Had hunted late the libbard or the bore,
And now would bathe his limbs with labour heated sore.
Such is Spenser's quaint description of Summer in the procession of the seasons and months before quoted from; and it is a good portrait of the sultry part of the season in warmer climes than ours. Compared with the volumes of verse dedicated to Spring, Summer has found few laureates; the rather that its attributes have been joined to those of its blithe forerunner, than from any lack of love for its own boundless wealth and beauty.
Thomson, whose division of praise among the four seasons allowed him to pay them distinct attention, in few, but beautiful, words, thus paints the approach of Summer:
From bright'ning fields of ether fair disclosed,
Child of the sun, refulgent Summer comes,
In pride of youth, and felt through nature's depth:
He comes attended by the sultry hours,
And ever fanning breezes on his way,
While, from his ardent look, the turning Spring
Averts her blushful face; and earth and skies,
All smiling, to his hot dominion leaves.
Herrick, in his "Succession of the four sweete monthes," well expresses the progressive increase of the earth's floral wealth, and, much and beautifully as he lauds the Spring-time in several of his poems, yields the palm to Midsummer and July.
First April, she with mellow showres
Opens the way for early flowres;
Then after her comes smiling May,
In a more rich and sweet array;
Next enters June, and brings us more
Gems than those two that went before;
Lastly, July comes, and she
More wealth brings in than all those three.
In the following "most ancient song in the English language," written about the year 1250, in praise of Summer, Spring seems to be the season celebrated, from the allusions used, such as "springeth the wood new," and the mention of the cuckoo, whose song, or rather cry, becomes far from merry towards the Midsummer months.
Sumer is icumen in;
Lhude sing cuccu;
Groweth sed and bloweth med,
And springeth the wde nu.
Awe bleteth after lomb;
Lhouth after calve cu;
Merrie sing cuccu,
Wel singes thou cuccu,
Ne swik thee nauer.
Many of the Poet's darlings have departed with the early Spring-time. Snowdrops, Primroses, Violets, Daffodils, Cowslips, and Hawthorn have passed away; though the latter sometimes lingers among us, as if to show that May and June may live together. And when the last snowy blossoms fall winnowing down and wither, the hedges are decked with new chaplets of luscious Honeysuckles, which, in shady spots, where the sun's loving kisses have not called a blush upon their delicate complexions, are pale hued; but when free to catch his merry glances, they are brightly tinged with red. The Eglantine, too, or Wild Rose, stretches forth its thorny, arched branches across many a narrow lane, turning it into a natural arcade; and though the verdant canopy is not always lofty enough for an uncrouchable six foot cavalier to pass under, who would not carefully avoid deranging the beautiful bower? gemmed, as it is, with the "quaint enamelled eyes" of the fair roses, whose soft petals are scarcely painted, but slightly tinged with the most delicate pink, not positive enough to seem the colour of the flower, but like a blush or reflected glow, and redolent of an odour as appropriate to their own fragile beauty, as is a soft sweet voice to the lovely and fairy-like form of a young and gentle maiden.
There are many kinds of the wilding Rosebriar, and the colour varies in the different species from pearly white to deep crimson, but those I have most frequently gathered in my own fair county of Warwick, have been the light pink, though the pure white are also abundant in many situations.
How truly delicious is a quiet shady lane in Summer! I do not mean a broad carriage-road lane, but one of those lovely little narrow winding dingles, arched over with Wild-briar and Woodbine, where the air is full of perfume and the banks bright with flowers. How refreshing it is to step into such an one, from the sunny and shadeless fields, to sit beneath the hedge of Hawthorn and Hazel-bushes,
'Mong the gay weeds and verdant grass; while high
Into the slumbering air majestic trees
Rear their proud leafy crests.—Below,
Singing along its shallow pebbly bed,
Sparkles a little rivulet, whose voice
Tells soothingly of Summer's parching thirst
In its cool wave allayed; and murmurs oft
Its one unvaried tune, till listening ear
Of weary wayfarer grows less acute,
And, lulled by its soft music, he is lapped
In some sweet dream of pleasant drowsyhead.
Spenser paints a scene like this in language like the colouring of Claude:
Then gan the shepheard gather into one
His straggling goates, and drave them to a foord,
Whose cerule streame, rombling in pible stone,
Crept under mosse as greene as any goord.
Now had the sun halfe heaven overgone,
When he his heard back from that water foord
Drave, from the force of Phœbus' boyling ray,
Into thick shadowes, there themselves to lay.
To an high mountaine's top he with them went,
Where thickest grasse did cloathe the open hills;
They now amongst the woods and thickets ment,
Now in the valleies, wandring at their wills,
Spread themselves farre abroad thro' each descent;
Some on the soft greene grasse feeding their fills,
Some clamoring through the hollow cliffes on hy,
Nibble the bushie shrubs which growe thereby.
Others the utmost boughs of trees doe crop,
And brouze the woodbine twigges that freshly bud;
This with full bit doth catch the utmost top
Of some soft willow, or new growen stud;
This with sharp teeth the bramble leaves doth lop,
And chaw the tender prickles in her cud,
The whiles another high doth overlooke
Her own like image in a christall brooke.
How beautiful, too, is Forest scenery now! But it is always beautiful—whether in budding and vernal Spring—green and leafy Summer—many-tinted Autumn—or snow-wreathed Winter. Yet Summer is the time of all others when one fancies how blithely Robin Hood and his merry men lived in the bonny greenwood; and we feel more than ever the oppressive gloomy closeness of the thickly-peopled town. It is in glad Summer weather that we are most ready to exclaim—
Oh, come from the city, and live with me,
Merrily under the greenwood tree;
Where the antlered stag is the lord of all,
And the old trees shelter the squirrel small;
And the birds are filling the breezy air
With songs of rapture.—Come with us there!
The soft green grass shall our carpet be,
O'er canopied high by the forest-tree;
And bank and brooklet, and far-off scene,
Like pictures shall show round our haunt, I ween,
And wind-flowers, and day's-eyes, and lilies fair,
And woodbines and briar-roses sweet and rare,
Shall be bower and garden.—Come with us there!
