« ZurückWeiter »
filled sixteen *?” But surely this loitering of the poet, over his meadows and crocuses, conveys a fit sense of the pleasure enjoyed by Proserpine and her nymphs; a pleasure, too, for which they expressly came forth, and by the too great pursuit of which the latter were separated from their mistress.
In our own time, we may instance the late Mr. Shelley. Of a strong and powerful intellect, his manners were gentle as a summer's evening: his tastes were pure and simple : it was his delight to ramble out into the fields and woods,
here he would take his book, or sometimes his pen, and having employed some hours in study, and in speculations on his favourite theme—the advancement of human happiness, would return home with his hat wreathed with briony, or wild convolvulus; his hand filled with bunches of wild-flowers plucked from the hedges as he passed, and his eyes, indeed every feature, beaming with the bene
, volence of his heart. He loved to stroll in his garden, chatting with a friend, or accompanied by his Homer or his Bible (of both which he was a frequent reader): but one of his chief enjoyments was in sailing, rowing, or floating in his little boat, upon the river: often he would lie down flat in the boat and read, with his face upwards to the sunshine. In this taste for the water he was too venturesome, or perhaps inconsiderate; for it was rather a thoughtlessness of danger, than a braving of it. In the end, as it is well known, it was fatal to him: never will his friends cease to feel, or to mourn his loss; though their mourning will be softened by the contemplation of his amiable nature, and by the memory of that gentle and spiritual countenance, “ which seemed not like an inhabitant of the earth” while it was on it.
* Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works, vol. iv. page 356.)
Among the existing lovers of flowers, it is a pleasure to be able to name the gallant and accomplished young prince, Alexander Mavrocordato, one of the chief leaders of the Greeks in their present glorious struggle for freedom. A botanical work, not long since published in Italy, is dedicated to him on account of his known fondness for the subject. Thus, in every respect, he inherits the feelings of his ancestors. This is the same prince to whom Mr. Shelley dedicated his Hellas. Among the Greeks this taste was very general, as may be gathered from many ancient writers. In the following passage from the Travels of Anacharsis, several of these authorities are assembled: the author describes a visit to a friend who had retired to his country-house:
Après avoir traversé une basse-cour peuplée de poules, de canards, et d'autres oiseaux domestiques, nous visitâmes l’écurie, la bergerie, ainsi que le jardin des fleurs, où nous vimes successivement briller les narcisses, les jacinthes, les anemones, les iris, les violettes de différentes couleurs, les roses de diverses espèces, et toutes sortes de plantes odoriférantes. Vous ne serez pas surpris, me dit-il, du soin que je prends de les cultiver: vous savez que nous en parons les temples, les autels, les statues de nos dieux ; que nous en couronnons nos têtes dans nos repas et dans nos ceremonies saintes; que nous les repandons sur nos tables et sur nos lits; que nous avons même l'attention d'offrir à nos divinités les fleurs qui leur sont les plus agréables. D'ailleurs un agriculteur ne doit point négliger les petits profits; toutes les fois que j'envoie au marché d'Athènes, du bois, du charbon, des denrées et des fruits, j'y joins quelques corbeilles de fleurs qui sont enlevées à l'instant *.”
“ Having crossed a court-yard peopled with fowls, ducks, and other domestic birds, we visited the stables, the sheep-fold, and the flowergarden; where we saw in succession narcissuses, hyacinths, anemonies, irises, violets of different colours, roses of various kinds, and all sorts of odoriferous plants. You will not be surprised, said he, at the care I take in cultivating them; for you know that we adorn with them
Voyage du Jeune Anacharsis en Grèce, vers le milieu du quatrième siècle avant l'ere vulgaire; par J. J. Barthélemy. Tome cinquième.
the temples, altars, and statues of our gods; that we crown our heads with them in our festivals, and holy ceremonies; that we scatter them, upon our tables, and our beds; "that we even consider the kinds of flowers most agreeable to our divinities. Besides an agriculturist should not neglect small profits; whenever I send to the market of Athens wood, provision, or fruit, I add some baskets of flowers, and they are seized instantly."
In another part of the same work, the author describes a marriage ceremony in the Island of Delos, in which flowers, shrubs, and trees make a conspicuous figure. He tells us that the inhabitants of the island assembled at day-break, crowned with flowers: that flowers were strewed in the path of the bride and bridegroom: the house was garlanded with them: singers and dancers appeared, crowned with oak, myrtle, and hawthorns; the bride and bridegroom were crowned with poppies; and upon their approach to the temple a priest received them at the entrance, presenting to each a branch of ivy,-a symbol of the tie which was to unite them for ever *.
It was not in their sports only that the Greeks were so lavish of their flowers: they crowned the dead with them; and the mourners wore them in the funeral ceremonies. Flowers seem to have been to this tasteful people a sort of poetic language, whereby they expressed the intensity of feelings to which they found common language inadequate. Thus we find that their grief, and their joy, their religion, and their sports, their gratitude, admiration, and love, were alike expressed by flowers.
And flowers do speak a language, a clear and intelligible language : ask Mr. Wordsworth, for to him they have spoken, until they excited “ thoughts that lie too deep for tears ;” ask Chaucer, for he held companionship with them in the meadows; ask any of the poets, ancient or modern. Observe them, reader, love them, linger over
* Vol. vi. chapter 77.
them; and ask your own heart if they do not speak affection, benevolence, and piety. None have better understood the language of flowers than the simple-minded peasant-poet, Clare, whose volumes are like a beautiful country, diversified with woods, meadows, heaths, and flower-gardens: the following is a pleasing specimen:
“ Bowing adorers of the gale,
Upraise your loaded stems;
And gilt your golden gems?
Your errand here fulfil;
And match your Maker's skill.
flowers of lowly birth,
That stud the velvet sod;
Your Maker, and my God *." This poet is truly a lover of Nature : in her humblest attire she still is pleasing to him, and the sight of a simple weed seems to him a source of delight:
“ There's many a seeming weed proves sweet,
As sweet as garden-flowers can be t.” In his lines to Cowper Green, he celebrates plants that seldom find a bard to sing them; having enumerated several, he continues ;
“ Still thou ought'st to have thy meed,
To show thy flower as well as weed.
* Clare's Village Minstrel and other Poems, vol. ii. page 61.
Though no fays, from May-day's lap,
VILLAGE MINSTREL, &c. vol. i. page 113.
The eloquence of flowers is not perhaps so generally