To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.    

OF PLANTS, BOOK III
Translated by C. Cleve

Now, Muse, if ever, now look brisk and gay,
The spring’s at hand, blithe looks like that display.
Use all the schemes and colours now of speech,
Use all the flower’s that poetry enrich,
Its glories all, its blooming beauties bring, 5
As may resemble the returning spring.
Let the same musick through thy verse resound
As in the woods and shady groves is found.
Let every line such fragrant praise exhale
As rises up from some sweet-smelling vale. 10
Let lights and shades, as in the woods, appear,
And shew in painted verse the season of the year.
Come then away, for the first welcome morn
Of the spruce moneth of May begins to dawn.
This day, so tells the poets sacred page, 15
Bright Chloris did in nuptial bands engage.
This very day the knot was tied, and thence
The lovely maid a goddess did commence.
The signs of joy did everywhere appear,
On earth, in heaven, throughout the sea and air. 20
No wandring cloud was seen in all the sky,
And if there were, ’twas of a curious dye.
The air serene, not an ungentle blast,
Ruffled the waters with its rude embrace.
That wind that was breath’d odours all around, 25
And only fann’d the streams, and only kiss’d the ground.
Of unknown flow’rs now such a numerous birth
Appear’d, as e’en astonish’d Mother Earth.
The lily grew ’midst barren heath and sedg,
And the rose blush’d on each unprickly hedg. 30
The purple violet and the daffadil
The places now of angry nettles fill.
This great and joyful day, on which she knew
What ’twas to be a wife and goddess too,
The grateful Flora yearly did express 35
In shews, religious pomp and gaudiness,
Long as she thriv’d in Rome, and reign’d among
The other gods, a vast and numerous throng.
But when the sacred tribe was forc’d from Rome,
Among the rest an exile she became, 40
Strip’d of her plays, and of her fane bereft,
Nought of the grandeur of a goddess left.
Since then, no more ador’d on earth by men,
But forc’d o’er flowers to preside and reign,
The best she can, she still keeps up the day. 45
Not as of old, when bless’d with store she lay,
When with a lavish hand her bounties flew,
She ha’nt the heart and means to do it now,
But in a way fitting her humble state
She always did, and still does celebrate. 50
And now that she the better may attend
The flowry empire under her command,
To all the world at times she does resort,
Now in this part, now in that she keeps her court.
And so the seasons of the year require, 55
For here ’tis spring, perthaps ’tis autumn there.
With ease she flies to the remotest shores,
And visits in the way a world of flow’rs.
In Zephyr’s painted car she cuts the air,
Pleas’d with the way, her spouse the charioteer. 60
It was the year (thrice blest that beautious year!)
Which mighty Charles’s sacred name did bear,
A golden year the heavens brought about
In high procession with a joyful shout,
A year that barr’d up Janus brazen gates, 65
That brought home peace, land lay’d out monstrous heats.
A greater gift, bless’d Albion, thou didst gain,
It brought home god-like Charles and all his peaceful train,
Compos’d our Chaos, cover’d o’r the scars,
And clos’d the bleeding wounds of twenty years. 70
Nor felt the gown alone the fruits of peace,
But gardens, woods, and all the flowry race.
This year to every thing fresh honours brought,
Nor ’midst these were the learned arts forgot.
Poor exil’d Flora with the sylvan gods 75
Came back again to their old lov’d abodes.
I saw her (through a glass my Muse vouchsaf’d)
Plac’d on the painted bow securely waft.
Triumphantly she rode, and made her course
Towards fair Albion’s long forsaken shores. 80
That she our goddess was, to me was plain
From the gay various colours of her train.
She light, renowned Thames, upon thy shore, (alighted
Long time belov’d, and known to her before.
’Twas here the goddess an appointment set 85
For all the flow’rs. Accordingly they met,
Those that are parch’d with heat, or pinch’d with cold,
Or those which a more temperate clime does hold,
Those drunk with dew, the sun just rising sees,
Or those, when setting, with a face like his, 90
All sorts that east and west can boast were there.
But not such flow’rs as you see growing here,
Poor mortal flow’rs, obnoxious still to harms, (exposed
Which quickly die out of their mothers arms,
But those that Plato saw, Ideas nam’d, 95
Daughters of Jove, for heavenly extract fam’d.
Aethereal plants! What glories they disclose,
What excellence the first celestial rose!
What blush, what smell! And yet on many scores,
The learned say, it much resembles our. 100
Onely ’tis ever fresh, with long life bless’d,
Not in our fading mortal colours dress’d.
This rose, the image of the heavenly mind,
The other growing on our earth we find,
Which is the image of that image. Then 105
No wonder it appears less fresh and fine,
These heaven-boirn species of the flowry race
Assembled all, the wedding morn to grace.
