The Romance of Nature; or, The Flower-Seasons Illustrated/Introductory
THE ROMANCE OF NATURE.
Ye are the stars of earth—ye glorious things!
And as your skiey kindred gem the night,
So ye, with hues like rainbows, yet more bright,
Gladden the day—and, as each sunburst flings
More wide your nectared leaves, where lab'ring sings
The honey-seeking bee, or in gay flight
Hovers the dainty butterfly, we might
Deem ye, too, insects—birds, without their wings.
Ye are the stars of earth—and dear to me
Is each small twinkling bud that wanders free
'Mid glade or woodland, or by murm'ring stream,
For ye to me are more than sweet or fair—
I love ye for the mem'ries that ye bear
Of by-gone hours, whose bliss was but a dream.
And are they not the stars of earth? Doth not
Our memory of their bright and varied forms
Wind back to childhood's days of guileless sport,
When these familiar friends of later years
"A beauty and a mystery" remained?
And were they not to infant eyes more dear
E'en than their starry kindred? For one glance
Of wondering love we lifted to the vault
Of the o'er orbèd sky, have we not bent
Full many a gaze of pleased affection down
To the green field, starred over with its hosts
Of daisies, countless as the blades of grass,
'Midst which they seemed to look and laugh at us?
Oh! I can now recall th' unthrift delight
That filled my basket and my tiny hands
With buttercups, that shone in burnished gold,
And daisies, with their rose-tipped silvery rays
Spreading around the yellow boss within—
And some, most prized, that had not yet displayed
Their fairy circle, but emerging new
From their green hermitage, seemed as they blushed
Beneath the ardent sun's admiring gaze:—
And then, the treasure housed, with what proud care
The simple buds were ranged in vase or cup,—
Nothing to us too costly for their use,—
And set in sunny window with strict care
That none molest our wealth.
Aye, we were rich
In those young, innocent days—rich in our love
Of the not unveiled world—rich in our faith
That all was as it seemed—that life was truth.
Rich in its ignorance is infancy,
And every added year but makes more poor,
By added knowledge, childhood's guileless wealth—
The wealth of an unblighted, unchilled soul.
Flowers never lose their charm. When older grown,
See a child working in his little plot
Of garden ground; and, if you chance to stand,
As I have often done, high in the love
Of the young tyro of the spade and rake
Look at the eager joyousness and pride
With which the choicest of the little store
Are plucked and offered you. The reddest rose—
The tallest pink—and, treasure beyond all,
The matron daisy and her circling brood,
"The hen and chickens." How I love the glance
Of exultation that comes with the gift!
And wish, aye, from my very soul, that each
Young school-immured being could so learn
From Nature's glorious book her marv'lous works—
Pedants might lose their slaves, but worlds win men.
And are not Flowers the earliest gift of love?
Do they not, mutely eloquent, oft speak
For absent or for trembling hearts, and bear
Kisses and sighs on their perfumèd lips—
And worlds of thought and fancy in their leaves
Touched by the rainbow's dyes? Have ye ne'er prized
Some token-flower—an early rose—a bunch
Of young Spring's first and sweetest violets, culled
And given into yours by hands so dear,
That all Flowers seemed grown holier from that time?
Have ye ne'er hoarded such a simple gift—
Aye, through long years—e'en when each shrunken leaf
Bore not a semblance to the thing it was,
And the soft fragrance that had once been there
Had changed from sweet to noisome—and, e'en then,
For very fondness could not fling away
Those dim and faded records of the past,
But laid the frail things in their wonted place,
To gaze—and dream—and weep upon again?
'What slowly-pacing band is gliding, 'neath
Yon aisle-like avenue of stately elms,
Tow'rds the grey village church?' 'A fun'ral train;
And she they mourn far fairer was than all
Her maiden friends, who oft have gaily met
Her bounding form amid the rustic dance,
And now assemble round her early grave—
The very tree from whence the wreath was plucked
That crowned her Lady of the May, has given
A chaplet of its flowers, the wan white rose,
To lay upon her pall.'—
And have not Flowers,
E'en from the earliest time, been banquet guests?
