The Romance of Nature; or, The Flower-Seasons Illustrated/Autumn
Then came the Automne, all in yellow clad,
As tho' she ioyed in her plenteous store,
Laden with fruits that made her laugh, full glad.
******** Upon her head a wreath, which was enrold
With ears of corne of every sort, she bore;
And in her hand a sickle she did holde,
To reape the ripen'd fruits the which the earth did yold.
THE THREE SWEET SEASONS.
A Dirge for the departed Ones,
AND A MERRY GREETING TO AUTUMN.
Fair Spring died months ago;
She pined for jealousy,
That Summer's radiant glow
Brought brighter flowers than she.
Spring had the Snowdrop pure,
And the soft-eyed Violet;
But these might not endure
With Rose and Mignionette.
Spring wore the Primrose pale,
And the glowing Fairy-fire;
But e'en such gems must fail
By Summer's brave attire.
And Spring hung down her head,
And her children, one by one,
Drooped, mingled with the dead;
And soon they all were gone.
And Spring did slowly wane,
Till one sun-glorious day
She yielded up her reign,
And vanished away.
And Summer then came forth,
A proud and happy mother;
Her children graced the earth,
Each fairer than the other.
She looked from out the sky
With eyes of laughing blue,
And the fervid sun on high
Smiled gaily earthward too.
She laid her hand on sea,
River, and brook, and lake,
And all flowed peacefully,
And scarce a wave did make.
She stripped the hoary hills
Of all their capes of snow,
And bade the mountain rills
Run singing as they go.
She spread out far and wide
The bonnie blooming Heather,
And bade the Water Lilies ride
Yellow and white together.
She made the day-break glad and bright,
And softly calm the gloaming,
For lovers fond, who in the light
Of the silver moon were roaming.
Oh! Summer was a glorious queen,
But sorrow soon came o'er her;
Her flowers of beauty waned, I ween,
Like Spring's young buds before Her.
The Rose, her fairest darling, fell,
And left but thorns behind;
The Woodbine, Jasmine, lost their smell,—
The lilies all declined.
And one by one they drooped and died,
Till all had passed away;
And where triumphant Summer's pride
Had been—'twas dim decay.
And Summer in bright tears of dew
Their mournful loss so wept,
That she made dim her eyes of blue,
And then—poor Summer slept.
(Allegro è spiritoso.)
Come, greet merry Autumn, she's heiress of Spring,
Who left her a fortune of Flowers;
Come, welcome her in, let the Heather-bells ring,
And the Harebell's soft music be ours.
Sing, hey for bright Autumn! her triumphs we'll speak,
And love her rich gifts and her bonny brown cheek.
She has wealth all uncounted; the blossoms of Spring
Fell fluttering down from the spray,
But they left in their place each a germ that should bring
A rich treasure for Autumn to-day.
Then, hey for the heiress! her treasures we'll seek,
And love the deep tinge of her bonny brown cheek.
She hath swelling hills girdled with broad belts of gold,
All waving so bright i' the sun;
She hath fruits fair as jewels, that cannot be told;
And all this vast wealth may be won!
Then, hey for rich Autumn! and, ere the trees break,
Go gather the fruit with the bloom on its cheek!
To the orchard, the garden, ye epicures go,
Where the smooth luscious Nectarines shine;
But afar o'er the hills do the Blackberries grow,
And the Blackberry's fruit shall be mine.
Away! o'er the hills where the breezy winds speak,
Singing hey for rich Autumn's bright eye and brown cheek!
Away o'er the mountains! where Heather-bells ring,
Away, where the tall Foxgloves wave,
Where the wild Rose we loved 'mid the flow'rets of Spring
Hath a monument left o'er her grave;
For her bright berries stand like an epitaph there,
To remind us of one so short-lived and so fair.
Away o'er the hills, to the deep dingle, where
O'er the rocks, like a tapestry, flung,
Hang broadly the Blackberry bushes, for there
No statelier tree would have sprung.
Then clinging and clambering warily down,
Beware of your footing—and eke of your gown.
The gourmand may smile at our rustic dessert,
But there's a sweet infantine thrill
Of gladness and glee that comes over my heart
In these scenes, and I feel a child still:
Oh! I would not exchange a rough Blackberry dell
For aught that in orchard or garden may dwell!
Then forth to the golden-crowned corn-field pass on,
Where the sickle is merrily plied,
And, flashing out brightly beneath the warm sun,
It tells where the poppies have died,—
Where the petals of scarlet will wither and fade,
For the young flowers in death by the ripe corn are laid.
They fall in their beauty ere rent by a storm,
They are gone, ere the wandering bee
Hath nestled within e'en one delicate form
Now lying all wan on the lea.
Alas! for the young and the beautiful now,
The fairest must oft 'neath the keen sickle bow.
Come now to the Forest, for Autumn is there,
She is painting its millions of leaves
With colours so varied, so rich, and so rare,
That the eye scarce her cunning believes;
She tinges and changes each leaf o'er and o'er,
And flings it to earth when 'twill vary no more.
The glorious Cedars she ever in vain
Tries to dress in chamelion hue,
For they brave all her arts, and the verdure retain
Of their Spring-time the whole Winter through.
And the sturdy Scots Fir lifts its dark-crested head
Unchanged o'er the path where the brown leaves are spread.
Autumn strove hard to deck out the Holly's rough coat
With touches of yellow and red;
But the honest old hero her fair fingers smote
With his weapon-girt leaves till they bled;
And some drops that were caught on the berries he bore,
Gave the deep ruddy glow that they ever since wore.
The Ferns, too, are waving all statelily here,
With seed-stored fronds thickly laid;
And shedding, when hastily brushed by the deer,
Their light fertile dust o'er the glade.
Oh, beautiful—beautiful! stately, yet gay,
Is a deep forest-glen on a bright Autumn day!
Oh! look on the strange and the whimsical things
That among the wild fungi we find;
And lichens, and moss that like fairy-work springs,—
If ye love them not all, ye are blind;
Ye are blind unto Nature's most glorious looks,
If ye read not and love not her forest-born books.
Then welcome we Autumn, rich heiress of Spring,
Who fills our dear home-land with glee:
True, Winter is coming—yet still will we sing
Thrice welcome, gay Autumn, to thee!
And oft o'er the uplands our voices shall speak
Of Autumn's bright treasures and bonny brown cheek.
CARNATIONS AND CAVALIERS.
Oh! Ladyes—ye who Lovers have,
(And I can guess full well
Ye are too fair to sigh alone),
List to the tale I tell.
A Ladye and her Lover once,
In a Summer evening-tide,
Within a stately garden walked,
And whispered, side by side.
The Ladye fair and graceful was,
And well-beloved, I ween,
By her true Cavalier; than whom
A braver ne'er was seen.
And in the garden wandered they,
Nor wist which way they went:
They gazed into each other's face
In Love's own blest content.
On paced they through the pleached paths,
Where honey-suckles crept,
And, drooping from the boughs o'erhead,
The pensile streamers, swept
In graceful chaplets round
The Lovers as they walked;
And with soft glances more than words,
They eloquently talked.
The Knight had dwelt in southern climes
Beneath a warmer sun,
And learned the language of the Flowers,
And fancies many a one
That Poet-Lovers gave
To herb, and leaf, and flower,
That they might Love's ambassadors
Be in the fair-one's bower.
Without a line of written vows
Fond hearts were oft-times plighted;
And flowers, too, could tell whene'er
A proffered suit was slighted.
The Heartsease promised "perfect love;"
Hope in the Hawthorn lay;
Despair and death with hemlock dwelt,
And glory claimed the Bay.—
And so to all the garden's hues
Some fair conceit was given,
By which young Cupid's bonds might be
Locked closer still, or riven.
Now, to the Ladye Edith oft
Sir Rupert had told o'er
The emblem of each glowing bud
In this quaint graceful lore:—
But Edith (as dames mostly do),
Liked Learning less than Love;
The owl of Pallas she would shun
To seek Cytherea's dove.
And so it chanced that she forgot
Full many a fancy sweet,
And sometimes gave, in careless mood,
Flowers for the time unmeet.
The eve I tell of 'gan to close,
Fast fell the soft twilight;
And the young moon amid the leaves
Peeped forth, all chaste and bright.
So very innocent she looked,
As if she ne'er had seen
Lovers before, and, curious, strove
To hide behind a screen
Of leaves,—which Zephyr waved
That she might peer between.
And o'er the shut and sleepy flowers
'Gan weep the Summer-dew;
And o'er the lakelet's breast there glow'd
A yet intenser blue.
As from the breast of heaven looked out
The few and timid rays
Of the first stars that venture forth
After the Sun-God's blaze.
And our fond Lovers twain must part—
The Ladye Edith sighed—
And whispered—"Here again, my Love,
We meet at even-tide?"—
Sir Rupert smiled—and from the bank
A Pink then gather'd he,
And said—"sweet Ladye of my Love,
Edith—take this, from me."
Now ye who read this tale, perchance,
Than Edith know no more
The language that fair flower would speak,
In Flora's emblem-lore?
Ladyes—take heed how ye refuse,
And Knights—to whom ye bring
That mystic flower—for the next gift
Should be—a plain gold ring.
Now Edith knew its meaning not,
Or had forgotten quite;
And all unconsciously she thus
Grieved her own true Knight:—
"And is the paltry pink the flower
That I must wear for thee?—
I'll find a brighter, fitter one,
That thou shalt take from me."
Then, where the deep Carnations showed
Their rich and glowing hues,
And filled the air with spicy scent,
Hied she a flower to choose.
And once again she sighed—"Farewell!"—
The Knight alone was left—
And in his hand the token-flower—
Fair Edith's parting gift.
The Pink, by Knight to Ladye given,
Prays her to be his Bride—
The proud Carnation answering tells
That fervent prayer's denied.
Now ye who know what 'tis to love,
Think what Sir Rupert felt,
As on that flower, with wond'ring grief
His eyes still sadly dwelt.
He dreamed not that twas idly done,
In careless sportive freak;
To him that token-flower brought
Woe more than words could speak;
And the brave Rupert's true heart seemed
Full even as 'twould break.
The Ladye to her Father's Hall
Went gaily bounding back:
More pensively Sir Rupert paced
Along his homeward track.
