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pity. We blink the question of beauty, and become one-eyed for his sake. Nature seems to do him an injustice in gifting him with sympathies so human, and at the same time preventing them from being answered; and we feel impatient with the all-beautiful Galatea, if we think she ever showed him scorn as well as unwillingness. We insist upon her avoiding him with the greatest possible respect.
These fictions of the poets, therefore, besides the mere excitement which they give the imagination, assist remotely to break the averseness and uncharitableness of human pride. And they may blunt the point of some fancies that are apt to come upon melancholy minds. When Sir Thomas Brown, in the infinite range of his metaphysical optics, turned his glass, as he no doubt often did, towards the inhabitants of other worlds, the stories of angels and Centaurs would help his imaginative good-nature to a more willing conception of creatures in other planets unlike those on earth; to other “lords of creation;” and other, and perhaps nobler humanities, noble in spirit, though differing in form. If indeed there can be anything in the starry endlessness of existence, nobler than what we can conceive of love and generosity.
XXXIV.-SPRING AND DAISIES.
SPRING, while we are writing, is complete. The winds have done their work. The shaken air, well tempered and equalised, has subsided; the genial rains, however thickly they may come, do not saturate the ground, beyond the power of the sun to dry it up again. There are clear crystal mornings; noons of blue sky and white cloud; nights, in which the growing moon seems to lie looking at the stars, like a young shepherdess at her flock. A few days ago she lay gazing in this manner at the solitary evening star, like Diana, on the slope of a valley, looking up at Endymion. His young eye seemed to sparkle out upon the world; while she, bending inwards, her hands behind her head, watched him with an enamoured dumbness.
But this is the quiet of Spring. Its voices and swift movements have come back also. The swallow shoots by us, like an embodied ardour of the season. The glowing bee has his will of the honied flowers, grappling with them as they tremble. We have not yet heard the nightingale or the cuckoo; but we can hear them with our imagination, and enjoy them through the content of those who have.
Then the young green. This is the most apt and perfect mark of the season, the true issuing forth of the Spring. The trees and bushes are putting forth their crisp fans; the lilac is loaded with bud; the meadows are thick with
the bright young grass, running into sweeps of white and gold with the daisies and buttercups. The orchards announce their riches, in a shower of silver blossoms. The earth in fertile woods is spread with yellow and blue carpets of primroses, violets, and hyacinths, over which the birch-trees, like stooping nymphs, hang with their thickening hair. Lilies-of-the-valley, stocks, columbines, ladysmocks, and the intensely red piony which seems to anticipate the full glow of summertime, all come out to wait upon the season, like fairies from their subterraneous palaces. Who is to wonder that the idea of love mingles itself with that of this cheerful and kind time of the year, setting aside even common associations? It is not only its youth, and beauty, and budding life, and “the passion of the groves,” that exclaim with the poet,
Let those love now, who never loved before;
All our kindly impulses are apt to have more sentiment in them, than the world suspect; and it is by fetching out this sentiment, and making it the ruling association, that we exalt the impulse into generosity and refinement, instead of degrading it, as is too much the case, into what is selfish, and coarse, and pollutes all our systems. One of the greatest inspirers of love is gratitude,-not merely on its common grounds, but gratitude for pleasures, whether consciously or unconsciously conferred. Thus we are thankful for the delight given us by a kind and sincere face; and if we fall in love with it, one great reason is, that we long to return what we have received. The same feeling has a considerable influence in the love that has been felt for men of talents, whose persons or address have not been much calculated to inspire it. In spring-time, joy awakens the heart: with joy, awakes gratitude and nature; and in our gratitude, we return, on its own principle of participation, the love that has been shown us. This association of ideas renders solitude in spring, and solitude in winter, two very different things. In the latter, we are better content
* Pervigilaum Veneris.-Parnell's translation.
From you have I been absent in the spring,
Shakspeare was fond of alluding to April. He did not allow May to have all his regard, because she was richer. Perdita, crowned with flowers, in the Winter's Tale, is beautifully compared to Flora, Peering in April's front.
There is a line in one of his sonnets, which, agreeably to the image he had in his mind, seems to strike up in one's face, hot and odorous, like perfume in a censer.
In process of the seasons have I seen
His allusions to Spring are numerous in proportion. We all know the song, containing that fine line, fresh from the most brilliant of pallets:— When daisies pied, and violets blue, And lady-smocks all silver white, And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, 190 paint the meadows with delight.