Spenser's "Shepheard's Calender" has many exquisite sketches of scenery, and in his June we find Hobbinol thus describing his favourite retreat.
Lo! Colin, here the place whose plesaunt syte
From other shades hath weand my wandring minde,
Tell mee, what wants mee here to worke delyte?
The simple ayre, the gentle warbling winde,
So calme, so coole, as no where else I find;
The grassie grounde with daintie daysies dight,
The bramble bush, where byrdes of every kinde
To the waters fall their tunes attemper right.
Beautiful, in their rich, and calm, and sunlit Summer pride, are the rural scenes of our own dear England. Beautiful, even, is the memory of spots we have transiently beheld in such a season; for though we may dwell in them but an hour, we remember them for a life: and often do they rise before the mind's eye like pictures, gladdening many a lonely hour with their silent and dreamy eloquence; telling of the thousand "changes of time and tide," which we have seen and felt, since we gazed on the bright realities; and proving how precious is that spirit's wealth we gain from communion, however brief, with the beauty, purity, and holiness of nature—
Imagination's momentary spell
Calls up a well-known scene—Oh! 'tis so fair,
So very real—we might wander there.
Come, let us rest on yon rude stile, where stand
The village children, and look o'er the sea
Of golden-coloured grain, that waves beneath
The gentle breath of the soft Summer's day;
Then, turning, glance upon those noble trees,
Between whose gnarled trunks the winding road
Leads onward, shaded and sunlit by turns,—
Chequered like life, but far more pleasantly.
Or, if the corn-field's bright blest English face
More lure ye than the beaten path-way, cross
That wealth o'er-laden treasury,—and then,
Pausing awhile, where rises the church-tower,
Ivied, and hoar, above the girdling wood,
On, to the hills away! until the brow
Of the o'er-crowning one lies neath your feet.
And, leaning, breath-spent, on the turf, look round;
First, earth-ward, where the human dwellings lie
Basking in sunlight;—then upon the hills,
Whose swelling sides, uprising, woo the clouds
In time of tempest, and enclothe themselves
With storm and darkness as a wintry garb,
To be flung off and uncreated by
The first glad smiles of Spring-like sunniness.
Mountains, those perpetual thrones of sublimity and grandeur, acquire new beauty in this splendid season—the noon of the year. The rare plants peculiar to their rugged heights are mostly in bloom, and the wild thyme and the heather spread over waste and moorland their treasures of purple and crimson flowers,—making glad many a solitary place, and cheering the wanderer as he climbs crag above crag, till, from the crest of some mighty rock, he gains a scene of glory that were reward sufficient for thrice the labour he has spent. Perhaps his gaze is on one of the many spots of which England loves to boast, and justly too, that even the fabled happy Vale of Rasselas would suffer by comparison. Often such a scene gains added beauty from some stupendous work of other days, Castle, or Abbey's grey monastic pile; and how many thoughts do these mouldering remnants suggest? How strangely beautiful it is to see flowers of the gayest hues dancing in the light breeze, and flinging round their young perfume over the lingering death-bed of a thing of centuries!—The Wallflower, the Clove Pink, and the Snap-dragon, especially, may be seen growing in the most luxuriant profusion amid such spots, and literally making a garden of a grave. Daisies and Buttercups grow in the mouldered stone of the windows—Nettles spring on the sides of the crumbling buttress, and trees may often be seen waving their long arms from tower and donjon, as if in mockery of the flaunting banners of other days;—and the noisy jack-daws and downy, spectre-like owls, are the only disturbers of the utter silence, where formerly
Knights and dames in bower and hall
Held stately sport and festival.
Or where the solemn chant of the mass, and the far-heard vesper-bell told that many a "Friar of orders grey" there bent in "prayer and penance oft."
In no place or season can the triumph of nature over art be so vividly expressed. The proud fabric of man's ambition, toil, and ingenuity, totters and decays; while the frailest of Nature's works, the delicate flower, whose individual life is but a day, springs, ever renewed, in undiminished vigour.
I remember, where the bosomy hills
Lie, spreading in their fertile gladness round
A massive buttressed pile of other days,
That now in age is mould'ring: while the hills,
The ancient hills, which saw that Abbey rise
In its first youthful grandeur from the earth,
And still have looked upon it, year by year,
Are still as brightly verdant—still as rich
In the full time of harvest—still as young,
When Spring's light finger wreaths their lofty brows
With her sweet, gem-like flowers,—as when at first,
In their slow-growing infancy, those towers
Caught the fair sunlight on their unrent sides.
So while Art's noblest works are born and die,
Nature's renewèd youth outlasteth all.
The radiant Summer far exceeds the gladsome Spring in her garden beauties; some few of them—alas! that they are few—we must gossip about presently: meanwhile we cannot do better than read, at the same time fancy, this very fanciful description of Panglorie's Garden, by Giles Fletcher; 1610.
The garden like a ladie faire was cut,
That lay as if she slumbered in delight,
And to the open skies her eyes did shut.
The azure fields of heaven were 'sembled right
In a large round, set with the flowers of light:
The flow'rs de luce, and the round sparks of dew,
That hung upon their azure leaves, did show
Like twinkling starrs, that sparkle in the evening blew.
Upon a hillie bank her head she cast,
On which the bowre of Vain-delight was built.
White and red roses for her face wear plac't,
And for her tresses marigolds were spilt:
Them broadly she displaied, like flaming guilt,
Till in the ocean the glad day wear drowned;
Then up again her yellow locks she wound,
And with greene fillets in their prettie cauls them bound.
Why should I here depeint her lillie-hand,
Her veines of violets, her ermine brest,
Which there in orient colours living stand;
Or how her gowne with silken leaves is drest,
Or how her watchman, armed with boughie crest,
A wall of prim hid in his bushes bears,
Shaking at every winde theire leavie spears,
While she supinely sleeps; ne to be waked fears?
The sculptor of old proposed to make a statue of Mount Athos; this landscape-gardening Poet, spreading his sleeping lady over several acres, had a similar taste for collossal portraiture; but his flowers are disposed with infinite grace and poetic beauty. He very sweetly alludes to the Marigold closing at night, and partially hiding its golden petals within the green calyx, by saying that the ladie wound up her yellow locks, and hid them in a green caul or cap.