Have they not wreathed alike the brow and bowl?
Bright'ning and chastening, at once, the scenes
Of revelry to which they gave a grace,
A simple luxury, and a charm beyond
What any aid of human art could bring?—
Beautiful, even in its error, seems
The Pagan offering of Flowers as gifts
To the Almighty Power; for what so fair—
So pure, so holy as their fragile forms?
Earth's lovliest offspring, whom the mighty sun
Looks on with smiles—and whom the careful sky
Nourishes with soft rain—and whom the dew
Delights to deck with her enclustered gems,
Which each, reflecting the soft tint it lights,
Gains, while it gives, new beauty.
Most wonderful and lovely are they all,—
From our own daisy, "crimson-tipped," that greets
Our English childhood with its lowly look,
To the proud giants of the Western world,
And gorgeous denizens of either Ind,
Towering in Nature's majesty and might,
And lifting up their radiant heads to hail
The sun—their monarch—as he burns above.
Who does not love them? Reader, if thine heart
Be one unblessed by such affection, turn
Far from these lays thy cold and careless eye,
For less than dull to thee the page will seem.
And if e'en Nature glads thee not, then Art,
With Nature for her model, will but tire:
But ye; Creation's readers, oh! be mine,
If ye do love that glorious book, whose leaves,
Interminably spread before our eyes,
Challenge our onward progress in its lore,—
Small though our utmost grasp of it may be—
Then will ye listen to the simple lyre,
That now, with changeful tone, or grave, or gay,
Wakes its wild music to a gentle theme,—
Gentle and sweet,—'Tis The Romance of Flowers.
SONG OF THE FLOWERS.
See, we come dancing in sunshine and showers,
Like fairies or butterflies—bright young Flowers;
O'er vale and o'er mountain, though ever so steep,
Go wander—well still on your rambles peep.
Far from the city and smoke live we,
With our neighbour, the rugged old forest-tree,
Who, wrapped in his mantle of ivy green,
Looks gay,—for his wrinkles are never seen.
With the zephyrs we dance
'Neath the bright warm sun;
But the moon's pale glance
Bids our sport be done,—
Then we close our petals, nor, winking, peep
Till the morning breaks our perfumed sleep.
Oh! are we not beautiful, bright young Flowers,
In stately garden or wild-wood bowers?
To us doth the lover his love compare;
Then, think ye, can aught be more sweet or fair?
Her brow is the lily, her cheek the rose,
Her kiss is the woodbine (more sweet than those);
Her eye in the half-shut violet beams,
When a bright dew-drop on its lustre gleams;
We are wreathed in her hair
By the hands loved best,
Or clustered with care
On her gentle breast:
And oh! what gems can so well adorn
The fair-haired girl on her bridal morn?
Blooming in sunshine, and growing in showers,
Dancing in breezes—we gay young Flowers!
How oft doth an emblem-bud silently tell
What language could never speak half so well!
E'en sister flow'rs envy the favoured lot
Of that blue-eyed darling, Forget-me-not.
Her name is now grown a charmed word,
By whose echo the holiest "thoughts are stirred."
Come forth in the Spring,
And our wild haunts seek,
When the wood-birds sing,
And the blue skies break:
Come forth to the hill—the wood—the vale—
Where we merrily dance in the sportive gale!
Oh! come to the rivers rim, come to us there,
For the white water-lily is wondrous fair,
With her large broad leaves on the stream afloat
(Each one a capacious fairy-boat),
The swan among Flowers! how stately ride
Her snow-white leaves on the rippling tide;
And the dragon-fly gallantly stays to sip
A kiss of dew from her goblet's lip:
Oh! come in the glow
Of the long summer's day,
When the cool waves flow,
And the zephyrs play;
Oh! dwell not in cities, 'mid cark and care,
But come to the river's rim, come to us there.