And welcome was a gallant guest
Who that night sat him by;
They had been friends in early youth,
Brothers in chivalrie.
"What aileth thee," Sir Maurice said,
"That thou dost shun the bowl?
That cloud upon thy brow bespeaks
A sorrow on thy soul—
Ha! is it Love? that thou dost wear
Yon token on thy breast?"
For now the fatal flower peeped out
From Rupert's broidered vest.
And all the tale of woe is told—
And all Love's misery—
And Maurice cried, "The morrow's morn
Thou shalt away with me—
I go to join a gallant band
I' the merry fields of France;
Thou shalt along—and once again
In tournay break a lance.
Now, out upon thy Ladye-Love,
Who's falser far than fair;
I'll show to thee a lovelier one
Whose favours thou shalt wear.
My own sweet sister—she shall weave
A scarf to grace her Knight,
And glad thee with her laughing eyes,—
Those eyes so blue and bright.
And if thou can'st e'en then be sad,
She'll take her harp, and sing,
And music for thy weighty woes
Shall make each one a wing.
And bid all sadness fly away—
Nay, I will have it so,
And forth at morning's early beam,
All bravely dight we go."
Ere long, in battle's dread array
Fought bravely side by side
These Knights—alas! that e'er should hap
What did one eventide!
The battle's strife was well nigh o'er;
When an archer, slight and slim,
At Rupert aiming twanged his bow—
Fate sped the shaft to him.
From off his steed down sunk the Knight;
The Archer-youth looked on
A moment's space—then bow and shafts
Flung from him every one,
And by the wounded Rupert knelt—
'Twas strange to see a foe
Striving all tenderly to staunch
The blood he caused to flow!
'Twas stanger yet to mark the tears,
That in a quick warm shower,
Streamed from that archers eyes, when fell
A crushed long-faded flower
From Rupert's vest.—It seemed, in sooth,
Some charm of wizard power,
Which thus that Archer's spirit quelled
In such a stirring hour.
Stranger and yet more strange it seemed,
When cap and waving plume
Unheeded from his brow fell down,
And i' the sun, like shining gold,
Rich wavy hair in many a fold
Shaded his cheek's soft bloom.
His cheeks!—No—Rupert, as he gazed,
Knew well that clear fair brow,
And wond'ring, murmured faintly forth,
"My Edith!—is it thou?"—
And it was woman's love or hate—
Call it whate'er ye will—
Had braved the Ladye to the field,
Her own true Knight to kill.
He deemed her false—and she soon knew
Herself and love forsaken;
And with a woman's recklessness,
This wild revenge had taken.
"And could'st thou dream thine Edith false,
Who was so true to thee?
Oh! that a whim should seem to break
Vows kept so faithfully—
And thou hast wooed another love—
Her favour decks thy crest."
"Hush thee, mine Edith—who was't gave
The flower found next my breast?
Even that fatal flower was kept
By this fond heart of mine;
'Twas the last gift I ever had
From that dear hand of thine.
And now, mine Edith—we will still
In sport use floral lore,
But never, Love, in sober truth,
Trust such frail emblems more.
And oft again, when loit'ring late
In garden or in grove,
We'll wreath our brows with woodbine sweet,
That fragrant 'tie of Love;'
And when, with orange blossoms crowned,
My Edith walks a bride,
Her pathway shall be strewn with flowers,
In all their rainbow pride."
And so they talked—these lovers twain—
And pleased themselves full well—
But few, methinks, will wish that I
Their talk again should tell.
For though, no doubt, each pretty word
To them was music sweet,
I ne'er yet found a third who thought
Such converse any treat,
The Ladye Constance—so was called
Sir Maurice' sister fair—
On Rupert had bestowed a scarf,
And a ring of dark brown hair.
She smiled upon his moody brow,
And at his downcast eye;
But ne'er did love for Rupert cost
Gay Constance one light sigh.
She gave to him the broidered scarf—
She gave the glossy hair—
But they were cheated sore, who thought
The maiden's heart was there.
And while Sir Maurice fought in France,
Gay Constance hied away
With her young Chieftain to his Tower,
High o'er the salt sea spray.
Sir Maurice vowed that woman kind
Too changeful were for him—
But may be he'll be changing too,
Ere many moons be dim.
Now, Ladye—when a Cavalier
Presents a chequered Pink,
'Tis time to ascertain, my dear,
His rent-roll you may think;
And then—provided his estate
Don't meet your approbation,
It cannot, surely, be too late
To cut—with a Carnation.
THE CHIME OF THE HAREBELLS.
Over the moorland, over the lea,
Dancing airily, there are we;
Sometimes, mounted on stems aloft,
We wave o'er Broom and Heather,
To meet the kiss of the zephyr soft:
Sometimes, close together,
Tired of dancing, tired of peeping,
Under the whin you'll find us sleeping:
Nodding about and dreaming too;
Dreaming of fairy cups of dew—
Dreaming of music, soft and low
As the melodies that flow
In tiniest ripples along the pool,
In Summer twilights dim,
When the night-wind's breath is cool,
And downy owlets skim
Lightly along from shore to shore,
Flitting about, as if they bore
Upon their trembling wings
(That ne'er are seen by day)
Dreams and visions, fantastic things,
That people the Lily's slumberings
With a shadowy array
Of forms that Flowers know and see
When they are dreaming, e'en as we
Merry Harebells do
On the heathery lea.
Maiden—do not you
Often wish you were a Flower,
Spending one or two
Merry days in greenwood bower,
As the Harebells do,
Dancing, and waving, and ringing in glee,
Over the moorland and over the lea?
Daintily bend we our honeyed bells
While the gossiping bee her story tells,
And drowsily hums and murmurs on
Of the wealth to her waxen storehouse gone,
And though she gathers our sweets the while,
We welcome her in with a nod and a smile.
Now in, now out,
Aloft, adown, in angles, rings,
And every form of swiftest flight,
Like arrows, guided by glittering wings,
The dragon-flies play in the sunshine bright,
That tinges their forms of chamelion hue
With emerald, ruby, amber, and blue.
You'd fancy the rainbow's painted dome
A fitting home
For creatures so airy, so light, so gay,
As the dragon-flies all in the breeze at play.
And, poised on the tips
Of their tiny feet,
They steal from our lips
A kiss so fleet,
That ere our delicate heads are tost
In feigned anger, the thief is lost,
Gone—flitting along o'er moor and lea,
Where the thisile-down sails so airily.
How soft in the gloaming
Our melody floats,
When night-winds are roaming
And wafting our notes
Around and about in cadence sweet!
Oft, when this breezy strain ye meet,
Ye gaze around,
Chasing the sound,
And, marvelling whence the strain is springing,
Murmur, "how softly the wind is singing!"
We chime too gently for ye to tell
The silvery voice of the little Harebell.
No rock is too high—no vale too low—
For our fragile and tremulous forms to grow:
Sometimes we crown
The castle's dizziest tower, and look
On the pigmy men in the world below,
Wearily wandering to and fro.
Sometimes we dwell on the cragged crest
Of mountain high;
And the ruddy sun, from the blue sea's breast
Climbing the sky,
Looks from his couch of glory up,
And lights the dew in the Harebell's cup.
We are crowning the mountain
With azure bells
Or decking the fountain
In forest dells,
Or wreathing the ruin with clusters gay,
And nodding and laughing the live-long day,
Then chiming our lullaby, tired with play.
Are we not beautiful? Oh! are not we
The darlings of mountain, and moorland and lea?
Plunge in the forest—are we not fair?
Go to the high road—we'll meet ye there,
Oh! where is the flower that content may tell
Like the laughing, and nodding, and dancing Harebell?
FOXGLOVES AND FERN.
The Foxgloves and the Fern,
How gracefully they grow
With grand old oaks above them,
And wavy grass below!
The stately trees stand round
Like columns fair and high,
And the spreading branches bear
A glorious canopy
Of leaves, that rustling wave
In the whispering summer air
And gaily greet the sunbeams
That are falling brightly there.
The miser-leaves!—they suffer
Not a gleam to twinkle through,
And in the Foxglove's hairy cup,
At noonday, drops of dew
Are hanging round like tears
Of sorrow, that the sun
Gives to other flowers his kisses
But to her soft lips not one—
Yet are they wondrous sweet,
As the honey-bee knows well,
When murmuring all busily,
Hid in each purple bell
That, drooping, clusters round
The tall and spiral stem,
Each one bedecked and broidered
With many a fairy gem:
Why Foxgloves are they hight?
They're Fairy-caps, I ween—
Oft in the moony light
The elfin folk are seen
Trooping and frisking out,
With tiny silv'ry shout,
Forth to the circlet green;
And trumpet-notes, through woodbine florets blown,
Herald King Oberon, whose royal throne
Poised on a snow-white mushroom straight appears;
His retinue, well armed with keen grass spears,
Proud Foxglove helms, and daisy shields, stand round,
Like strange flowers, spell-called from the dew-bright ground.
Queen Mab and her gay fairy-maidens trace
A measure on the turf, with airy grace:
Their music the soft Harebell's silv'ry peals,
And distant rippling of the brook, that steals
Through the dim forest shade. Such fairies be,
Creatures of fancy, joy, and revelrie.
The green and graceful Fern,
How beautiful it is!
There's not a leaf in all the land
So wonderful, I wis.
Have ye ever watched it budding,
With each stem and leaf wrapped small
Coiled up within each other
Like a round and hairy ball?
Have ye watched that ball unfolding
Each closely nestling curl,
And its fair and feathery leaflets
Their spreading forms unfurl?
Oh! then most gracefully they wave
In the forest, like a sea,
And dear as they are beautiful
Are those Fern leaves to me.
For all of early childhood—
Those past and blessed years
To which we ever wistfully
Look back through memory's tears—
The sports and fancies then my own,
Those Fern-leaves dear and wild
Bring back to my delighted heart—
I am once more a child—
"Oh! cull the tallest, fairest branch,
My banner it shall be,
And twine a circlet for my brow,—
Crown me all royally:
A Foxglove sceptre my right hand
So gravely shall sustain:"—
Oh! blessings on the bonny Fern—
I am a child again!