The "garden-queen," the Rose, outvies even the dainty Violet in the number and enthusiasm of her laureates; she is indeed unrivalled, both in popular and poetical fame; nor has she yet lost much of her renown, for a rarity in literature would be that poem, if of any length, which should fail to offer its homage at her fair and fragrant shrine. This favourite of gods and men, the emblem of love and beauty, and the mute but expressive monitress that "all that's bright must fade," has been in all ages the unwearying theme of the Poets, from the gay odes of Anacreon to the quaint moralizing songs and sonnets of our old English writers; and from them, through a long and glorious vista of names, illustrious among the mind's nobility, down to the present time, with its few great and countless lesser lights.
Spenser's sweetest allusion to the Rose is in this "lovely lay" from his Faërie Queen; it is very beautiful.
The whiles some one did chaunt this lovely lay:—
"Ah! see, whoso fayre thing doest faine to see,
In springing flowre the image of thy day!
Ah! see the virgin Rose, how sweetly shee
Doth first peep foorth with bashfull modestee,
That fairer seems the lesse ye see her may.
Lo! see soone after, how more bold and free
Her bared bosome she doth broad display.
Lo! see soone after, how she fades and falls away!
"So passeth, in the passing of a day
Of mortall life, the leafe, the bud, the flowre;
Ne more doth florish after first decay,
That earth was sought to deck both bed and bowre
Of many a lady and many a paramoure.
Gather therefore the rose whilest yet is prime,
For soone comes age, that will her pride deflowre:
Gather the rose of love whilest yet is time,
Whilest loving thou mayst loved be with equal crime."
Well does the excelling beauty and exquisite perfume of this praised flower merit our admiration. We may say with the Poets, Beaumont and Fletcher—
Nature picked several flowers from her choice banks,
And bound them up in thee—sending thee forth
A posy for the bosom of a queen.
In the garden scene already quoted from, in the "Two Noble Kinsmen," is this exceedingly poetic and graceful passage; it has few equals.
|Emilia.||Of all flowers|
Methinks a Rose is best.
|Servant.||Why, gentle Madam?|
|Emilia.||It is the very emblem of a maid:|
For when the west wind courts her gently,
How modestly she blows, and paints the sun
With her chaste blushes! When the north comes near her.
Rude and impatient, then, like Chastity,
She locks her beauties in her bud again,
And leaves him to base briars.
Shakspeare, in his "Love's Labour Lost," has this pretty and gallant speech, made by the courteous Boyet to the Princess and her ladies when masking:—
Fair ladies masked are roses in their bud:
Dismasked, their damask sweet commixture shown,
Are angels veiling clouds, or roses blown.
The beauty and perfume of the Rose are celebrated in those sweet sonnets of Shakspeare, so familiar to all lovers of true and graceful poetry.
Oh! how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses;
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly,
When Summer's breath their masked buds discloses.
But for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo'd, and unrespected fade;
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so,
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distils your truth.
Nor did I wonder at the lilies white,
Nor praise the deep vermillion in the rose;
They were but sweet, the figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
The forward violet I thus did chide:—
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love's breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells,
In my love's veins thou hast too grossly dy'd
The Lily I condemned for thy hand,
And buds of Marjoram had stol'n thy hair.
The Roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stolen of both,
And to his robbery had annex'd thy breath;
But for his theft, in pride of all his growth,
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,
But sweet or colour it had stolen from thee.
The two following sonnets are very elegant examples of the moralizing vein among the Bards of the olden time; who, to say truth, were generally speaking, more prone to coin new and quaint compliments to ladye's charms while in their morning beauty, than to offer trite and unpalatable warnings of the decay and departure of such fleeting fascinations. The first, by Samuel Daniel (1562), concludes (as all proper sonnets should do) with what the lady addressed would gladly believe the cream and object of the effusion, but the preceding lines describing the Rose, and the havoc which "swift speedy time" makes in youthful loveliness, are exceedingly touching and graceful.
Look, Delia, how w' esteem the half-blown rose,
The image of thy blush and Summer's honour,
Whilst yet her tender bud doth
That full of beauty time bestows upon her;
No sooner spreads her beauty in the air,
But straight her wide-blown pomp comes to decline;
She then is scorned who late adorned the fair:
So fade the roses in those cheeks of thine,
No April can revive the withered flowers,
Whose springing grace adorns thy glory now;
Swift speedy time, feather'd with flying hours,
Dissolves the beauty of the fairest brow.
Then do not thou such treasure waste in vain,
But love now, whilst thou mayest be loved again.
Sir Richard Fanshawe (1607) addresses the fair flower herself on her vain display of loveliness, thus presenting an attractive fable to his gentle readers who could not well avoid perceiving the hidden moral.
Thou blushing rose, within whose virgin leaves
The wanton wind to sport himself presumes,
Whilst from their rifled wardrobe he receives
For his wings purple, for his breath perfumes;
Blown in the morning, thou shalt fade ere noon,
What boots a life which in such haste forsakes thee
Thou'rt wondrous frolic, being to die so soon,
And passing proud a little colour makes thee.
If thee thy brittle beauty so deceives,
Know then, the thing that swells thee is thy bane;
For that same beauty doth in bloody leaves
The sentence of thy early death contain.
Some clown's coarse lungs will poison thy sweet flower,
If by the careless plough thou shalt be torn;
And many Herods lie in wait each hour
To murder thee as soon as thou art born,
Nay, force thy bud to blow, their tyrant breath
Anticipating life, to hasten death.
The cheek of Beauty has ever been the allotted throne of this floral queen, and so it is, and will be; but alas! in many a fair face, the vermeil blush has given place to a pallid hue. 'Tis in the morning sunshine, and the hilly breeze, that the true-tinted rose is worn; but its fresh hues fade and blanch in the crowded saloon or the heated ball. It is of few votaries of dissipation's order that Herrick could say—
One asked me where the roses grew,
I bade him not go seek,
But forthwith bade my Julia show
A bud in either cheek.
