Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

To the Château in Languedoc

Whole deputations
From the surrounding districts flock,
With odes, addresses, gratulations,

And long orations ;
And, among others, the Préfect

Of Miroblais,
Famed for its annual Fair of Asses,
Began a speech which, by its dull
Exordium, threatend to be full

As long and dry as fifty masses.
Dupin, who saw his yawning master
Somewhat annoy'd by this disaster,
And thought it might be acceptable
To quiz the Bore, and stop his gabble,
Abruptly cried—"Pray, Mr. Mayor,
How much did asses fetch last Fair?”
“ Why, Sir,” the worthy Mayor replied,
As the impertinent he eyed-
“Small sandy ones, like you, might each

Sell for three crowns, and plenty too:”– Then quietly resumed his speech,

And mouth'd it regularly through.

Rabelais and the Lampreys.

When the eccentric Rabelais was physician

To Cardinal Lorraine, he sat at dinner
Beside that gormandizing sinner,
Not like the medical magician,
Who whisk'd from Sancho Panza's fauces
The evanescent meats and sauces,
But to protect his sacred master

Against such diet as obstructs
The action of the epigastre,

O’erloads the biliary ducts,
The peristaltic motion crosses,
And puzzles the digestive process.
The Cardinal, one hungry day,

First having with his eyes consumed
Some lampreys that before himn fumed,
Had plunged his fork into the prey,
When Rabelais gravely shook his head,
Tapp'd on his plate three times, and said--

""Pah!-hard digestion! hard digestion !” And his bile-dreading Eminence, Though sorely tempted, had the sense

To send it off without a question. “ Hip! Hallo! bring the lampreys here !”

Cried Rabelais, as the dish he snatch'd; And gobbling up the dainty cheer,

The whole was instantly despatch’d.

Redden'd with vain attempts at stilling

At once his wrath and appetite,
His Patron cried—“Your conduct 's rude;
This is no subject, Sir, for trifling;
How dare you designate this food
As indigestible and crude,

Then swallow it before my sight?"
Quoth Rabelais, “ It may soon be shewn

That I don't inerit this rebuff:
I tapp'd the plate, and that, you

Is indigestible enough;
But as to this unlucky fish,

With you so strangely out of fayour,
Not only 'tis a wholesome dish,
But one of most delicious flavour.”

'll own,

H.

ON TUR POETRY AND MORAL USE OF FLOWERS.

~ Sweets to the sweet." What a pleasant variegated field we have before us; a field glowing in rich unheeded and ungleaned beauties; a wilderness of sweets. A thousand delicate forms and rainbow colours, and odorous buds, “culled fresh from Psyche's amorous bowers," seem bursting on the sight and sense. My youth—my earliest love of flowers-the first tree I planted -the girl to whom I first breathed love-with the heart's best and fondest recollections, appear daily and hourly more freshly and vividly before my aged eyes. I know not how it is, intervenient things fade away, and I find myself, as it were, returning again and rambling unconsciously among my childhood's scenes.

I delighted in my garden when a boy; and now, though I had long forgotten and deserted them, I feel my love of flowers revive. But let not botanists, or the professors and students of botany, expect any thing from us; our specimens will be altogether of another class. We shali intrench neither upon the system of Linnæus nor Jussieu ; our system is of a fạr more harmless and unpretending kind,--no Latin, no classification, no analysis and dissection : far from squeezing their incensebreathing souls out of them, double and treble-pressed, we shall merely preserve a poetic memorial of our flowers, as a grateful return for the ethereal fragrance and exquisite sweetnesses they have elicited, gathered and crushed in the honoured hands of our divinest poets.

By us, however,—for I will not call myself—who likes to be called? an old man,—by us, those amaranth flowers have only been tasted and most lady-like adored. But of "stealing and giving odours," and coquetting, as with the poets, alas! we may say with a learned Theban, "we are not worthy;" so let this

pass;

" let the race be to the swift and the battle to the strong." Our voice shall be loud in their praise, though we wait, with empty hands, at their feast. Nay, we must not begin an episode yet;—but remember my old age, Mr. Editor,- I will try to ramble no more.