CONVOLVULI AND MIGNIONETTE.
(BEAUTY AND SWEETNESS.)
How well two maidens may be imaged here!
One in Convolvula's all-beauteous face,
That with the richest colour deeply glows,
Conscious and proud of her great loveliness:—
And then in Mignionette's meek humble form,
Without one tint upon her modest garb
To draw the idle stare of wandering eyes,
Which greedily the other's beauty drink.
How well the young and fair are here shown forth!
For some—aye, many, prize a rosy cheek,
A sparkling eye—or lip where rubies strive
With coral the bright mastery to gain,
Above all other wealth. E'en like this flower,
The gay Convolvulus, which spreads her form
Of fragile short-lived loveliness before
The flattering beams of the deceitful sun,
And basks her in his light, and thinks, poor bud
Of foolish vanity—that such will last:—
But soon the noontide glare falls scorchingly
Upon her waning charms—she hangs her head—
Her boasted beauty shrivels and decays,
And outward show, her only gift, is gone.
Now look ye on the plain and modest guise
Of yon unlovely flower—unlovely?—no—
Not beautiful, 'tis true—not touched with hues
Like her's we late have gazed on; but so rich
In precious fragrance is that lowly one,
So loved for her sweet qualities, that I
Should woo her first amid a world of flowers;
For she is like some few beloved ones here,
Whom eyes, perchance, might slightingly pass o'er,
But whose true wisdom, gentleness, and worth,
Unchanging friendship, ever-faithful love,
And countless minor beauties of the mind,
Attach our hearts in deep affection still.
LOVE AND THE THISTLE.
As Cupid was flying about one day,
With the flowers and zephyrs in wanton play,
He 'spied in the air,
Floating here and there,
A winged seed of the Thistle-flower,
And merrily chased it from bower to bower.
And young Love cried to his playmates, "See,
I've found the true emblem-flower for me,
For I am as light
In my wavering flight
As this feathery star of soft Thistle-down,
Which by each of you zephyrs about is blown.
See, how from a Rose's soft warm blush
It flies, to be caught in a bramble bush;—
And as oft do I,
In my wand'rings, hie
From beauty to those who have none, I trow;
Reckless as Thistle-down, on I go."
So the sly little God still flits away
Mid earth's loveliest flow'ret's, day by day;
And oh! maidens fair,
Never weep, nor care
When his light wings waft him beyond your power,
Think—'tis only the down of the Thistle-flower!
(LOBELIA FULGENS—CARDINAL FLOWER.)
Can ye whose eyes now rest upon my page
Read souls in flowers?
Do ye delight to fancifully trace,
In the bright bowers
Of clustered blossoms that in gardens are,
Semblance of things as radiant and fair?
Ye should be "high fantastical," to feel,
With perfect zest,
All the fine subtle fancies, that like dreams
The thought and memory of each bright bud
That we do cull in forest, field, or flood.
Oh! there is music to the spirit's ear
In every sigh
Heaved by the roses bosom to the air
That winnows by;
And there is poetry in every leaf,
Whose blush speaks pleasure, or whose tears tell grief.
There is romance in every stem that bends
In motion soft
Beneath the wind that rustles in the tall
And mid their branches whistlingly doth blow,
While it but fans the flowers that sleep below.
We know they sleep; at eve the daisy small
Foldeth all up
Her blush-tipped rays; and the wave's empress hides
Her star-lit cup:
And each fair flower, though some with open eye,
Listens and yields to natures lullaby.
The nodding Foxglove slumbers on her stalk;
And fan-like ferns
Seem poised still and sleepily, until
The morn returns
With singing birds and beams of rosy light,
To bid them dance and frolic in delight.
The drowsy Poppy, who has all the day
His scarlet mantle, folds it closely now
Around his head;
And, lulled by soothing bairn that his own leaves distil,
Sleeps, while the night dews fall upon the moonlit hill.
Now, rocked upon her fragile trembling stem,
The soft Harebell
Is slumbering light and dreamily;—for sure
Bright dreams may well
Be thought to visit things so pure and fair,
Whose deaths no anguish have, whose lives no care.
Oh! that I were a flower to slumber so!
To wake at morn
E'en with as lithe a spirit; and to die,
As these return
Unto their mother-earth, when air and sky
Have caught their od'rous immortality.
The fragrance is the spirit of the flower,
E'en as the soul
Is our ethereal portion, We can ne'er
Hold or control
One more than other. Passing sweet must be
The visions, gentle things, that visit ye!
How happily ye live in the pure light
Do ye not feel how deeply—wondrously—
Ye cheer and bless
Our chequered sojourn on this weary earth,
Whose wildest, dreariest spots to FLOWERS have given birth?
Do ye not joy to know the pure delight
With which we gaze
Upon your glorious forms?—Are ye not glad
E'en in the praise
Which our enraptured wonder ever tells
While poring o'er the wealth that in ye dwells;—
That wealth of thought, of beauty, and of love.
Which may be found
In each small common herb that springs from out
The teeming ground?
Do ye not feel that ye do deeply bless
Our harsher souls by your dear loveliness?
Oh! if 'tis given unto ye to know
The thrilling power
Of memories and thoughts that can be read
E'en in a flower,
How ye must all rejoice beneath each look
Which reads your beauty like an open book!
We love its silent language: strong, though still,
Is that unheard
But all-pervading harmony:—it breathes
No uttered word,
But floats around us, as, in happy dream,
We feel the soft sigh of a waveless stream.
And when once listened, it is ne'er forgot,
But thenceforth forms
A part and parcel of our being; for not all
Earth's jarring storms
Can scare that gentle music from the heart
It once hath entered: ne'er doth it depart,
But dwelleth like a fount within a cave
Or forest deep,
Answering to each light breeze whose gentle wing
Doth o'er it sweep,
And making doubly bright each tender beam
Of star or sun-light that doth o'er it gleam.
So, love of nature's harmony can bless
And gladden ever
The heart and fancy, as pellucid wave
Of fount or river
Flings back more bright what bright doth on it fall,
And its own radiance lends where else were none at all.
But I, in wandering rhymes, too long have chased
The shadowy things
Which oft-times flit before fantastic thought
On fancy's wings;
And though I well love dreamy themes like these,
Wend we now nearer to realities.
Turn ye, kind reader, a few pages back,
And deign to gaze
Upon the portrait-flowers that there ye meet;—
One, in such blaze
Of brilliant beauty and of gorgeous glow,
That ye ne'er saw an Empress robed so.
With proud disdain how she uprears her stem,
As if she arrogantly, vainly said—
"What are ye all
Pale, paltry buds, that trail and creep around,
Scarce rising from the base and sordid ground?
See, how the butterflies, with gay-plumed wings
On me alight—
Attracted by my tow'ring, stately stem,
And colours bright—
None in my presence cast a thought on you—
Their homage paid to me, away they go."
So seemed this gaudy flower to discourse
Unto the fair,
Humble, and lowly buds, which all around
And much her scorn on their mean rank was bent;
Which scorn, howe'er, brought them no discontent.
But even while I watched these flowers, the queen
Began to droop,
Her proud array flagged quickly, her high head
Low, low, did stoop,
And soon the cause of this I could descry;
The vase, whose waters fed her pride, was dry.
And she, deprived of this distinctive wealth,
No more might rank
Among the great, or beautiful, or proud,
But dimly sank,
In loathsome dusk deformity, beside
The very things o'er whom her swollen pride
Had been most arrogant. And when I saw
Her swift decay,
And marked the giddy flies on other flowers
As fondly play,
As they had toyed with her so lately lost,
Methought how false was all her haughty boast!
How vain that pride of birth, or wealth, or state,
Or fleeting power,
Which blots the vaunted reason of our race,
To whom this flower
May read a wholesome lesson.—Are not they
As soon forgot when wealth doth pass away?
Do not their flattering parasites desert
The drooping stem?—
How long in sorrow will the courtly crowd
Hover round them?
Are they not all forgotten in the hour
Of dark dishonour—like my garish flower?
Oh! bid them learn that beauty, riches, state,
And noble birth
Are but choice accidents that do befall
A few on earth—
And bid them less haught and conceited be,
Who have drawn prizes in this lottery.
THE LADYE, THE LOVER, AND THE CROCUS.
A LEGEND OF LOVE.
The Ladye was fair as Ladye could be,
And had lands both broad and fine,
And was wooed by bold Barons of high degree,
Yet blushed at a suit like mine.
She lent to them all a ready ear,
Joined hands with them in the dance;
And each deemed himself to her most dear,
While cheered by her sunny glance.
Her voice was gay, and her step was light
Mid them, in hall and bower,
But soon 'neath my gaze she shrunk, as a blight
Withers the summer-flower.
And then she shunned me, as the dove,
When the hawk soars, shuns her fate:
And I—I deemed not this was Love,
That looked so much like hate.
I seemed a shadow in her path,
A cloud upon her sky,
I deemed it scorn, perchance e'en wrath,
In her averted eye.
It was her natal day. A crowd
Of cringing nothings came—
I call them nothings—for they showed
Nought noble save a name.
Aud flowers were offered—and I brought
Mine from the brook's bright rim,
With Autumn's Crocuses: not wrought
Into a garland trim.
But they were wild, and fresh, and sweet,
And innocent and fair
As she whom others sought to greet
With off'rings rich and rare.
Yet a rose-wreath her brow entwined,
By daring suitor placed;
A gay exotic was enshrined
Close by her girdled waist.
My humbler offering she took,
Red, trembling, as in scorn,
Nor deigned vouchsafe me e'en a look—
And 'twas her birth-day morn!
Oh! had her angel eye the power
To kill, or turn to stone,
I'd better borne such glance that hour
Than that averted one.
And forth I wandered—and I vowed
My fond wild dream was o'er;—
I would but mingle in the crowd
And gaze on her once more.
It was the evening of that day,
That day when laughter glad
Rang out, mid dance and mirthful play,
From some—while I was sad.
'Twas evening, and the crowded hall
Mocked the less dazzling day;
And rainbow-like the hues that all
Shone in that festal ray.
And when the minstrel-melody
Rang out in cadence loud,
Then with a heavy heart did I
Mingle in that gay crowd:
For all were then so deep intent
Upon their own delight,
That not one curious glance was bent
On me—poor woe-eyed wight!