In order to display their own elegant invention in explanatory fables, the classic Bards of old feign the Rose to have been originally white; and divers are the causes assigned for its change of complexion. Herrick, versifying one fancy, tells us—
'Tis said, as Cupid daunc't among
The gods, he down the nectar flung;
Which on the white rose being shed,
Made it for ever after red.
Another legend is, that Venus, hastening to protect Adonis, trod on the thorns of the rose, and, her foot being wounded, a few drops of her celestial blood served to make the flowers blush ever after for their cruelty to their patron divinity. Some Poets suppose the Rose to have sprung first, on this occasion, from the tears of Venus. Sir Walter Raleigh plaintively introduces this tradition in his poem of "the Shepherd to the Flowers."
Vermillion roses, that with new dayes rise,
Display your crimson folds, fresh looking faire,
Whose radiant bright disgraces
The rich adorned rayes of roseate rising morne!
Ah! if her virgin's hand
Do pluck your purse ere Phœbus view the land,
And vaile your gracious pompe in lovely nature's scorne;
If chance my mistresse traces
Fast by your flowres to take the Sommer's ayre,
Then wofull blushing, tempt her glorious eyes
To spread their teares, Adonis' death reporting,
And tell Love's torments, sorrowing for her friend,
Whose drops of blood, within your leaves consorting,
Report fair Venus' moanes to have no end;
Then may remorse, in pittying of my smart,
Drie up my teares, and dwell within her heart.
Herrick, in one of his many complimentary fancies, thus accounts for the Rose's change of colour, and the thought seems to have become public property since his day, for we find it versified in divers manners by bards of all degrees—
Roses at first were white,
Till they could not agree
Whether my Sappho's breast
Or they more white should be.
But, being vanquished quite,
A blush their cheeks bespread;
Since which, believe the rest,
The roses first came red.
Being dedicated to the goddess of beauty and god of love, the Rose often plays her part in the tender and sentimental scenes so especially patronized by those tutelar divinities, and many an oft-used but still current simile is drawn from the blushing hue, the surpassing loveliness, and the cruel thorns of the fair emblem-flower. When that reckless contemner of female charms, Memnon, the "Mad Lover" of Beaumont and Fletcher, sees the beautiful Calis, and, after gazing in mute astonishment and adoration at such a vision of light, exclaims, "Good Lady, kiss me!"—the flattered and amused Princess replies with poetic as well as witty elegance,
"Kiss you at first, my Lord? 'Tis no fair fashion;
Our lips are like rose-buds, blown with men's breaths—
They lose both sap and savour;—here's my hand, Sir."
The term "under the rose," applied to any secret transaction, is perhaps not generally known to be of classic origin. Cupid, once on a time, wishing to gain assistance from Harpocrates, the god of silence, gave him the rose, by way of bribe; and from this circumstance, the custom formerly prevalent among some nations, of suspending a rose from the ceilings of rooms in which secret meetings were held, is evidently derived; and hence the familiar expression, "under the rose," which is very insignificant unless the origin of it be known.
The Persian and Arabian Bards abundantly celebrate the Rose in their elegant and figurative poems; and the Bulbul, or Nightingale, being the supposed lover of this beautiful flower, the description of their mutual faith, unrivalled perfections, and long-enduring love, occupies no small space in the works of Hafiz and his disciples. The celebrated hundred-leaved Rose of the East, and the "Feast of Roses," have been made familiar to us by the mention of them in modern works of deserved fame. It would not become so true-hearted a lover of our own dear land as myself to forget that, while gay France entwines her brow with the Fleur-de-lis—Scotland, bonny Scotland, with the Thistle—and green Erin, that emerald gem on the blue sea's breast, has her modest Shamrock—England wreaths her diadem with the queenly Rose. Would that the memory of that emblem were undimmed—that we might look upon our Rose and know its fair fame was unspotted, its leaves unstained by the blood of England's children; but the struggles of the factions, who bore for badges in civil warfare the Red and White Roses, have left an ineffaceable blot upon the annals of both realm and flower. Shakspeare rather lengthily records the choice of the Roses on this occasion, but in terms of less beauty than his thoughts are usually arrayed in.
Herrick, in his "Parliament of Roses," ordains that their place, and that of the rest of the flowers, should be Julia's bosom; an invasion of sweets which would be more available to the garden portrait of a "Ladie faire" (quoted from Fletcher), than to any mortal Dame of such fair proportions as, from her Poet-Lover's numerous compliments, we must imagine the gentle Julia,
THE PARLIAMENT OF ROSES.—TO JULIA.
I dream't the Roses one time went
To meet and sit in Parliament;
The place for these, and for the rest
Of flowers, was thy spotlesse breast.
Over the which a state was drawn
Of tiffanie, on cob-web lawne;
There in that parly, all those powers
Voted the Rose the queen of flowers;
But so, as that herself should be
The maide of honour unto thee.
In "The Gentleman of Venice," by Shirley (a dramatic writer of great merit but small popularity), is this very lively and poetic dialogue between a fair Lady and a young Gardener:—
|Belaura.||You are conceited, Sirra, does wit grow in this garden?|
|Georgio.||Yea, Madam, while I am in it, I am a slip myself.|
|Bel.||Of rosemary or thyme?|
|Geo.||Of wit, sweet madam.|
|Bel.||'Tis pity, but thou shoulds't be kept with watering.|
|Geo.||There's wit in every flower, if you can gather it.|
|Bel.||I am of thy mind,|
But what's the wit, prethee, of yonder tulip?
|Geo.||You may read there the wit of a young courtier;|
Pride, and show of colours, a fair promising,
Deare when 'tis bought, and quickly comes to nothing.
|Bel.||The wit of that rose?—|
|Geo.||If you attempt, Madam, to pluck a Rose, I shall find a moral in't.—|
Signior Georgio expecting that in gathering the Rose the Lady would wound her hand, and thus show that pain often succeeds to pleasure.
