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The meanest herb, we trample in the field
Flowers were also used as symbols. The laurel was a symbol of victory. Generals, therefore, frequently decked their tents with that shrub, and sent accounts of their victories in letters, encircled with its leaves 1. Pliny” and Suetonius relate a curious anecdote of the laurel, whence the Roinan emperors took sprigs for crowns.
The anemone blends its colours so harmoniously, that it is difficult to discover where one tint begins, and another ends; the anemone may, therefore, be compared to deceit. But the tulip, changing its colours so abruptly, that the different shades may easily be distinguished, the tulip may be called the flower of openness and honesty. One of the most odious methods of illustrations, in respect to plants, was exhibited by Periander, tyrant of Corinth and Corcyra. Having sent messengers to the tyrant of Syracuse to request advice, relative to the best mode of maintaining his usurped authority, the latter took the messengers into a field; and without speaking a word pulled off all those ears of corn, which were higher than the rest. This being reported to Periander, he immediately put the principal Corcyrian and Corinthian citizens to death! Tarquin, the proud, afterwards acted in a similar manner.
Hence called Literæ Laureatæ. . Nat. Hist. lib. vii.
3 In Vit. Galb.
Badges of nations are frequently derived from flowers : that of England is a rose ?; France has adopted the lily; Ireland a shamrock; and Scotland a thistle.
In the British Museum is a bas-relief?, representing Jupiter Ammon resting his head on a flower. Voluptas was painted as a beautiful woman, seated on a throne, in the most superb attire, trampling Virtue under her feet: Virtue grasping a lily in her hand : while Zephyr was represented as a youth, with wings on his shoulders, producing flowers and fruits with the sweetness of his breath.
Poets have, in all ages, delighted in gardens and flowers; hence we may be pardoned for observing, that Homer might have derived pleasure from the reflection, that as he was born in the city of violets 3, he was destined to die in the city of myrrh *.
Mary, Queen of Scotland and Dauphiness of France, presented the celebrated Ronsard, dignified by the title of the Prince of Poets, with a service of plate; among which was a vessel, made in the form of a rose, which represented Mount Parnassus, with a Pegasus flying from its summit.
Once, as Colonna was enjoying a summer's evening with Bloomfield, in a small summer-house, that stood in the poet's garden, and where he was accustomed to make Eolian harps, the conversation accidentally turned on this subject; Bloomfield having three pots of carnations, that blossomed with peculiar brilliancy. “ The gardener's
1 The White and the Red Rose distinctions were disputed in no less than thirteen pitched battles ! 2 No. 66.
Smyrna. Vide Plut. in Vit. Sertor.
man,” said he, “ in Richard the Second, makes a comparison, that has always appeared to me very apposite :
• Our sea-wall'd garden, the whole land,
Swarming with caterpillars '.' And not less apposite is the reply of the master, in reference to the neglect and incompetency of the king to govern :
• Oh! what a pity is it,
As we this garden !'” Shakspeare," returned Colonna,“ delights in these allusions and illustrations. In the second part of Henry the Sixth, Margaret of Anjou, speaking of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and advising his removal from the protectorship, is made to say,
• 'Tis now the spring, and weeds are shallow rooted;
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry ?' 6 In the Midsummer Night's Dream, he compares a woman, married in her prime, to distilled roses; a virgin to a thorn, which
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.' “ How pathetic, too, is that passage in Macbeth , where the deep melancholy of the usurper, preying upon his vitals, makes him lament that, fallen into the sere and yellow leaf, he has none of those comforts, which await an honourable age.”
i Act iii. sc. 4.
2 Act iii, sc. 1.
3 Act v. sc. 3.
Horace has many allusions to the shortness of life, and the similar picture that flowers present. The idea first occurs in Moschus; and Tasso was delighted in employing it.
“ Cosi trapassa al trapassar d' un giorno
Si rinfiora ella Mai ne si rinverde'. In the Winter's Tale, Perdita? suits the flowers, she distributes, to the season of life of those, to whom she presents them. To old men, she gives rue and rosemary, which keep all winter: to those of middle age, she presents flowers of summer, such as lavender, mint, marjoram, and marigold : to the young, oxlips, crownimperials, primroses, lilies, flowers-de-luce, daffodils, and violets. Horace compares youth to ivy and myrtle; old age to dried leaves. Ausonius applies the term herba virens to ladies, remarkable for beauty and simplicity: and what an exquisite passage is that in Virgil, where the poet describes the effect of the probable death of Turnus on the countenance of Lavinia ! Eneas might have read in her countenance, says Dryden, the love which she bore for his rival; and the opinion she entertained of the justice of his cause.
· Thus in a day withers the flower of life!
Never resume. To this may be contrasted a passage in Isaiah: “ All flesh is grass; and all the goodliness thereof is as a flower of the field: the grass wthereth ; the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord blotteth upon it: the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth ; but the word of our God shall stand for ever." Ch. xl. v. 6, 7, 8.
? Act iv. sc. %.
Boccalini' relates, that ambassadors from all the gardeners in the world were sent to Apollo at Parnassus, to request him to grant them an instrument, for the more effectual weeding of their gardens; which had become, of late, so full of henbane and other weeds, that the charge of weeding absorbed all the profit. Finding no very great attention paid to their petition, they took the opportunity of re-urging the suit, by reminding Apollo, that he had granted drums and trumpets to princes; at the sound of which all the more useless weeds of society were picked out. They begged him, therefore, to give them instruments, which might have the same effect in their gardens. “ If princes could as easily discern the weeds of society,” returned the god," as you can discern weeds in your garden, I would only have given them halters and axes for their instruments. But since all men are made of the same materials, it is impossible to know the weeds from the flowers, as you can do: and, therefore, I cannot but esteem you not a little ridiculous, in comparing the purging of the world from seditious spirits to the drawing of weeds out of a garden.”
One of the prettiest specimens of Hindoo poetry celebrates the history of a youth, who, soon after his marriage, being compelled to make a long journey, takes leave of his bride in the garden belonging to his house. There he plants a spikenard; and enjoins her to watch over it with the most assiduous care. “As long as this plant flourishes," said he, “ all will be fortunate with me: but should it wither away, some fatal misfortune will, assuredly, happen to me.” Business, of an important na
Traggugli di Parnasso. Earl of Monmouth's Trans. Adv. xvi. Ed. 1674.