Far away then, O my flowers, be all cruel thoughts of lectures, instrumental cases, knives, pincers, and magnifying glasses, with which to see and to seize that fine invisible texture, those green threads and

VOL. V. NO, XXIII.

2 D

veins through which the ethereal juices so joyously course along the living “milky way.” Not ours so wantonly to mar your bright faces of brief beauty,“ of splendour in the grass and glory in the flower.” Live ye, and flourish-short emblems and undefaced images, from race to race, of earth's worth and vanities; of the blooming and the fading of these our mortal joys !

Nor is it merely with the rough exterior “mixture of earth's mould” I have to do; it is with their more unfading and immortal qualities, the loves and spirits of the plants, I would converse, as blooming in undying song. But this language belongs only, I believe, immemorially to young poets and ladies, and souls "that love the moon," and can sit and smile at grief with bursting hearts; making quaint comparisons out of the moonlight sweetly sleeping on the bank, and the sleeping and dying flowers: it is for the night-lovers of the nightingale and the rose, the interpreters of the voiceless tongues of birds and myrtle-leaves, timidly given and blushingly received; memento's amare (not mori) and the “ forget me not” of idolizing wretched lovers. For such we vindicate them, and for the yet more hallowed service of the dead-for the young and beautiful of all times and people, whose fondness we half imagine lives beyond the tomb, as, ere we leave them, we scatter over them the flowers they loved.

Far from us, then, be the hands of the “ culler of herbs and simples," the wide-wasting botanist and chemist, except only the chemist bee, whose powers

“ So subtly true, From poisonous herbs extract the healing dew,” but whose delicate forceps, unlike the botanist's, never defaces the outward “divinity of the flower.” We are quite at a loss to point out the period and first occasion of this our Platonic love for plants, so perfectly dissimilar and distinct from the more earthly and interested admiration of the naturalist gardener and professed florist, comparatively “ of the earth earthy;" the emblem, the allegory, the poetical soul and beauty of the blooming race, belonging not to them. We were smitten, however, with their gentle and ethereal qualities earlier than we can tell :

A school-boy wandering in the woods

To pull the flowers so gay," being a portion of the very first lines we were taught to commit to the tablet of our memory, superseding, we suppose, other still “more trivial fond records," when we stood a trembling petticoated urchin at the school-dame's side. In a similar spirit were committed to heart those moral lessons from the flowers given to us by our friend Mrs. Barbauld, and the good Dr. Watts ;-our second lesson

“ Mark how the little busy bee

Improves each shining hour,
And gathers honey, all the day,

From every opening flower,” &c. which was followed by

“ How cheerful along the gay mead,

The daisies and cowslips appear,” &c. and thus, in a short time, it was my lot to tremble at the drowsy and awful warning-voice of the sluggard

“ I heard him complain, You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again ;” then,

I pass’d by his garden, and saw the wild briar,

The thorn, and the thistle, grow broader and higher;" with a thousand more illustrations and denunciations from the flowers, wh as I grew older and older, began to “run riot" ough my me. mory, to the detriment of more serious things. As long as I kept to those sensible and agreeable flowery images, with their pretty moral applications, it was well with me at school. But a master succeeded to my mistress--a bad exchange, it will be allowed ; and the Latin Grammar—that odious, never-to-be-forgotten, “never enough to be execrated,” Lilly's grammar-took place of the flowers of my sweet native poets—my dear mother English-planting thorns where roses grew, and turning my little paradise into the "infernal (classic) shades." From this time forward, I became altogether “transmografied,” as Bottom has it. I was perfectly out of my element in the Latin elements at eight years old. I was often " to seek," as the phrase is beyond the Atlantic, guessing and guessing at the meanings in vain : in vain we were taught that Flora was the goddess of flowers, and tried to decline the names of plants and trees; of the wood and fountain-presiding nymphs; how Proserpine scattered the flowers out of Dis's waggon, and how—_Lempriere's mythology seemed invented for the torture of school-boys in vain. It was more than Latin, it was very Greek to me, indeed. I could not revolutionize and transfer my ideas quick enough from the English groves and gardens into the nymph and dryad-haunted woods and streams, among the Fauns and Satyrs of the ancients. Robin Goodfellow, and the fairies, and the “ fairy rings," seemed to fascinate me, and were in my way. To the fillet-bound priestesses, with sacrifices of fruits and flowers, and to the thyrsus-ruling festival of Bacchus, were opposed Mrs. Trimmer's and Barbauid's hymns, and Cunningham's pastorals, the holidays, and the hay and harvest-home.