Although not entirely in praise of the Rose, the following sonnet of Spencer is so good and graceful that I shall quote it here:—
Sweet is the Rose, but grows upon a Brere;
Sweet is the Juniper, but sharp his bough;
Sweet is the Eglantine, but pricketh nere;
Sweet is the Firbloome, but his braunches rough;
Sweet is the Cypresse, but his rynd is tough;
Sweet is the Nut, but bitter is his pill,
Sweet is the Broome-flower, but yet sowre enough;
And sweet is Moly, but his root is ill.
So every sweet with soure is temper'd still,
That maketh it be coveted the more,
For easie things, that may be got at will,
Most sorts of men do set but little store.
Why then should I accompt of little paine,
That endlesse pleasure shall unto me gaine!
In a very beautiful but I believe anonymous poem of the time of Charles I. is so elegant an allusion to the Rose, that I shall make it my concluding extract from these records of the Garden Queen; especially as the warning tone may be listened to, with equal propriety, by the gay and "inconstant" fair ones of the present day as by their predecessors, the coquettes of the olden time.
I do confess thou'rt smooth and fair,
And I might have gone near to love thee,
Had I not found the slightest prayer
That lips could speak, had power to move thee:
But I can let thee now alone
As worthy to be loved by none.
I do confess thee sweet, yet find
Thou'rt such an unthrift of thy sweets,
Thy favours are but like the wind,
That kisseth every thing it meets;
And since thou canst by more than one,
Thou'rt worthy to be kissed by none.
The morning Rose, that untouched stands,
Armed with her briars, how sweetly smells!
But plucked and strained thro' ruder hands
Her sweet no longer with her dwells.
Her scent and beauty both are gone,
And leaves fell from her one by one.
Such fate, ere long, will thee betide,
When thou hast handled been awhile!
Like sere flowers to be thrown aside,
And I shall sigh, and some will smile
To see thy love to every one
Hath brought thee to be loved by none!
The pretty single Rose, from which my illustrative drawing was made, was more nearly free from thorns than any I have yet seen: indeed I could not find any of the "sharp spines" on its smooth stem, but I will not offend the manes of the moral and amatory Bards of old, by asserting the entire absence of Beauty's attendant evils.
Next follows, in this our humble portrait gallery of Flora's fair children, the pure Jasmine; one among the chosen plants in Milton's bower of Eden.
—— Each odorous bushy shrub
Fenced up the verdant wall; each beauteous flower,
Iris all hues, Roses and Jessamin,
Rear'd high their flourished heads between, and wrought
Mosaic. Under foot the Violet,
Crocus and Hyacinth, with rich inlay,
Broider'd the ground, more coloured than with stone
Of costliest emblem.
Though born beneath a sunnier sky, and nourished by a kindlier soil than ours, yet the pure, the fragrant, the modest, maidenly Jasmine has become unto us as an old familiar friend, and is now as well known, and as frequently seen climbing round the cottage-porch, as our own luscious Honeysuckle, I love to see them twining together, the stranger and the native, and wooing into kindly companionship the delicate China-rose, with her clustered blossoms of faint pink, contrasting so well with the deep rich crimson of the unclosed buds.
We derive another pleasure, even greater than the fair flowers themselves can give, when we see the walls of many a lowly cottage which we pass in our Summer rambles, covered with sweet and often times rare plants, trained even along the thatched roof and round the chimney-stack, with their blossoms peering in at the open lattice, and hanging in draperies gayer and more graceful than ever decked a Royal Hall, over the rude rough-hewn door-way. When we see a Cottage so full of beauty without, we may safely conclude there is a guiding mind within; and drawing a natural comparison between the culture and propagation of plants and knowledge, we cannot but rejoice to see the Jasmine, which on its first introduction into England was only attainable by the great and wealthy, for the adornment of their "Banqueting Houses," now equally possessed by the poor labourer, in his humble cabin garden. Nor can we see this, without gladly feeling that thoughts and things far more precious have spread to an equal extent, and are now alike available to Prince and Peasant.
Certainly, among the many heart-cheering sights which meet the eyes of the rambler in our favoured England, none are more pleasing than the trim-looking and fragrant little garden-plots fronting the modest and picturesque dwellings on each side the village-street. In many situations in the vicinity of Horticultural Societies, the offered prizes stimulate the cottagers to vie with each other in the culture and production of fine specimens, and the display of choice flowers in these little borders is such as to throw far into the shade the auriculas, tulips, anemones, stock-gilliflowers, flaunting holly-hocks, carnations, and all the other fragrant denizens of the "Squire's garden" or the "Rectory." The profusion of China-rosetrees beside the cottage doors is quite a feature in the landscape in many parts of England; and how beautiful and gratifying a one it is those best know who love the glory of flowers and the pleasure of fellow-beings as dearly as the writer.
The large yellow Jasmine (with which the white is grouped in the drawing) seems quite a different flower from her virgin relative, whose wreath of pearly stars cannot be approached in loveliness by the golden diadem of the more gaily-coloured variety. Both are natives of India.
I know of no fable connected with the Jasmine, but have sometimes fancied that the hue of the yellow ones came of jealousy; and Herrick, in a quatrain, entitled, "Why flowers change colour," seems somewhat of my mind—
These fresh beauties, we can prove,
Once were virgins sick of love;
Turned to flowers, still in some
Colours goe and colours come.
We must quit the garden's trim walks and flower-beds, if we would seek our next fair subject in its favourite haunts; for the fragrant and beautiful Wall-flower, the Cheiranthus Cheiri of botanists, loves to dwell amid the relics of past magnificence, to hide the dismantled ruins with its robe of green and gold, and to crown with its wealth of blossoms the mouldering walls and towers of our old abbeys and castles, where
—— "Beautiful it blooms,
Gleaming above the ruin'd tower,
Like sunlight over tombs."
I have myself gathered its exquisitely perfumed flowers on the Elizabethan Kenilworth; aye, even in her Majesty's chamber, and from the far-famed and peerless banquet-hall (once decked with other fabrics than the interlacing stems of ivy and wild flowers); I have found it blooming on the crumbling battlements of Conway Castle; springing from crannies in the proud and royal Eagle Tower of Caernarvon—and many another departing monument of royal and feudal magnificence and might in Cambria's mountain-realm; at Ludlow, the noble Castle Hall, where Milton's Masque of Comus was first represented, is richly adorned with the starry golden flowers. Goodrich and Magland equally share its bright smiles illumining their dim recesses, and crowning either ancient Keep with annual garlands; at Chepstow, it enwreaths the dim prison-house of Henry Marten; at Tintern,—that relic of surpassing beauty,—the Wall-flowers seem to revel in luxuriance, and as the light Summer breeze comes sighing through the ivied tracery of the windows, it brings with it a gush of fragrance, far excelling the incense that was wont to float through the "long-drawn aisle" in times of yore.