I looked the gay ranks through; but not
A sight of her could gain—
I gazed and gazed—and, lest a spot
Escaped, looked through again.
She was not there—and then the Hall,
Before so bright, seemed dim;
Alas! in Lover's eye, what change
One form doth make to him.
And on I passed through gay saloons
Where guests by three and two
Were list'ning to the softened tones
O' the music, and some few,
Methought, were whispering words which they
No doubt, far sweeter knew.
And passing by these whisprers, I
Yet farther might have gone,
But that within an oriel sat
A Ladye—only one.
A wreath of roses lay flung by
Her feet, upon the floor,
And choicer buds, whose smell, I ween,
And loveliness were o'er.
She did not hear my coming step,
And I might watch her take
Flowers from her bosom,—happy they
Who such a home might make!
She took a drooping cluster thence
Not rich and rare like those
Which, spurned were lying at her feet,
But such as nature shows,
And spreads with lavish hand
O'er bank and moor and field;
No cultured gardens glittering wealth
Those treasured ones did yield.
Oh, joy! they were the same I gave!
I saw her kiss them o'er—
I saw her place them whence they came
And I was mute no more.
I told her all my love, and sure
Joy made me eloquent,
For though her blush was deep, her brow
No frown upon me bent.
Little she spoke, but her small hand
Was not withdrawn from mine,
And the bright tear which I might see
Under the eyelash shine
Told not of sorrow, but deep joy;
And soon a smile o'erspread
Her blushing face, that chased away
The tear-drop ere 'twas shed.
Together joined we that gay throng
That happy birth-day eve;
Our loneliness had passed away,
As ye may well believe.
Such was the story told by one
Who well might love to gaze
Upon the lowly bud that bore
Such dreams of earlier days.
But ever does that humble flower
That gems the aging year,
Pale Autumn's purple Crocus, seem
Than other flowers more dear.
I meet it on the cold bleak hill
When sunshine there is none,
And all the Summer darlings have
Departed, every one.
I look upon its outward form
So delicate and frail;
And wonder how so slight a thing
May breast the boisterous gale.
But it is humble; o'er its head
The blast that reuds the oak
Passes all harmless, though the flower
A fairy's foot had broke.
I gaze into its vaselike cup
Of amethyst, where low
A star of deep rich gold doth round
Fling a warm yellow glow.
Hid from the spendthrift breeze, the flowers
Their wealth all meekly keep,
Till they who know the treasure's worth
The golden harvest reap.
Oh! many a glorious flower there grows
In far and richer lands:
But high in my affection e'er
The Autumn Crocus stands.
I love their faces, when, by one
And two, they're looking out:—
I love them, when the spreading field
Is purple all about.
I loved them in the by-gone years
Of childhood's thoughtless laughter,
When I marvelled why the flowers came first
And the leaves the season after.
I loved them then, I love them now,
The gentle and the bright;
I love them for the thoughts they bring
Of Spring's returning light;
When, first-born of the waking earth,
Their kindred gay appear.
And, with the Snowdrop, usher in
The hope invested year.
But they are passing from us now,
And round each frail, white stem
The purple petals faded droop;
Winter will chase e'en them.
So farewell to the Crocus, which
In amethyst is dight;
And may we live to welcome back
The yellow and the white!
Some deep empurpled as the hyacine,
Some, as the rubine laughing sweetly red,
Some like fair emerauds, not yet well ripened:
And them emongst were some of burnisht gold,
Which did themselves emongst the leaves enfold,
As lurking from the vew of covetous guest,
That the weake boughes with so rich load opprest
Did bow adowne as overburdened.
Like faithful Lovers, that full true are seen
Though fickle fortune frown, and work them woe
So those fair trees still wear their summer-green,
When Atumn's breath hath yellowed, and laid low
The vesture of the bare and shivering grove,
Where Winter's bitter winds might all unhindered rove.
Why should we grieve, that to the chilly air
Of our beloved, yet dim and wintery land
The luxuries of other climes deny
Their stately growth?—What though we may not roam
'Mid groves where orange-blossoms perfume breathe
From the same branch where hangs the golden fruit;
Have we not, even 'neath our bleakest sky,
A tree as beautiful—whom snow, nor frost,
Nor the loud-chiding, many-voiced wind
May e'er affright or wither?—Know ye not
The verdant Arbutus?—which ever fair
The whole four seasons round, is loveliest now,
When Winter's scowling brow hath driven all
The frailer blossoms from the leaf-strewn earth.
See, like a Ladye in a festal garb,
How gaily decked she waits the Christinas time!
Her robe of living emerald, that waves
And, shining, rustles in the frost-bright air,
Is garlanded with bunches of small flowers,—
Small bell-shaped flowers, each of an orient pearl
Most delicately modelled, and just tinged
With faintest yellow, as if, lit within,
There hung a fairy torch in each lamp-flower.
Some have a pinky hue, soft as a shell
Painted by Amphitrite's hands; for they, less white
Than Lilies when they ope, blush e'en to know
That Summer hath a flower more pure than they.
Nor are her pearls the only wealth displayed
By this fair Winter Queen; for, all around,
Among those bead-like wreaths do gleam and glow
Jewels of many hues; globes of rich gold
Hanging beside the pale green chrysophrase;
And those contrasted by the ruby's light,
Or coral, snatched from out some sea-maid's cell;
Against which amber soft and palely shines,
Fast deep'ning to the hue the topaz wears.
And these, with ceaseless changefulness of shade,
Broider that Ladye's pearl-enwreathed robe
Of vernal emerald,—When chilling storms
Howl dismally around, and Winter shakes,
Wide spreading to the blast, his hoary locks,
Till they array the frozen earth in snow;
E'en then her beauty wanes not—for she wears
The white and glittering vesture like a veil
Over her festal robe, and when the breeze
Ruffles the silv'ry folds, coquettish peeps,
Smiling and blushing, from her cold, chaste screen.
A NOVEMBER STROLL.
'Twas in late Autumn, that I rambled lone
Along a country path—nay, 'twas a road—
A common turnpike road;—that thing so far
From landscape loveliness, as Poets deem;
Yet I could find that myriad beauties lay
E'en in that beaten track:—beauties to me,
Though hundreds daily passed along, to whom
The things I gloried in were all unknown,
Unseen—unloved; and, doubtless, I must seem
A strange, odd, uncouth being unto them—
Because I sought delightful lore in books
Whose language they knew not; while foreign tongues,
And fashion's erudition, they would strive,
Ambitious, to acquire. Had they e'er read
One page of Nature, with the love devout
Which some are blessed withal, they would not think
That mind distraught, which could delight itself
In contemplation of the smallest weed,
Pebble—leaf—insect—which the lap of earth
Holds in exhaustless wealth. Envy they might
In their small spirits suffer to arise,
Could they conceive the pleasures, high, refined,
Derivable from things so plenteous,—
Pleasures not bought with gold—nor giving toil
Nor pain to living creature.
Oh! that all
Partook the feelings which companioned me
That bright Autumnal morning! The clear sky
Was blue unbroken, save by one or two
Small downy clouds of silvery white, that served
(In artist-phrase) to tell the azures depth,
And sailed along so silently and soft,
That I did long to be a cloud myself,
Soaring beside them:—and the Sun's warm rays
Fell kindly on the earth, whose fading garb,
Though torn by recent storms that had nigh stripped
The woodlands of their leavy wealth, looked gay.
I wandered on—along the beaten path,
Musing most happily;—and often paused
Beside the ragged hedgerow, picking out
From the rough tangled mass, despite the thorns
(Which, sooth to say, defended their charge well),
Bunches of wild red berries, faded leaves,—
And straggling nettle-tops. Sometimes a stick,
O'er which the pale-green Lichen mantling, wrought
A forest-scene in miniature. Now, a long,
Far-creeping, many-angled stalk of that fair plant,
Fair-seeming, yet oft treach'rous, wooddy nightshade:—
The few keen frosts had nipped its verdant leaves,
And most of them had fallen; some remained,
But they were yellow, and the footstalks small
So brittle, that they dropped off at a touch;
But the bright luscious-looking berries hung
In bunches of rich crimson, juicy, ripe,
And tempting e'en to those who know their bale,
Much more to childish lips!—yet those might find
A better treat upon a neighb'ring spray,
That long, arched, prickly streamer, which bent o'er,
Down from the hedge's top, its garland rough,
Bearing the loved Black-berries—though these now
Were "few and far between," and tasteless, too:
Yet frost, which steals the sweetness from the fruit,
Gives to the leaf strange beauty—tinting it
With every various hue, from healthy green
To sickliest yellow—and from that again
Through every soft and brilliant shade that 'longs
To flaming scarlet—richer crimson—brown,
In all its myriad grades—purple—and that
Dappled again with black. Oh! I have culled
An hundred of these painted leaves, and gazed,
And, wondering, looked again upon them all,
Yet ne'er found one whose form of shade or hue
Resembled any other—all unlike;
And then the under surfaces of each
Are white, and smooth, and downy, as if wind,
And frost, and rain, did never come to them.
All o'er the hedge—as if some wealthy nymph
From Neptune's ocean-palace had flung forth
A shower of coral—gleam the polished hyps,
In many a smiling cluster, and we read
An ever-welcome message in their smile:—
It tells us that where they on naked stems,
Leafless and winter-worn, do greet us now,
Summer again will spread her lavish bloom,
And, 'neath the blue sky, bid the roses blush.
Near these, in dark, rich crimson all yclad,
With a soft velvet bloom upon their cheek,
The Hawthorn's winter progeny are seen,
In groups of fruit, which, flavourless to us,
Is a kind harvest to the hungry birds,
And small field mice, who other sustenance
In wintry weather may full seldom find.
So, every thing in Nature hath some end
Of good and useful to achieve—though we
In our small knowledge of her mystic laws
Discern not clearly her appointed path.
Half hid in grass and its own broad bright leaves,
A Summer-flower is lingering e'en yet
Upon the moist hedge-bank—and timidly,
As if it marvelled at its own brave act,
Looks out from its close bower; a prized gem,
Now that its gayer rivals all are gone;
And lovingly we greet the Mallow-flower,
With its striped purple garb and humble mien.