We owe a long debt of gratitude to the daisy; and we take this opportunity of discharging a millionth part of it. If we undertook to pay it all, we should have had to write such a book, as is never very likely to be written, a journal of numberless happy hours in childhood, kept with the feelings of an infant and the pen of a man. For it would take, we suspect, a depth of delight and a subtlety of words, to express even the vague joy of infancy, such as our learned departures from natural wisdom would find it more difficult to put together, than criticism and comfort, or an old palate and a young relish.-But knowledge is the widening and the brightening road that must conduct us back to the joys from which it led us; and which it is destined perhaps to secure and extend. We must not quarrel with its asperities, when we can help.
We do not know the Greek name of the daisy, nor do the dictionaries inform us; and we are not at present in the way of consulting books that might. We always like to see what the Greeks say to these things, because they had a sentiment in their enjoyments. The Latins called the daisy Bellis or Bellus, as much as to say Nice One. With the French and Italians it has the same name as a Pearl, —Marguerite, Margarita, or, by way of endear
ment, Margheretina". The same word was the name of a woman, and occasioned infinite intermixtures of compliment about pearls, daisies, and fair mistresses. Chaucer, in his beautiful poem of the Flower and the Leaf, which is evidently imitated from some French poetess, says, And at the laste there began anon A lady for to sing right womanly A bargarett in praising the daisie, For as me thought among her notes sweet, She said “Sidouset est la Margarete.”
“The Margaret is so sweet.” Our Margaret, however, in this allegorical poem, is undervalued in comparison with the laurel; yet Chaucer perhaps was partly induced to translate it on account of its making the figure that it does ; for he has informed us more than once, in a very particular manner, that it was his favourite flower. There is an interesting passage to this effect in his Legend of Good Women; where he says, that nothing but the daisied fields in spring could take him from his books.
And as for me, though that I cant but liter
He says that he finds it ever new, and that he shall love it till his “heart dies :” and afterwards, with a natural picture of his resting on the grass,
Adown full softeley Igan to sink,
This etymology, which we have no doubt is the real one, is repeated by Ben Jonson, who
* This word is originally Greek,-Margarites; and as the Franks probably brought it from Constantinople, perhaps they brought its association with the daisy also.
t Bargaret, Bergerette, a little pastoral.
# Know but little. § Dawneth. | Shaped.
takes occasion to spell the word “ days-eyes ;"
The freak is over; adding, with his usual tendency to overdo a
The freak will vanish, and behold!
A silver shield with boss of gold, matter of learning,
That spreads itself, some fairy bold
In fight to cover.
And then thou art a pretty star,
Not quite so fair as many are parodists :
In heaven above thee!
Yet like a star, with glittering crest,
Self-poised in air, thou seem'st to rest;-
May peace come never to his nest,
Who shall reprove thee. daisy with a passage from George Wither ; which, as it is an old favourite of ours, and Sweet flower! for by that name at last, extremely applicable both to this article and When all my reveries are past,
I call thee, and to that cleave fast; our whole work, we cannot deny ourselves the
Sweet silent creature ! pleasure of repeating. It is the more interest
That breath'st with me in sun and air, ing, inasmuch as it was written in prison, Do thou, as thou art wont, repair where the freedom of the author's opinions had My heart with gladness, and a share thrown him*. He is speaking of his Muse, or
Of thy meek nature.
Mr. Wordsworth calls the daisy “ an unas-
suming common-place of Nature," which it is ; I could some instruction draw,
and he praises it very becomingly for disAnd raise pleasure to the height
charging its duties so cheerfully, in that uni. From the meanest object's sight.
versal character. But we cannot agree with By the murmur of a spring,
him in thinking that it has a “homely face." Or the least bough's rustelling; By a daisy, whose leaves spread
Not that we should care, if it had; for homeShut, when Titan goes to bed ;
liness does not make ugliness ; but we appeal Or a shady bush or tree;
to everybody, whether it is proper to say this She could more infuse in me,
of la belle Marguerite. In the first place, its Than all Nature's beauties can In some other wiser man.
shape is very pretty and slender, but not too
much so. Then it has a boss of gold, set round Mr. Wordsworth undertakes to patronise the and irradiated with silver points. Its yellow Celandine, because nobody else will notice it; and fair white are in so high a taste of contrast, which is a good reason. But though he tells that Spenser has chosen the same colours for us, in a startling piece of information, that a picture of Leda reposing : Poets, vain men in their mood,
Oh wondrous skill and sweet wit of the man!