And where the golden censers high had flung
Their fragrant clouds around the imaged throne,
The wall-flower shed its perfume, as it clung,
And waved in wild luxuriance o'er the stone
Chafed by the storms of years; an emblematic bloom,
A halo coronal of light o'er grandeur's tomb.
The Wall-flower is very appropriately considered the emblem of love in adversity, for it never appears on the stately pile in its day of pride and grandeur; but when the buttresses fall, and the walls totter, and desolation reigns over the decaying glories of a bye-gone time, then the flower brings its beauty and fragrance to gladden the solitary place, and by its cheerful smiles to rob the sad scene of half its gloom.
So far we have looked on the serious and sentimental character of the Wall-flower; but now Master Herrick shall give us a somewhat different view of the subject in a fable "of his own composing."
HOW THE WALL-FLOWER CAME FIRST, AND WHY SO CALLED.
Why this flower is now called so,
List, sweet maids, and you shall know.
Understand, this firstling was
Once a brisk and bonny lasse,
(Kept as close as Danæ was;)
Who a sprightly springall lov'd
And, to have it fully prov'd,
Up she got upon a wall,
Tempting down to slide withall;
But the silken twist unty'd,
So she fell, and bruis'd, she dy'd.
Love, in pity of the deed,
And her loving lucklesse speed,
Changed her to this plant, we call
Now, the Flower of the Wall.
The Pimpernel, which I have grouped with the Wall-flower in the plate, is also a wild flower of English growth; and few are more brilliantly, none more minutely, beautiful. The scarlet Pimpernel, the Anagallis arvensis of botanists, is also called by the pretty rustic name of the "poor man's weather-glass," from the susceptibility possessed by the flowers causing them to close at the approach of damp or rainy weather; and "on this hint I spake," in the illustrative poem.
The blue Pimpernel, A. cærulea, is also represented in the engraving; that, as likewise the pink and white varieties, are natives of Britain, but not found nearly so often as the A. arvensis—the bright scarlet, which is very common in corn-fields and among hedge plants. By cultivation, the corolla of the anagallis is produced very much larger than in the wild state; but in this, and many similar cases, I prefer the simple original plant to any new or educated variety.
To the peerless beauty of the River-queen, the pure and stately White Water-Lily, let us next pay homage due, as to the loveliest of Flora's gifts to our zone. In the splendid "Flora Londinensis," of Hooker, I find the following interesting "memoir" of this exquisite flower:—
"This truly beautiful plant, which may vie with the most splendid productions of the tropics, is familiar to every one, how little soever skilled in scientific botany, as an inhabitant of still pools and sluggish streams in almost every part of Great Britain. But it is in the little bays and inlets, the quiet recesses of Alpine lakes, that it is seen in the greatest perfection. On the banks of Loch Lomond, I have beheld acres literally covered with this lovely plant, which almost conceals the water with its large dark green floating leaves; these, again, forming an admirable contrast to the pure white of the blossoms, which rise just above them. In Holland, perhaps, only does the Nymphæa, there called the White Rose of the Waters, occur in greater profusion, where the canals are bordered and almost choked with it for miles; and its increasing so rapidly as to impede navigation is only prevented by the practice of cutting down the stems of the Water-Lilies twice every year. This plant blossoms in the Summer months, and the flowers are fully expanded in the middle of the day, closing in the afternoon, and sinking somewhat below the surface of the water during the night, which last fact, long reported, has finally been verified by Sir James Smith.
"Very similar to this species in the flower, but differing from it in the toothed leaves, is the Nymphæa Lotus, the Lotus of the Egyptians, by which people, as well as by the natives of India, it is held so sacred that the latter were seen to prostrate themselves on entering the study of Sir William Jones, where a flower of it chanced to be lying. The seeds, as well as the roots, are said to be eaten in those countries. From the leaves and flowers Sturm, in his Deutschland Flora, assures us that the Turkish ladies prepare an agreeable drink."
After so admirable a description I have little left to say of my favourite flower, which, in pure and stately beauty, is truly "the Queen all flowers among," the Empress of the River, the "Lady of the Lake." How few, if any, of our foreign acquisitions to the garden and conservatory, approach in loveliness to this native of our Highland lochs and lowland streams! And there is something in its appearance of elegant luxurious refinement,—if I may be allowed so to speak of nature,—for flowering as it does, in the noon of Summer, when many spots are parched with drought, the Lily is refreshingly beautiful, reclining on the placid bosom of the water, her fair head pillowed on the spreading leaves, and gently undulating, as a tiny wavelet glides along the sunlit, glittering surface. The scent of the Lily, though faint, is exceedingly sweet; thus adding rich qualities to its rare charms.
The Yellow Water Lily, the Nuphar Lutea, is also beautiful, when not thrown into the shade by the peerless loveliness of its "white bosomed" relative. The leaves are equally fine, though different in form, being more arrow-shaped; but the flower is little more than a fourth part the size of the majestic Nymphæa. Many of our water-plants are highly ornamental and interesting; the tall and rare-flowering Rush may rank next to the Lily in beauty; and the yellow Iris, or Water-flag, the delicate Arrow-head, purple Loose-strife, and "foam-like" Meadow-sweet, with "the blue and bright-eyed floweret of the brook, Hope's gentle gem, the fair Forget-me-not," deck our river and lake banks with their rich enamel of rainbow-hues, and tremble in the sunshine, under the light feet of the dragon fly, as he darts, like a bright meteor, from leaf to flower; while the less brilliant but busy bee goes more heavily along, murmuring her story of industry and prudent foresight; and the gay ephemeron revels away her day's life in merry sport, without care or fear. Shelley, in his dream of flowers, has an exquisite peep of such a spot:—
And nearer to the river's trembling edge
There grew broad flag-flowers, purple prank'd with white,
And starry river-buds among the sedge,
And floating Water-Lilies, broad and bright,
Which lit the oak that overhung the edge
With moonlight beams of their own watery light;
And bulrushes and reeds of so deep green,
As soothed the dazzled eye with sober sheen.