All these were happy meetings unto me—
The leaves, weeds, berries with their lively tints,
Pale flowers, and pleasant musings. But ere long
A dearer and more joyous form than all
Came hopping friskily about. 'Twas he,
The wintry warbler—poor Robin Red-breast,
As blithe and brisk, and merry as his wont,
Singing and chirrupping, as by my side
In kind companionship he skipped along,
Or flew from tree to tree. And as he sung,
Me thought his gay notes shaped themselves to sense—
Language like ours; and thus my fancy framed,
From his sweet music, unmelodious words.
Farewell to Autumn! She's passing away,
Silently, swiftly going—
She is shaking the last brown leaves from the spray,
And they fall on the earth, where the Sun's slant ray
Finds only damp moss growing.
Autumn is parting; mute and fast
Her few faint flowers are dying;
The noon of the year is gone and past,
And every moaning and muttering blast
The Summer's dirge is crying.
But let us be merry—though Summer is gone,
And Autumn away is gliding;
And hoary Winter, now hurrying on,
With storms and snows, will be here anon,
'Mid winds all loudly chiding.
Still, ever be merry, as I am now,
Thorough the wintry weather;
For ye have the bright hearth's cheering glow,
While for me the ruddy hedge-berries grow,
So let us be gay together!
Oh! ever be merry!—what do ye gain
By murmuring, fretting, sighing?—
Why ever strive to discover pain?
Why court the things of which ye complain?
Why on life's dark side be prying?
Cease—cease, and be merry;—Oh come to me,
E'en a bird shall teach ye reason—
Shall show ye how gaily and happily
Poor Robin can sing in a leafless tree,
And love e'en the dreariest season.
Then ever be merry—a lesson take now,
That well ye may aye remember;
A contented heart and a cloudless brow
Can light life's shadowy path with a glow,
Like sunshine in dim November.
AUTUMN SCENES AND FLOWERS.
To the mind accustomed to contemplate and enjoy Nature, every season is so full of beauty, that in describing or alluding to them successively, we unconsciously give to each a seeming preference.
"The flowering Spring, the Summer's ardent strength,
And sober Autumn, fading into age,"
each in its turn calls forth our loving praise. To Spring and Summer we have already paid all the brief tribute which the limits of these pages allow:—and brown Autumn must now succeed her more brilliant, but not more beautiful sisters.
Thomson's opening lines in this season, are too finely descriptive to be forgotten here:—
Crown'd with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,
While Autumn, nodding o'er the yellow plain,
Comes jovial on, the Doric reed once more,
Well pleased, I tune. Whate'er the Wintery frost
Nitrous prepared; the various-blossomed Spring
Put in white promise forth; and Summer suns
Concocted strong, rush boundless now to view,
Full, perfect all, and swell my glorious theme—
From Heav'n's high cope the fierce effulgence shook
Of parting Summer, a serener blue,
With golden light enliven'd, wide invests
The happy world. Attemper'd suns arise,
Sweet-beamed, and shedding oft through lucid clouds
A pleasing calm; while broad and brown below,
Extensive harvests hang the heavy head.
Rich, silent, deep they stand, for not a gale
Rolls its light billows o'er the bending plain:
A calm of plenty! till the ruffled air
Falls from its poise, and gives the breeze to blow.
Rent is the fleecy mantle of the sky;
The clouds fly different; and the sudden Sun,
By fits effulgent, gilds th' illumined field,
And black by fits the shadows sweep along.
A gaily-chequer'd, heart-expanding view,
Far as the circling eye can shoot around
Unbounded tossing in a flood of corn.
Autumn in England is a joyous and a glorious season, the time when nature's wealth of field and tree is most lavishly displayed, and gathered with thankful merriment. How richly, glowingly beautiful are corn-fields now!—with their troops of reapers, gleaners, and country maidens—heavily-laden waggons, sleek, sturdy horses, and gambolling children.
Herrick's "Hock-cart, or Harvest-home," well describes such scenes, though he seems to allude to ceremonies not now in use at that festive time—
Come, sons of Summer, by whose toile
We are the lords of wine and oile;
By whose tough labours and rough hands,
We rip up first, then reap our lands. Crown'd with the ears of corn, now come,
And, to the pipe, sing Harvest-home.
Come forth, my lord, and see the cart
Drest up with all the country art.
See here a maukin, there a sheet,
As spotlesse pure as it is sweete;
The horses, mares, and frisking fillies,
Clad all in linen white as lillies.
The harvest swains and wenches bound
For joy, to see the Hock-cart crown'd.
About the cart heare how the rout
Of rural younglings raise the shout,
Pressing before, some coming after,
Those with a shout, and these with laughter.
Some blesse the cart, some kisse the sheaves,
Some pranke them up with oaken leaves:
Some cross the fill horse, some with great
Devotion stroak the home-borne wheat.
The younger portion of the Harvest-throng find abundant employment in searching the hedges for the favourite and refreshing fruit of the Blackberry—and we see them standing in groups in lanes and fields, with their plump, rosy faces dyed, in no very becoming style it is true, with the dark purple juice; while many a woful rent in frock and pinafore tells of their exploits among the tangled and prickly briars. In the woods, too, both blackberry-gathering and nutting may now be enjoyed to perfection; and in autumn's Forest scenery the Poet and Painter find her greatest glory. Every tree, aye, almost every leaf has a different tint, and the distant wooddy landscape is touched with every hue of the painter's palette, laid on by the delicate and harmonious finger of Nature. Few spots can display this magnificent effect so perfectly, as the scenery on the Wye. The lofty hills which rise on either side of the river's bed, some gradually swelling upwards and others abruptly lifting their craggy summits towards the sky are clothed with rich hanging woods, composed of all varieties of trees; and which, from the different forms of the ground catching the sunlight and shadow in every shade and position, offer an unceasing and ever beautiful change of effect; heightened materially by the yew and fir trees, which are irregularly distributed through the woods, and with their steady sombre hues enhance the brilliant beauty of the rest. Beneath, the water reflects the magical scene, and high above the wooded banks, rise distant mountains, mingling their proud cloud-capped heads with the sky; in such scenes Autumn is truly glorious.
All evergreens are now strikingly beautiful by contrast; for while most of the leavy trees, such as the Oak, Elm, Beech, Sycamore, Chestnut, &c., are decked out in red, yellow, purple, and orange, the majestic Cedar looks grandly around,—the stoic of the forest—disdaining to suffer the Summer's drought or the Autumn breeze to scatter his dark attire, or even discompose his stately demeanour.
The Fir waves his blackening crest against the sunset clouds, as if conscious how greatly he adds to the pictorial beauty of the landscape; and, indeed, few trees can do so much towards making a picture. Its tall trunk, springing so high without foliage, hides none of the earthward view while the deep mass of its shadowy crest often "comes in" most happily to break the uniformity of the sky-tint. The Yew's sombre, darksome branches seem always to have been deemed emblematical of death and mourning. Herrick thus plaintively addresses the Yew and Cypresse.
Both you two have
Relation to the grave;
The fun'rale trump sounds, you are there.
I shall be made
Ere long a fleeting shade;
And doe some honour to my tomb.
Do not deny
My last request, for I
Thankful to you, or friends for me.
With far gladder feelings and memories do we meet the Holly's glossy and shining leaves; they tell us of Christmas merry-makings and kindly greetings; and though too many of the gleesome old customs have passed away, yet Christmas is still a festive season. The Laurel, too, is both an Autumn friend and a Christmas guest. We will quote Herrick again; he wished a Laurel-tree to grow upon his grave.
A funerale stone
Or verse, I covet none;
But only crave
Of you that I may have
A sacred laurel springing from my grave;
Which being seen
Blest with perpetual greene,
May grow to be
Not so much call'd a tree,
As the eternal monument of me.
The Ivy, the last flowering plant of the waning year, now puts forth its plentiful clusters of pale blossoms, the berries of which become ripe the ensuing Spring.
The Ivy, that staunchest and firmest friend,
That hastens its succouring arm to lend
To the ruined fane, where in youth it sprung
And its pliant tendrils in sport were flung.
When the sinking buttress and mouldering tower
Seem only the spectres of former power,
Then the Ivy clusters around the wall,
And for tapestry hangs in the moss-grown hall,
Striving in beauty and youth to dress
The desolate place in its loneliness;—
In all seasons the Ivy is green and bright,
Bring garlands of Joy for Christmas night!
Mosses, Lichens, and the strange, fantastic Fungi, are now in full perfection, and in forests may be studied in all their wonderful varieties of form, size, and colour. But we must now turn to our more especial subjects—Flowers—and going back to the corn-field, we see myriads of bright scarlet Poppies, Blue-bottles, and other lovely wild flowers fall beneath the keen glittering sickle. Foxgloves, Ferns, Thistles, and the delicate Harebells adorn bank, lane, moorland, and forest, filling the covetous, grasping hands of little wanderers with magnificent nosegays, among which may sometimes be detected the luscious sweetness and pallid tint of a lingering Honeysuckle.
On the glorious hills of our Mountain-land, Wales, I have gathered myriads of minute and exquisite Autumn flowers, among which the sweet wild Thyme is eminently beautiful. How often have I exclaimed in the language of Shakspeare—"I know a bank whereon the wild Thyme grows," where it covers the dark rock with large soft beds of its delicious purple clusters, "lulled in whose bowers" the Fairy Queen might well repose, while its aromatic perfume would greet her with delicate incense.
In the garden we have many gay and popular favourites. The giant Sunflower, so contradictorily alluded to by Poets, sometimes as a parasite, sometimes as a constant lover, turns to the deity-king of heaven its yellow ray-like petals and broad brown disk, where the busy bees are ever creeping about and humming, as they draw the sweets from its multitude of florets. The splendid and infinitely various Dahlia raises its luxuriant form, crowned with modelled flowers of every imaginable shade of colour. The double Dahlias have, in my opinion, too entirely superseded their single ancestors, whose deep-gold, powdery centres were so very beautiful. I cannot partake the great admiration bestowed by fancy-florists upon all double monstrocities. Double flowers are showy, and all very well as varieties; but when the original is single, it should never be so entirely lost sight of, as is now generally the case. I always marvel how any one can prefer seeing the cup-like corolla of the Snowdrop or Daffodil, crammed with a multitude of petals crushed and squeezed out of all form and beauty, with the central arrangement of the flower, the stamens, anther, &c., wholly hidden from sight.