As I could not thus readily transplant my notions, I quarrelled with my master, and generally came off with the worst. It was about “ Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, virorum,” &c. that we became mutually disagreeable and disgusted with each other ; so, to end such an unequal controversy, I begged the question, and ran away from school. After I saw the first advertisement, however, relating to “distracted parents and entire forgiveness," with a broken head and slit ears, I returned, and was allowed to remain at home. Hinc illæ lacrymæ. My own little world was, once more, all before me-a world of singing-birds and flowers ; and for a season I revelled in it indced. I explored each “bosky bourn and every alley green,” for the birth-place of the most beautiful and majestic flowers. Of the lowlier tribes, primroses, violets, cowslips, and lilies, but more especially the two latter, were my youthful pride. They were somewhat rarer than the others about my rural haunts; and never shall I forget the hour when, far from home, in an old meadow sacred from the plough, beside some fine ancestral ruins I then called the Old Huts, I all at once came upon a gold and silverstudded sward with those rare cowslip and lily-bells—not scattered by one, two, or three, but in rich groups every where, hanging their pensive heads by thousands, mingled here and there with orchis, violet, and primrose. It was a glorious sight, and made me happier than I Eset remember to have been since. My brother was sketching abocz the ruins létum penetunt riaz), and it was long before I called him krt in mysterious delight. He was a botanist, and lacgbed at by sirr.ple armiration of these common fowers. He would have raised a hundred miles a-day, and sought for weeks and months after a single new plant: be was older than I, and often took me wish him. I can imagine I see his joy at the discovery of some fine rare specimen, in which I shared, accompanying him chiefly for this, full of gladness and wonder at his delight. He had a poble collection, arranged in perfect order, with their Latin terms; in which I ventured not to imitate him, giving them only English terms: losing them rather for them. selves than their names' sake, and often petitioning to let them grow: not that I consider this precocity of sentiment-perhaps morbid sentment—as a good sign; it has been the greatest torment of my life.

I have since visited some of our favourite walks of fifty years ago: how strangely altered they appeared, particularly round some fine old buildings, famous for nothing but dilapidation and traditionary tales! They hari then, however, the additional advantage of a deserted orchard of red ripe apples and plums, though “ few and far between, and which we seldom ventured to gather, for fear of the information and vengeance of the castle spectres, to whom it was said to belong, From its terrific aspect, I suppose, it was called Lion's House. Our excursions, or rather campaigns, in that neighbourhood, had in them something I still feel of the heroic and sublime: he who ventured nearest that frowning pile, like the lion in the fable, bore away the largest spoil.

Among many other plans of beguiling my childish hours and indulging my untutored feelings, I recollect one of building a little tent and enclosing a garden under the skirts of a neighbouring forest with incredible pains, of which no one else was presumed to know, and stocking it with wild flowers and hives of bees; in which last, by the by, I bribed the help of an old woman, afraid of being stung; and there I worked, and there I sat, and enjoyed the perplexity of my brothers, who wondered where I was gone. At last I was traced to my sylvan retreat, and then I accused the old woman very bitterly of betraying me. After a thousand speculations of a similar kind, these pursuits became mingled with those of a bigher and more intellectual cast, but still partaking of the same impressions, and of the same tendency as before. My acquaintance with the residents of gardens and green-houses-of beds of auriculas and roses-of herbariums, rosariums, and wild field-flowers, became at once more poetical and extensive, from the magnolia to the daisy, from the cedar to the “hyssop on the wall.” Though a little more scientific, it was still their fragrance, their colours, and the beauty or grandeur of their shape, that were my especial delight. While I exhausted their praises in the poets, their botanical merits in the nomenclature and scientific classification were very little considered.

For a long period after my self-introduction to the treasures of old English poetry, as well as to the Classics of other countries, my whole attention became absorbed in, and directed to the finest imagery, fables, and comparisons, afforded by the inexhaustible world of fiowers, in

« AnteriorContinuar »