Shakspeare beautifully describes a like scene, in Hamlet, when the Queen relates the manner of Ophelia's death. The passage is familiar to all—but few will object to its repetition here:—
There is a Willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream:
There with fantastic garlands did she come,
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daysies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead-men's fingers call them:
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down the weedy trophies, and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indu'd
Unto that element; but long it could not be,
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
In Beaumont and Fletcher's "Two noble Kinsmen," is a scene which always forcibly reminds one of the above-quoted passage of Shakspeare. The jailor's daughter having become enamoured of Palamon, goes distraught at his escape from prison and desertion of her, and is seen sitting by the water-side by a neighbour, who thus relates her condition to her Father:—
As I late was angling
In the great Lake that lies behind the palace,
From the far shore, thick-set with reeds and sedges,
As patiently I was attending sport,
I heard a voice, a shrill one, and attentive
I gave my ear; when I might well perceive
'Twas one that sung, and by the smallness of it
A boy or woman. I then left my angle
To his own skill, came near, but yet perceived not
Who made the sound, the rushes and the reeds
Had so encompassed it; I laid me down
And listen'd to the words she sung; for then
Thro' a small glade cut by the fishermen
I saw it was your daughter.
She sung much, but no sense; only I heard her
Repeat this often: "Palamon is gone,
Is gone to the wood to gather mulberries,
I'll find him out to-morrow.
His shackles will betray him, he'll be taken;
And what shall I do then? I'll bring a beavy,
A hundred black-eyed maids that love as I do,
With chaplets on their heads of daffadillies,
With cherry lips, and cheeks like damask roses,
And all we'll dance an antic 'fore the Duke
And beg his pardon!" Then she talked of you, Sir;
That you must lose your head to-morrow morning,
And she must gather flowers to bury you,
And see the house made handsome. Then she sung
Nothing but "Willow, willow, willow;" and between
Ever was "Palamon, fair Palamon!"
And "Palamon was a tall young man."—The place
Was knee-deep where she sat; her careless tresses,
A wreath of bull-rush rounded; about her stuck
Thousand fresh-water flowers of several colours;
That methought she appeared like the fair nymph
That feeds the lake with waters; or as Iris,
Newly dropt down from Heaven! Rings she made
Of rushes that grew by, and to 'em spoke
The prettiest posies: "Thus our true love's tied,
This you may loose, not me," and many a one.
And then she wept, and sung again, and sighed,
And with the same breath smiled, and kist her hand.
"I said the Lily was the Queenly Flower," and here, as in allegiance bound, follow some of the gayest of the Floral Court—the richly-clad Geraniums. Fashion and culture have contributed so much to the aggrandizement of the beautiful tribe of Pelargoniums, or, as they are generally but erroneously called, Geraniums, that they now count a greater number of royal and illustrious titles in their family than any other species of flower can boast. The two branches who did me the honour of sitting for their portraits in the illustration, display a curious historical anachronism, being no less personages than the fair Ann Boleyn and the renowned patriot-king Caractacus.
The Lily and the Rose, so long unrivalled in the annals of Poesy, are no more the absolute monopolists they have been, for in these days a considerable share of metrical celebrity is awarded to the sentimental favourite of modern Poetasters, the Forget-me-not; which, delicate, and dear, and beautiful as it is, the indiscriminate eulogy and fashionable preeminence, now given to it, serve to render less pure and poetical in the eyes of the true votaries of Nature and Romance than many a yet unpraised flower. The very libellous portraits, or rather caricatures, of this fair favourite, exhibited in Albums and graphic delineations of all grades, with the universal spirit for "illustrating" the said libels, suggested the rather unromantic lines accompanying the plate in the present volume.
The Myosotis Palustris, Great Water Scorpion Grass, or true Forget-me-not, grows very abundantly beside most of our running brooks and rivers, the roots being chiefly in the loose watery mud of the banks. The flowers, which are of a delicate blue, appear in June and July; the leaves are smooth, without hairs on any part, and of a bright light green. I thus describe the features of the real Forget-me-not, because other species are continually being mistaken for the true one. Among other instances of this, the illustrator of a recent serious work on Flowers, although professedly a botanical draughtsman, gives the Myosotis Alpestris instead of the M. Palustris, and so exaggerates the hairy surface of the leaves that they seem equipped in winter clothing from some fairy-furriers. The rough-leaved Scorpion Grasses are found in sandy fields, on mountains, &c.; and a very minute kind flourishes in beautiful little tufts on old walls and ruins. The very origin of the name establishes the Myosotis Palustris as the real owner of the sentimental renown attached to it. The story is this—Two German Lovers were walking by a river (the Rhine, I believe), when the Lady seeing and wishing for a flower of the Myosotis Palustris, the Cavalier attempted to gather it for her, and in so doing slipped, and was drowned, exclaiming, as he sunk—"Vergils mich nicht!"—
My next group is formed of natives and foreigners, namely three African and two wild British Heaths: the former splendid in colours and magnitude, and the latter dear in their luxuriant and wild simplicity. Though bonny Scotland claims the Heather as her own especial emblem, and her moorlands and mountains are richly and gaily clad with its verdure and bloom, yet England and Wales are alike enlivened by its merry bells along many a tract of country otherwise bare and barren.
I shall not ask Jean Jacques Rousseau
If birds confabulate or no;
'Tis clear that they were always able
To hold discourse, at least in fable;
And e'en the child, who knows no better
Than to interpret by the letter
A story of a cock and bull,
Must have a most uncommon skull.
In like manner do I think it unnecessary to appeal either to philosophical authority or poetic licence for my frequent floral conversazioni, such as the 'Feuds among the Heather,' and the like, seeing we may quite as readily find sermons in flowers as in stones; and often do their fair lips speak as eloquently as "tongues in trees, or books in the running brooks."