The elegant, veined flowers of the Hibiscus are among our Autumn darlings; and the China-asters look cheerfully out from their many-leaved calyces. The Sweet Peas still adorn the trellis with their winged blossoms, and the gay Golden-rod bears aloft its rich yellow crown. The pink and lilac Michaelmas Daisies, though favourite guests, are sad ones, from the presage they bring of the departure of all their fair companion-flowers. But a mere enumeration of these garden inmates, has little interest—we will proceed to look more closely at the subject of the Autumn illustrations.
"The year growing ancient—
Nor yet on Summer's death, nor on the birth
Of trembling Winter, the fairest flowers o' the season
Are our Carnations."—
So says our Shakspeare's lovely Perdita, when, "playing as she had seen them do in Whitsun pastorals," she distributes her token flowers to Polixenes and Camillo: and in truth, for fragrance and beauty, too, the Carnation is the first for fame among our Autumn flowers, and well merits the proud name bestowed on it by Linnæus, of Dianthus, or flower of Jove. All the varieties of the richly-perfumed Clove Carnation, are derived from our native Clove Pink (Dianthus caryophillus), so often found growing luxuriantly on ruins, and adding its spicy breath to the luscious sweetness of the Wall-flower. Two of these wild Pinks are introduced on the right of the large Carnation in the illustrative group. The smaller ones on the left are the Chinese Pinks (Dianthus Chinensis).
Spenser and Ben Jonson generally mention the Carnations by the fanciful name, popular in their day, of "Sops in wine," it being customary to put the flowers into wine by way of improving its flavour by their spicy properties. In Colin's song, in Spenser's "Shepheard's Calendar," they are thus grouped among a variety of other flowers—
Bring hether the pincke and purple cullambine
Bring Coronations and Sops in wine,
Worn of Paramoures:
Strowe me the grounds with daffadowndillies,
And cowslips, and kingcups, and loved lillies:
The pretie pannce
And the chevisaunce
Shall match with the fayre flowerdelice.
Herrick addresses "to Carnations" a pretty little song, which is as full of tune, as if every word were a note of music; it is an air of itself.
Stay while ye will, or goe,
And leave no scent behind ye;
Yet trust me, I shall know
The place where I may find ye.
Within my Lucia's cheeke,
Whose livery ye weare,
Play ye at hide or seeke,
I'm sure to find ye there.
In another complimentary poem the same Bard thus introduces the Clove Pink—
So smell those odours that do rise
From out the wealthy spiceries;
So smells the flower of blooming Clove
Or roses smother'd in the stove;
So smells the air of spiced wine
Or essences of Jessamine.
In the following dialogue poem, by the same writer, are so many sweet thoughts, I shall quote it entire—
Love and my sighs thus intertalk't;
Tell me, said I, in deep distresse,
Where I may find my Shepheardesse.
Thou foole, said Love, know'st thou not this?
In every thing that's sweet she is.
In yond' Carnation goe and seek,
There thou shalt find her lip and cheeke,
In that ennamell'd pansie by,
There thou shalt have her curious eye;
In bloom of peech, and rose's bud,
There waves the streamer of her blood.
'Tis true, said I, and thereupon
I went to pluck them one by one,
To make of parts an union,
But on a sudden all were gone,
At which I stopt; said Love, these be
The true resemblances of thee;
For as these flowers, thy joyes must die,
And in the turning of an eye;
And all thy hopes of her must wither
Like those short sweets ere knit together.
Though so similar in nature and appearance, yet Pinks and Carnations are expressive of very opposite sentiments in floral language. A Pink, presented by a gentleman to a lady, is an offer of marriage:—a Carnation, given by a lady to a gentleman, signifies her refusal of his addresses. On this very important point rests the chief events of the illustrative romance which accompanies the plate.
The simple, delicate, and fragile Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) is a very common way-side flower, as well as a constant guest in the more lonely scenery of the mountain and moorland. It does not shun even the dusty turnpike roads, but suffers its exquisitely formed bells of twilight blue to gleam out, and tremble and wave over the oft-trodden path, as gracefully as in the still solitude of the heathery moor. The extreme thinness of the stems, and their buoyant elasticity, give a bounding, dancing effect to the flowers when stirred by the lightest breeze; and they do, indeed, seem "to a fanciful" eye, to be ringing out a merry peal of fairy-like music:—
Have ye ever heard, in the twilight dim,
A low soft strain,
That ye fancied a distant vesper hymn,
Borne o'er the plain
By the Zephyrs that rise on perfumed wing
When the sun's last glances are glimmering?
Have ye heard that music with cadence sweet,
And merry peal,
Ring out like the echoes of fairy-feet
O'er flowers that steal?
And did ye deem that each trembling tone
Was the distant vesper-chime alone?
The source of that whispering strain I'll tell,
For I've listened oft
To the music faint of the Blue Harebell,
In the gloaming soft.
'Tis the gay fairy-folk that peal who ring
At even-time for their banquetting.
And gaily the trembling bells peal out
With gentle tongue,
While elves and fairies career about
'Mid dance and song.
Oh! roses and lilies are fair to see,
But the wild Blue Bell is the flower for me!
None of our garden Campanulas approach this habitant of the heaths in delicacy and beauty. The small white Campanula is an elegant little gem, but its dwarfish growth renders it very inferior to the springy—pliant—waving and ever graceful wild Harebell. And wild flowers are so much dearer than cultivated ones,—at least I find them so—having been ever fonder of seeking chance beauties in the field, lane, and woodland, than of contemplating the gayer tribes of the garden. It is such a delightful surprise to discover one of one's darling wild flowers in a spot and season when we dreamed not of meeting it; it is an unlooked-for boon of nature: but in gardens we expect to find abundance of fair things,—and very rarely does the disposal of the flowers, or the general arrangement, please my fancy; though a wild hedge-bank, or a heathy moor, leave me nothing to wish for.
Where is the Garden-guest that may outshine the stately, tall, magnificent Foxglove? This is as remarkable for its majestic, lofty demeanour, as the light, lithe Harebell for its modest playfulness. The tall spiral stem, springing up from the group of broad leaves, and thickly hung with the beautiful purple blossoms, gradually lessening in size from the large open bells on the lower portion of the stalk, to the little buds on the summit, still wrapped up in their close green calices, is an object so strikingly beautiful, that I should think any person who had once given it an attentive observance must inevitably be a lover of flowers to the end of his days. I know many of my readers will say I am an enthusiast in my affection for them; but I ought to add that my enthusiasm is the result of love and admiration, little aided by scientific knowledge as yet; though I gladly anticipate the time when a better acquaintance with the fascinating study of Botany will unfold to me many myriad beauties now unobserved, even in the fair forms of my most familiar favourites. The extreme beauty of each bell of the Foxglove will well repay a minute examination: even a cursory glance tells us how gracefully swelling is its outline, and how rich its colour; but look within, where the variously-shaped markings of deep marone, like the spots on a leopard's skin, are edged with a lighter bordering than the ground-colour of the corolla, shewing the pattern more distinctly. Then, attached to the upper side of the bells, and so hidden from us, as they hang round the stem and look modestly down, are the long white filaments, with their fine yellow anthers, so placed as to be in no danger of receiving injury from rain, to avoid which many flowers are endowed with the power of closing the corolla, such as the Daisy, Pimpernel, Marygold, &c., and thereby preserving their various minute organs of fructification unhurt; but the arrangement of the Foxglove's stamens renders this beautiful precaution needless; they lie safely nestling beneath their rich purple dome-like canopy, curtained from wind and storm. There is something very curious, too, in the manner the mouths of the Foxglove bells are pursed up before expanding;—they look as if compelled to keep a secret against their own inclination, and ready to burst to divulge it; yet, full of swelling importance and sedate wisdom, merely nod their clever heads, with a look of "I could an' I would;" and then some sun-shiny day, the lips that have been growing brighter and brighter, and pouting with yet more consequential expression, are unsealed, and the bells gossip of their honey secrets to every wandering wind.
"The green and graceful Fern" I have grouped with the Foxglove in the illustrative plate; for where we meet one, we generally find the other. Foxgloves and Fern have so constantly been associated in my Autumn garlands, that I never think of dissolving their partnership of beauty: indeed, both would suffer by separation. Dearly as I have, from childhood, loved the Fern, yet now it is yet more welcome; for it always recalls to my mind's eye a magnificent scene, to which it added peculiar beauty.
In the neighbourhood of a friend's house at which I was visiting, in Bedfordshire, was (and I hope still is) a grand oak wood. The trees, of unusual height in England, were remarkably erect and pillar-like, as if grown "to be the masts of some great ammirals." They sprung into the air, seeming to support the very clouds; and with their dense mass of foliage spread like a roof above, and stately trunks, like columns standing round, with here and there a distant avenue offering a peep of sunlit meadow scenery, the place might well appear a glorious temple framed by Nature's hand. Beneath waved an ocean of Fern, so high, that when walking on the ground we had a verdant wall, or rather arcade, on each side, reaching far above the head of an ordinary-sized person. But in some places trees had recently been felled, and by climbing upon their prostrate trunks and branches, and looking over the Fern, we gained a scene of surpassing beauty. The wind, rustling in the lofty trees above, seemed to glide lightly over the fan-leaves of the Fern, among which the deer were sportively bounding about, tossing their antlered heads, and chasing each other through the wavy sea of verdure. Squirrels were scampering about the trees, whisking their bushy tails, and playing a thousand merry antics; while the more timid rabbits peeped from their burrows among the Fern roots, with their long sleek ears attentively bent to catch the least suspicious sound, which would send them springing home again. Nor were birds wanting to complete the picture; the "deep mellow crush of the wood-pigeon's note" was heard in the trees, besides other more shrill voices. Altogether, the spot, season, and incidents were so beautiful, that I should cherish the Fern, were it only for its bringing me the memory of feelings so delicious as those I then enjoyed.