That her in daffodillies sleeping laid,
From scorching heat her dainty limbs to shade. yet he falls in with his old brethren of England and Normandy, and becomes loyal to the daisy.
It is for the same reason, that the daisy, Be violets in their secret mews
being chiefly white, makes such a beautiful The flowers the wanton Zephyrs chuse ;
show in company with the buttercup. But Proud be the rose, with rains and dews
this is not all ; for look at the back, and you Her head impearling ;
find its fair petals blushing with a most delightThou liv'st with less ambitious aim,
ful red. And how compactly and delicately is Yet hast not gone without thy famo; Thou art indeed, by many a claim,
the neck set in green ! Belle et douce Marguerite, The poet's darling.
aimable sæur du roi Kingcup, we would tilt
for thee with a hundred pens, against the A nun demure, of lowly port;
stoutest poet that did not find perfection in Or sprightly maiden of Love's court,
thy cheek. In thy simplicity the sport
But here somebody may remind us of the Of all temptations;
spring showers, and what drawbacks they are A queen in crown of rubies drest;
upon going into the fields.-Not at all so, when A starveling in a scanty vest; Are all, as seem to suit thee best,
the spring is really confirmed, and the showers Thy appellations.
but April-like and at intervals. Let us turn
our imaginations to the bright side of spring, A little Cyclops, with one eye Staring to threaten or defy,
and we shall forget the showers. You see That thought comes next, and instantly
they have been forgotten just this moment.
Besides, we are not likely to stray too far into * It is not generally known, that Chaucer was four the fields ; and if we should, are there not years in prison, in his old age, on the same account. He was a Wickliffite, -one of the precursors of the Reforma
hats, bonnets, barns, cottages, elm-trees, and tion. His prison, doubtless, was no diminisher of his love good wills? We may make these things zests, of the daisy.
if we please, instead of drawbacks.
| These songs were stopped by Milton's friends the Puritans, whom in his old age he differed with, most likely on these points among others. But till then, they appear to have been as old, all over Europe, as the existence of society. The Druids are said to have had festivals in honour of May. Our Teutonic ancestors had, undoubtedly; and in the countries which had constituted the Western Roman Empire, Flora still saw thanks paid for her flowers, though her worship had gone away". The homage which was paid to the Month of Love and flowers, may be divided into two sorts, the general and the individual. The first consisted in going with others to gather May, and in joining in sports and games afterwards. On the first of the month, “the juvenile part of both sexes,” says Bourne, in his Popular Antiquities, “were wont to rise a little after midnight and walk to some neighbouring wood, where they broke down branches from the trees, and adorned them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. When this was done, they returned with their booty about the rising of the sun, and made their doors and windows to triumph in the flowery spoil. The after part of the day was chiefly spent in dancing round a May-pole, which being placed in a convenient part of the village, stood there, as it were, consecrated to the Goddess of Flowers, without the least violation offered to it, in the whole circle of the year.” Spenser, in his Shepherd's Calendar, has detailed the circumstances, in a style like a rustic dance.
• The great May holiday observed over the West of Europe was known for centuries, up to a late period, under the name of the Belte, or Beltane. Such a number of etymologies, all perplexingly probable, have been found for this word, that we have been surprised to miss among them that of Bel-temps, the Fine Time or Season. Thus Prontempy, the First Time, or Prime Season, is the Spring.
Younge folke now flocken in—every where
o: + + t + # *
The day was passed in sociality and manly sports;—in archery, and running, and pitching the bar-in dancing, singing, playing music, acting Robin Hood and his company, and making a well-earned feast upon all the country dainties in season. It closed with an award of prizes. As I have seen the Lady of the May, Set in an arbour (on a holiday) Built by the Maypole, where the jocund swains Dance with the maidens to the bag-pipe's strains, When envious night commands them to be gone, Call for the merry youngsters one by one, And for their well performance soon disposes, To this a garland interwove with roses. To that a carved hook, or well-wrought scrip, Gracing another with her cherry lip; To one her garter, to another then A handkerchief cast o'er and o'er again; And none returneth empty, that hath spent II is pains to fill their rural merriment".