The beautiful Commeline, whose bright celestial blue I have attempted to account for by a fanciful fairy-tale, well merits its name Cœlestis, for of all the blue flowers of garden or greenwood, this wears the clearest and brightest tint. It is pure ultramarine, and the delicate cruciform anthers of vivid yellow, with the peculiar construction of the whole flower, give it a most elegant and gay appearance. The individual flowers are short-lived; opening at sunrise, they fade in the intense heat of noon, and shrivel away, being succeeded by others, closely hidden in the large green sheath until ready to expand, and reminding one of little half-fledged birds in a nest.
The small Convolvulus, represented in the same plate with the Commeline, is a very common species: it does not attain nearly the height of the large white Bindweed, but creeps plentifully about banks, hedges, and fields, twining round bents of grass, or any thing capable of lending support to its circling stems. The small and graceful flowers are tinged with faint and deeper shades of pink, like the inside of some delicate tropical shells, which they almost resemble as they peep from the footpaths we are treading on.
The splendid Passion-Flowers next demand our notice in these remarks on the subjects selected for pictorial and poetic illustration. The rich crimson one is named Buonapartia, the two others, purple and white, are the Racemosa Cærulea, and Colvillii. The lines accompanying this group might, perhaps, induce some of my readers to regret my seeming ignorance of the whimsical but much-patronized fancy, that the Passion-flower is a natural tablet,—a medal struck by nature in memory of the Crucifixion. This idea I have often seen, both in prose and poetry; and it is not from ignorance of it, but doubt of its propriety, that my illustration has other allusions. I shall, perhaps, be told, that it is but a fable, and should have been allowed a place at least in a work where so many fables and fanciful legends are assembled; but the subject is too serious to rank with the mere fanciful creations of our classic mythologists and quaint poets. For myself, I consider the fancy the most groundless that has yet been linked with the fair tribes of Flora. Even had the Passion-flowers been natives of Palestine, the notion would have more apparent reason, but they are denizens of the wild forests of a world undiscovered till centuries after the event they are said to commemorate. There are many flowers, too, with cruciform parts, quite as aptly emblematical as this splendid tribe, which bears no analogy to the subject but in its triple-headed stigma. The petals are ten in number, the anthers five, and the long pencilled threads of the star-like nectary are various in number, and almost countless in many varieties. I shall therefore leave the emblem study of the beautiful Passiflora to minds more superstitiously imaginative than my own; content to read, humbly and adoringly, in the meanest herb and the frailest flower given to me by nature's lavish hand, His power and might, who clothed them all in their wondrous beauty, and who bestowed on us the yet more wonderful senses, enabling us to see, admire, and enjoy it:—
Was it not ever one of nature's glories,
Nay, her great piece of wonder, that amongst
So many millions, millions of her works,
She gave the eye distinction to cull out
The one from other?
Beaumont and Fletcher.
The last of my Summer sketches contains two of the Mallow family, flowers of the Lavatera Arborea; and, if grace of form or delicate beauty always received their merited praise, these fair things would have their poetic or legendary tale to tell. As it is, in these unjust times, I cannot conjure up one name of Bardic Chivalrie whose "troops of the line" may do efficient service to the flowers who are now my clients; for no mythological nor theological fables have yet contributed to render illustrious their genealogical tree. But their own welcome luxuriance and delicate beauty need no other claim on our admiration.
The Mallow is, in floral emblems, used to personify a "sweet disposition," and in that character, remembering all its other good and graceful qualities (and more than any flower possesses), it may well image to me the beloved and faithful friend, whose gentle hand laid upon my desk the originals of the illustrative drawing; and whose ever kind and cheering voice is as welcome to my ear as her prized affection is dear to my heart.
The Ivy-leaved Bell-flower, represented in the Mallow group, is an indigenous plant, growing in moist shaded situations, by no means common. It is found creeping about stones, and among the damp moss of fountains or rocky borders of rivulets, where its delicate little bells of palest blue wave in "every wind that under heaven doth blow."
Though not illustrative of the flower, the following description of a spot similar to those where we most often find it, may claim a place here; it is from the "Faithful Shepherdess" of Beaumont and Fletcher:—
For to that holy wood is consecrate
A virtuous well, about whose flowery banks
The nimble-footed Fairies dance their rounds
By the pale moonshine; dipping oftentimes
Their stolen children, for to make them free
From dying flesh and dull mortality.
By this fair fount hath many a shepherd sworn
And given away his freedom; many a troth
Been plight, which neither envy nor old time
Could ever break, with many a chaste kiss, given
In hope of coming happiness. By this
Fresh fountain many a blushing maid
Hath crowned the head of her long-loved shepherd
With gaudy flowers, whilst he happy sung
Lays of his love and dear captivity.
Herrick devotes one of his little poems to the giving of directions "where he would have his verses read:" perhaps, if every author could so command, and be so obeyed, they would gain more fame, and their readers more pleasure. Following his very good example, I would, in all deference and humility, suggest to my kind and most gracious readers, that these simple lays and legends of Summer Flowers, however dull and profitless they may be, cannot fail of exciting interest in the realities they attempt to celebrate, if their perusal be vouchsafed in scenes such as gave them birth,—in their native haunts of the quiet shady wood, the breezy heath, or the rivers rim.
- Lord Morpeth.
- The Pimpernel, called familiarly "Poor-man's Weather-glass," closes in damp or rainy weather.
- "Lay floating many a rood."—Milton.
The cup was all filled, and the leaves were all wet,
And it seemed, to a fanciful view,
To weep for the buds it had left with regret,
On the flourishing bush where it grew.
- Myosotis Palustris.
- Myosotis Alpestris.
- The group contains two of our wild native heaths and three foreign ones.
- Alluding to the Passion-flower only expanding in sunshine.
- The White, or, as it is sometimes called, Blue Passion-flower, grows in luxuriant profusion about cottages in the south of England, and more especially in the Isle of Wight.
- One of the most brilliant red Passion-flowers chanced to be first brought to England on the birth-day of the late Princess Charlotte, and thence was called Passiflora Princeps.