Before the curious fructification of the Fern was understood, many superstitious fancies were afloat respecting it; one of which was, that the possession of Fern seed, gathered under peculiar circumstances of time, place, incantation, &c., rendered the wearer invisible—
"We have the receipt of fern-seed—we walk invisible."
A kind of divination, too, is wrought by its means, for the same purpose as that served by the Hallow-e'en mysteries, and by so many other experiments of credulous minds, namely, the all-important one of ascertaining the inquirer's destiny in love matters.
The Fern I have drawn, and hitherto alluded to, is a very common kind; but many of our native Ferns are very diminutive, rare, and flourish only in peculiar situations. The singular one called Maiden-hair, may often be found on ruins; and old stone walls are frequently very productive of other small kinds. The curiously coiled up ball in which the Fern first springs from the ground, and its gradual growth and expansion, are among some of Natures most interesting phenomena. I well remember the extreme delight with which I first examined one of the rough brown knobs, when told that it contained the graceful leaves of the plant I loved so much.
The "little darling" Mignionette is too familiar and dear a friend to need a formal introduction to any company in which we may chance to find her. Her homes are as various as ours who cherish her. From the royal garden, the stately terrace, or the boudoir-balcony, to the small flower-bed of the cottager,—and the narrow, dark, patched window of the poor town artisan, where an old broken jar, or rough box, holds the petted plant,—we find Mignionette an unfailing guest. And right worthy is her modest form and exquisite fragrance of such universal love.
Shelley alludes to it in these few sweet lines "To E. V."—
Madonna, wherefore hast thou sent to me
Sweet basil and mignionette;
Embleming Love and Health, which never yet
In the same wreath might be.
Alas, and they are wet!
Is it with thy kisses or thy tears?
For never rain or dew
Such fragrance drew
From plant or flower—the very doubt endears
My sadness ever new,
The sighs I breathe, the tears I shed for thee.
Mignionette owes nothing of its fame to outward show or splendour of attire, few flowers being robed more soberly; but the uncloying sweetness of its perfume, and its abundant growth, render it one of our best garden treasures. It should be the emblem of those whose beauty and excellence are found in the mind instead of the face.
External loveliness may well be imaged by the gay and brilliant flowers with which the modest Mignionette is grouped in the illustration. The Major Convolvulus is one of the most elegant of our common annuals; but it is devoid of fragrance, and is of very short duration. A summer's day finds it withered ere noon; and each morning decks it with new blossoms, to bask a few brief hours in the sunshine, then shrivel, fall, and pass away. But it would ill become me to disparage the beauty of this fair and favourite flower; the great profusion and luxuriance of its blossoms amply compensating for their short-lived beauty; and when many stems are intertwined, the variety of colour is extremely gay and ornamental.
My own fond love for Wild Flowers is by this time so well known by my readers, that they will not marvel when I mention the common White Bind-weed as being, in my estimation, the most beautiful of all the Convolvuli. It is so very graceful—so lavish of both bloom and foliage—so elegant, yet so wild and free. Frequently its fine large leaves hang in a curtain or drapery of verdure over the ragged hedgerow, or spring in festoons from tree to tree, with myriads of the purely white tent-shaped bells lying on the foliage in wreaths of the most graceful and fanciful forms. The leaves are far more beautiful in shape than the cultivated ones, being arrowy instead of round; and the calyx is also more ornamental. Like most wild flowers, when gathered, they quickly fade, though when immediately placed in water, I have had yards of the chaplet tendrils last several days in great freshness and beauty.
Most persons have some sort of acquaintance with the Thistle family, and divers are the feelings with which its members are regarded. When seized by fair cullers of wild buds, albeit with well gloved hands, the sturdy mountaineer generally leaves a few sharp spines behind him, to remind the assailing fingers he may not be attacked with impunity; and this very natural self-defence gains him the character of a rough pugnacious personage, not fit for gentle company. The agriculturist considers him as an intrusive "ne'er do weel," whose acquaintance he is especially desirous to cut altogether. The Naturalist and the Poet—and the terms ought to be synonymous, for the true source of all their inspiration is the same—spend many an hour in examining the curious and beautiful arrangement of the seeds, and their gradually developed wings of delicate downy filaments, which, when ripe and expanded, fly away with the tiny germs of the young plants to an almost incredible distance. These seeds are very beautiful, too, as well as curious. Floating about in the air, and so light as to be seen scudding along before a breeze so soft that you can scarcely feel it upon your cheek, they form one of the great beauties of Autumn. Who has not in childhood chased the hairy Thistle-down? for it furnishes much better sport than a feather, from its extreme lightness; and being spread out in a globular form, rolls along like a fairy-wheel upon the air. Were I to build a chariot for Queen Mab, I would certainly employ the Thistle-down for wheels.
As an emblem-flower of bonny Scotland, too, the Thistle has acquired no small degree of notoriety. And over many a kindly missive of gentle and loving words do seals keep guard, bearing the impression of a Thistle, and the posy, "Dinna Forget." For my own part, I think a finely grown tall Thistle-plant, with its chevaux-de-frise'd leaves, and bright purple flowers, swelling out from the bristling calyx, like a full petticoat from under a green boddice, a very handsome and ornamental addition either in field or garden (I am no farmer); and the evident relish with which I have seen poor hedge-feeding donkies crunching its rough stalks and leaves, is to me a very conclusive argument in favour of the persecuted Thistle-tribe; which seems to occupy a similar position in the race of flowers to that held by the Gypsies in our own.
The illustrative drawing represents the Holy Thistle (Carduus Benedictus), which is more remarkable for the beauty of its variegated leaf, than its blossom. In Shakspeare's "Much Ado about Nothing," the following mention is made of the plant, by way of quizzery to Beatrice, on her suspected regard for Benedict.
|Beatrice.||By my troth, I am exceeding ill, hey ho!|
•••••••By my troth, I am sick.
|Margaret.||Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus, and lay it to your heart, it is the only thing for a qualm.|
|Hero.||There thou prick'st her with a Thistle.|
|Beatrice.||Benedictus !—Why Benedictus?—you have some moral in this Benedictus.|
|Margaret.||No, by my troth, I meant plain Holy-Thistle.|
The little creeping Cinque-foil, sketched with the Thistle, is common in most parts of the kingdom, enlivening the grass amongst which it creeps with its gay and prettily formed flowers of bright yellow.
We find the originals of our next group in the garden or conservatory. The Lobelia, or Cardinal-flower, as, from its scarlet attire, it is frequently termed, exhibits one of the most brilliant and intense colours of any among Flora's exquisite hues. It is positively dazzling, when intently looked upon, and baffles every attempt at imitation. Being naturally an aquatic plant, it requires a great supply of water, which circumstance has contributed to the morale of my poem. The small blue lobelia is delicately beautiful, and easily cultivated. I have often fancied these flowers admirable portraits of two sisters; the one, proudly beautiful, haughty, and receiving admiration as a right; the other, gentle, unaffected, humble, and blessed with all the unobtrusive loveliness of simplicity and innocence. Every Flower may be so read; nor is the study an idle or unprofitable one, for it induces us to read Nature, that God-written book, open to every eye, creed, and comprehension—that universal language, in which the Creator addresses his creatures—that eternal and exhaustless source of knowledge, devotion, and enjoyment, whose study is a labour of love, which no adverse circumstances can wholly interrupt.
The showy and magnificent flower of the large Tiger-lily occupies the chief place in the following plate, and both the grand outline of its fine form, and its very brilliant colour, deserve our admiration. The great length of the filaments, and their elegant shape, with their dark powdery anthers, add a remarkable feature to this superb flower, which is more beautifully spotted than any other of its tribe, and each mark being raised from the surface of the curved petal in a kind of bas-relief gives it a singularly rich appearance.
The Autumn Crocus, whose modest tint of lilac is a striking contrast to the splendid Lily, is now one of our wild flowers. It is supposed to have been brought originally from the East, where its bulbous roots are in high esteem as eatables. It was introduced into England by Sir Thomas Smith in the reign of Edward the Third, and first planted at Walden in Essex, which, from the quantity of saffron manufactured there from the pointals of the Crocus, has acquired the name of Saffron Walden.
This delicate flower is now generally distributed over England, though in many parts it flourishes in far greater luxuriance than in others. In some districts of Herefordshire and Shropshire (as I am informed by a friend, whose Autumn rambles led him among much of the picturesque scenery of both counties), this Crocus grows in such profusion, as to clothe the fields and hills in one beautiful robe of amethyst. Nor is it to be disregarded, even when flowering less abundantly, for in our meadows and gardens a few groups of its delicate bells form at this season a precious treasure.
The economy of the Autumn Crocus is extremely curious. The flowers appearing so late in the year, when the seeds could not be ripened by exposure to the sun and air, an entirely different organization is adopted by nature for the propagation of the plant; the fructification takes place under ground, and the following Spring the seed vessels rise to the surface accompanied by leaves, which do not appear with the flower in Autumn.
Spenser weaves in the Saffron Crocus very gracefully, in the following group of flowers in his translation of "Virgil's Gnat:"—
And round about he taught sweet floures to growe;
The Rose engrained in pure scarlet die;
The Lilly fresh; and Violet belowe;
The Marigold; and cheerful Rosemarie;
The Spartan Mirtle, whence sweete gumb does flowe;
The purple Hyacinthe, and fresh Costmarie;
And Saffron, sought for in Cicilian soyle;
And Lawrell th' ornament of Phœbus' toyle.
Fresh Rhododaphne; and the Sabine flower,
Matching the wealth of th' ancient Frankincence;
And pallied Yvie, building his own boure;
And Box, yet mindful of his olde offence;
Red Amaranthus, lucklesse Paramoure;
Oxeye still greene, and bitter Patience,
Ne wants there pale Narcisse, that, in a well
Seeing his beauty, in love with it fell.
The flower and fruit of the Arbutus, or Strawberry-tree, are represented in the following plate. We have few shrubs which contribute so much and so constantly to the adornment of our gardens and lawns as this. Its deep glossy ever-green leaves are alone beautiful; but when in Autumn these are gemmed with its clusters of delicate flowers, and the richly-hued ripening fruit (which is a year in attaining maturity, and so appears with the succeeding blossoms), I know few objects so beautiful as a fine Arbutus. At the famed lakes of Killarney, the abundance and magnitude of these splendid trees constitutes one of the great charms of that fairy region.