Among the gentry and at court the spirit of the same enjoyments took place, modified according to the taste or rank of the entertainers. The most universal amusement, agreeably to the general current in the veins, and the common participation of flesh and blood (for rank knows no distinction of legs and knee-pans), was dancing. Contests of chivalry supplied the place of more rural gymnastics. But the most poetical and elaborate entertainment was the Mask. A certain flowery grace was sprinkled over all; and the finest spirits of the
* Buskets—Boskets—Bushes—from Boschetti, Ital.
t Yode, Went. # Tabrere, a Tabourer.
§ Tho, Then. | Attone, At once—With him.
* Britannia's Pastorals, by William Browne. Song the 4th. Browne, like his friend Wither, from whom we quoted a p last week, wanted strength and the power of selection ; though not to such an extent. He is however well worth reading by those who can expatiate over a pastoral subject, like a meadowy tract of country; finding out the beautiful spots, and gratified, if not much delighted, with the rest. His genius, which was by no means destitute of the social part of passion, seems to have been turned almost wholly to description, by the beauties of his native county Devonshire.
time thought they showed both their manliness and wisdom, in knowing how to raise the pleasures of the season to their height. Sir Philip Sydney, the idea of whom has come down to us as a personification of all the refinement of that age, is fondly recollected by Spenser in this character. His sports were faire, his joyance innocent, Sweet without soure, and honey without gall : And he himself seemed made for merriment, Merrily masking both in bowre and hall. There was no pleasure nor delightfull play, When Astrophel soever was away. For he could pipe, and daunce, and caroll sweet, Amongst the shepheards in their shearing feast; As somer's larke that with her song doth greet The dawning day forth comming from the East. And layes of love he also could compose; Thrice happie she, whom he to praise did choose. Astrophel, st. 5.
Individual homage to the month of May consisted in paying respect to it though alone, and in plucking flowers and flowering boughs to adorn apartments with. This maiden, in a morn betime, Went forth when May was in the prime To get sweet setywall, The honey-suckle, the harlock, The lily, and the lady-smock, To deck her summer-hall. Drayton's Pastorals, Eclog. 4.
But when morning pleasures are to be spoken of, the lovers of poetry who do not know Chaucer, are like those who do not know what it is to be up in the morning. He has left us two exquisite pictures of the solitary observance of May, in his Palamon and Arcite. They are the more curious, inasmuch as the actor in one is a lady, and in the other a knight. How far they owe any of their beauty to his original, the Theseide of Boccaccio, we cannot say; for we never had the happiness of meeting with that rare work. The Italians have so neglected it, that they have not only never given it a rifacimento or re-modelling, as in the instance of Boiardo's poem, but are almost as much unacquainted with it, we believe, as foreign nations. Chaucer thought it worth his while to be both acquainted with it, and to make others so ; and we may venture to say, that we know of no Italian after Boccaccio's age who was so likely to understand him to the core, as his English admirer, Ariosto not excepted. Still, from what we have seen of Boccaccio's poetry, we can imagine the Theseide to have been too lax and long. If Chaucer's Palamon and Arcite be all that he thought proper to distil from it, it must have been greatly so ; for it was an epic. But at all events the essence is an exquisite one. The tree must have been a fine old enormity, from which such honey could be drawn. To begin, as in duty bound, with the lady. How she sparkles through the antiquity of the language, like a young beauty in an old hood
Thus passeth yere by yere, and day by day,
But we will alter the spelling where we can,
[How finely, to our ears at least, the second line of the couplet always rises up from this full stop at the first 1)
Bright was the sun, and clear that morwèning And Palamon, this woeful prisoner, As was his wont, by leave of his jailer, Was risen, and roamed in a chamber on high, In which he all the noble city sight, And eke the garden, full of branches green, There as this fresh Emilia the sheen t Was in her walk, and roamed up and down.
Sir Walter Scott, in his edition of Dryden, says upon the passage before us, and Dryden's version of it, that “the modern must yield the palm to the ancient, in spite of the beauty of his versification.” We quote from memory, but this is the substance of his words. For our parts, we agree with them, as to the consignment of the palm, but not as to the exception about the versification. With some allowance as to our present mode of accentuation, it appears to us to be touched with a finer sense of music even than Dryden's. It is more delicate, without any inferiority in strength, and still more various. But to our other portrait. It is as sparkling with young manhood, as the former is with a
* These additional syllables are to be read slightly, like the e in French verse.
t Saw. : The shining.