The spray, from which my illustration was made, ripened its many-tinted berries under the shelter of Warwick Castle, where the Arbutus trees, in the great court, are truly magnificent.
The last subjects of my pencil, in this small portrait-gallery of Nature's beauties, are mere memories of flowers the offspring of our Summer friends, who possess our love, rather for the sake of their parents than their own loveable qualities. But the Blackberry claims much of our affection on its own account, were it only for the happy scenes of childhood which it can bring back to our mind's eye. I always have loved it—and do yet as dearly as ever; and during a merry day's rambling last Autumn, was fairly immersed in a Blackberry-dingle; whence my extrication was matter of some hazard and difficulty. There are few out-door childish amusements which are not not as welcome to me now, as they ever were, and I think they will retain their charm to the end of my earthly pilgrimage; I do not like to hear people say, when speaking of country strolls and scrambles, "Oh! I am too old to enjoy such things,"—"it is all very well for children, but quite unbecoming in persons of my age, &c." If people would but be wise enough, through life, to derive enjoyment from such innocent pleasures as delighted them in childhood, we should find far fewer sour tempers, cold hearts, and narrow minds in the world. All, except positive idiots, are endowed by God with a portion of that beautiful poetry of existence which in childhood is so conspicuously evident, teaching even the infant in the nurse's arms to snatch at flowers, and laugh in the sunshine. But as men and women grow up, the capability of deriving pleasure from such sources is gradually destroyed instead of developed; inherent love of all created things is changed to selfishness and cruelty; admiration to indifference; eager curiosity and enquiry are chilled by the present semi-barbarous systems of "education;" true, natural devotion choked and often uprooted by bigotry and fanaticism; and that glorious work of Almighty God—reasonable and gifted Man, reduced to a mere mechanical automaton, progressing along life's ever-changeful, and, so often, beautiful path, without turning an eye to the right or left in observance of the wondrous works so lavishly spread around, and only intent on sweeping on, and accumulating a heap of rich dust, which may in a moment be scattered to the winds, and which he must at last leave behind. Fortunately for the rising generation the study of Natural History is become "fashionable," and heartily do I pray that to be natural in heart, mind, and feeling may become "fashionable" too.
But to return.——I would counsel every one, but especially the young, and of my own sex, never to suffer that poetry of childhood to be effaced from their hearts;—never to fancy, with ridiculous pride, "Oh! I am growing up now; I shall soon be a woman, and it is childish to gather daisies, and to run about the fields; I must walk straight along the turnpike road, look right before me, and be "lady-like!" Perhaps few say this; but many, many a young heart thinks it, and is taught to think it by teachers more ignorant than their victim pupils. Oh! for an educational revolution, or reform at least! which, however, could not well make my country rambles more erratic than they are, though it might give me the happiness of seeing others as childish as myself—and as unladylike too, if active enjoyment in pleasure-giving scenes merits that dreaded epithet. I remember that when perched on the top of a high and somewhat steep bank, in the act of gathering the branch of Gorse which I have drawn in this work, a party of most correct looking promenaders passed along the road below me, and hearing a rustling in the bushes, looked up with no small astonishment on beholding a figure, they were accustomed to see walking in the town with infinite staidness and propriety, perched up at a height that implied a necessity for most resolute scrambling. My amusement far exceeded their surprise; but I have no doubt my flower-love in this instance gained me the character of a most uncouth young person.—Be it so—I had my reward, in the pleasure of possessing, and in some degree, perpetuating the beauty of my prickly prize; and I much doubt if the line-and-rule saunter of the astonished fashionables was half as serviceable to their minds or bodies as I found my wild scramble. But I have again left my Blackberries! however, they occupy so large a space in the versified ramble annexed to the plate that I need say little of them here. The infinite variety of brilliant colours displayed in the Autumnal tinting of their leaves must have attracted the notice of the most careless observer.
The hedge-rows at this season are very beautiful, adorned with the bright polished coral of the Dog-rose Hips, the deep, rich bloom of the Haws, and here and there, in the most graceful festoons, hang the not quite leafless sprays of the Wooddy Nightshade, with its treacherous berries looking lusciously crimson and juicy. The illustrative poem being "a fact, literally rendered," I need give no prose description of the same scene. The Blackberries, Haws, Hips, and the clustered Nightshade berries are represented in the plate.
Here must end my third and last sociable gossip—for such these chapters seem to me, rather than formal deeds of authorship, and such I would fain have them appear to my readers. My book cannot play the part of a literary and scientific omnibus, and transport its friends at once into the Fairy-realm of Nature's Romance; but if it only serves as an humble finger-post on the road, pointing towards the clime its author loves so well, her effort will not have been a vain one, nor unproductive of some degree of good to her fellow sojourners in this proverbially "matter of fact" world. We have abundance of books published for the purpose of making us wiser: My ambition would be, that mankind—in which woman-kind is ever prominently ranked—should be made happier by some fortunate work of mine:—and if by any added associations of thought or fancy, I have in these pages enhanced the pleasure with which one person contemplates a flower, "e'en though the meanest bud that bears the name,"—I shall have attained a step nearer to my object.
The wrathful Winter prochynge on a pace,
With blust'ring blastes had al ybared the treen,
An old Saturnus with his frosty face
With chilling colde had pearst the tender green:
The mantles rent wherein enwrapped been
The gladsom groves that nowe longe overthrowen,
The tapets torn, and every blome down blowen.
The soyle that earat so semely was to seen,
Was all despoyled of her beauties hewe:
And soote freshe flowers (wherewith the summer's queen
Had clad the earth) now Boreas blastes downe blewe,
And small fowles flocking in their song did rewe
The winter's wrath, wherewith eche thing defaste
In woful wise bewayled the summer past.
Hawthorne had lost his motley lyverye,
The naked twigges were shivering all for colde;
And dropping down the teares abundantly;
Eche thing (me thought), with weping eye me tolde
The cruell season, bidding me with-holde
My selfe within, for I was gotten out
Into the feldes, wheras I walkte about.
Scowling Winter looked grimly out
From the gate of his icy Hall;
But the forest-trees were still wrapped about
In their painted splendour, and in the route
Of the merry breeze waved they all.
Too gay and bright
Seemed their garb to him,
Whose array is chill, and dark, and dim—
It irked his sight,
And he longed to hold
His stern, harsh, cold
Dominion o'er all the shivering land,
And grasp it tight in his frosty hand.
He threw o'er the earth a wrathful look;
The Sun grew pale, and the strong trees shook,
At the icy glance of his withering eye;
And then his loud voice came rushing by,
Calling to Autumn; he bade her fling
Prone to the earth each verdant thing
That bloomed in the path of the cold Ice-king.
"Thy reign is o'er"—he sternly cried,
"Passing away are thy power and pride,
Thy golden throne
Is carried away from the bare hill-side;
Thy flowers all flown
From field, wood, moorland, garden, and lea,
Then yield up thy desolate realm to me.
Yet, ere thou go
Shake the last brown leaves from the forest tree,
And lay them low;
Lay them low, as a carpet spread
On the mossy ground—
Strew them around,
Beneath my feet—not o'er my head;
"For I shall bring
Curtains all wove of the silvery snow,
And drop them around—above—below,
While not a thing
That thou hast cherished its face shall show.
Fling away all
Thy fluttering leaves and faded flowers;
Too slight—too small
Their forms would seem in my lofty bowers;
For wreaths and garlands are sculptured there
Like marble, yet whiter than ever were
The chisel's triumphs—and all so light,
Like down, or gossamer streamers slight,
That a breeze can shake the branches bare.
"Oft in the night,
When wearied mortals lie warmly sleeping,
I o'er the world through the air am sweeping;
And tricking out
Each familiar scene like a Fairy Land;
Hanging pendants of icicles clear
From roof, shed, window—there and here,
In many a crystal and diamond spear;
And flinging pearls with a lavish hand
O'er hedge, field, fence, bush, grove, and tree,
All set in a silvery filagree.
And my feats are ever so silently done
They're all unguessed, till the morning sun
Ruddy and round, 'mid vapours tost
Looks on a kingdom of white hoar-frost.
These are my sports—and oft I fling
A glassy floor from rim to rim
Of the lake that shines i' the valley low;
And then—how merrily, swiftly go
The skaiters along!—They dart—they skim—
Or circle in many a mazy ring;
Oh! these are the sports of the cold Ice-king.
And what hast thou to show,
In thy russet bower and leavy pall,
Can match with my boundless and glittering Hall?"
Queen of the sober shroud,
Haste thee away—begone—
For the Ice-king hurryeth on:
He travels along on a swift black cloud;
The strong winds his coursers are;
He travels along—and their roar so loud
Before him rolls afar—
He comes—and the leafless woods bend down
Before the King of the Icy crown.
He comes in terror, and wrath, and dread;
Around him the storm and the blast outspread
Their awful wings—and the darken'd sky
Frowns on the earth most gloomily—
Oh! the Ice-king's reign is dreary!
But though dreary without—'tis glad within,
For now the Christmas sports begin,
With merry meetings of kith and kin,
And hearts so light and cheery—
The wintry eves we will e'en prolong
With the bounding dance, and the festive song,
And the ancient goblin-story:
The great yule-log on the hearth shall blaze,
And old gossips chat of their by-gone days,
And England's Christmas glory;
The Holly's bright leaves and berries red
In wreaths o'er the picture-frames bespread,
And the Misletoe-bough above them,
For maidens who covet, yet seem to dread,
A kiss from the lips who love them.
Farewell to the year!—the fair young Spring
In Summer's glow did vanish;
Autumn fled from the stern Ice-king,
Whom Spring again will banish.
- The Pyrus Japonica, page 18.
- The Water-lily.
- The Lobelia fulgens, or Cardinal-flower, here alluded to, requires a constant and plentiful supply of water;—if deprived of it, the long stem bends to the ground, the flowers flag—and, unless soon indulged with its wonted libations, the plant dies.
- Saffron is made from the yellow anthers of the Autumn Crocus.
- Since writing the above, I have heard of a double Pansy!—Are these refined barbarians, the "fashionable" florists, to have no bounds set to their enormities?