Phoebus, do thou the pencil take, the same
With which thou gildst the worlds great chequer’d frame. 110
Lights pencil take: try if thou canst display
The various scenes of this resplendent day.
And yet I doubt thy skill, though all must bow
To thee as god of plants and poets too.
I’m sure ’tis much too hard a task for me. 115
Yet some I’ll touch in passing, like the bee.
Where the whole garden can’t be had, we know,
A nosegay may, and that, if sweet, will do.
Now when a part of this triumphant day
In sacred pompous rites had pass’d away, 120
Rites which no mortal tongue can duly tell,
And which, perhaps, ’ts not lawful to reveal,
At length the sporting goddess thought it best
(Though sure the humour went beyond a jest)
A pleasant sort of trial to propose, 125
And from among the plants a queen to chuse,
Which shou’d preside over the flowry race,
Be a vice-goddess and supply her place.
Each plant was to appear and make its plea,
To see which best deserv’d the dignity. 130
The scene arch’d o’r with wreathing branches stood,
Which like a little hollow temple show’d,
The shrubs and branches, darting from aloof,
Their pretty fragrant shades compos’d the roof.
Red and white jasmine, with the myrtle tree, 135
The favourite of the Cyprian deity,
The golden apple-tree with silver bud,
Both sorts of pipe-tree with the sea-dew stood.
There was the twining woodbind to be seen,
And yellow hather, roses mixt between. 140
Each plant its notes and known distinctions brought,
With various art the gaudy scene was wrought.
Just in the nave of this new modell’d fane
A throne the judging goddess did sustain,
Rob’d in a thousand several sorts of leaves, 145
And all the colours which the garden gives,
Which join’d together trim, in wondrous wise,
With their deluding figures mock’d your eyes.
A noble checquer’d work, which real seems,
And firmly set with glistring stones and gems. 150
It real seem’d, though gods such bodies wear
For weight as flow’rs upon their down may bear.
The goddess, seated in majestick wise,
With all the pride the wealthy spring supplies,
Had Ariadne’s crown, and such a vest 155
With which the rainbow on bright days is drest.
Before her throne did the officious band
Of hours, days, months in goodly order stand.
The hours upon soft painted wings were born.
Painted, but swift alas! and quickly gone. 160
The days with nimble feet advanc’d apace,
And then the months each with a different face.
On Cynthia’s orb they tend with constant care,
In monthly courses whirling round her sphere.
First spring, a rosy-colour’d youngster, stood 165
With looks enough to bribe a judging god.
Summer appear’d, rob’d in a yellow gown,
Full ears of ripen’d corn compos’d her crown.
Then autumn, proud of rich Pomona’s store,
And Bacchus too, treading the blushing floor. 170
Poor half-starv’d winter, shivering in the rear,
The Stoical and sullen part o’ th’ year.
And not by step-dame Nature wholly left
Of every grace is winter-time bereft.
Some friends it has in this afflicted state, 175
Some plants that faith and duty don’t forget.
Some plants the winter season does supply
Born purely for delight and luxury,
Which brave the frost and cold, and merit claim,
Though few indeed, and of a lower frame. 180
The new year did him this peculiar grace,
And Janus, favouring with his double face,
That he shou’d first be heard, and have the power
To draw forth all his poor and slender store.
Winter obeys, and ranks ’em best he can, 185
More trusting to the worth than number of his men.
Just as in the front of winter’s scanty band
Two lofty plants, or flowry giants, stand,
Spurge-olive one, ’tother a kind of bay,
Both high, and largely spreading every way. 190
But did they in a milder season sprout,
Whether they e’er would pass for flow’rs I doubt.
But now they do, and such their looks and smell,
The place they hold they seem to merit well.
Next woolfs-bane, us’d in stepdames poisoning trade, 195
Born f the foam of Pluto’s porter said,
A baneful plant, springing in craggy ground.
Thence its hard name, itself much harder found.
Briskly its gilded crest it does display,
And boldly stares i’ th’ face the god of day, 200
Which Cerberus its sire durst ne’r assay.
The plant called snow drops next in course appear’d,
But trembling, by its frightful neighbour scar’d,
Yet clad in white herself, like fleecy snow,
Near her bad neighbour finer she does show. 205
The noble liver-wort does next appear,
Without a speck, like the unclouded air,
A plant of noble use and endless fame,
The liver’s great preserver, thence its name.
The humble plant, conscious of inbred worth, 210
In winters hardest frost and cold shoots forth.
“Let other plants,” said she, “for seasons wait,
For summer gales, or the suns kindly heat.”
She scorns delay. Naked, without a coat,
As ’twere in hast, the noble plant comes out. 215
Next the blew primrose, which in winter blows,
But wears the spring both in its name and cloaths.
The saffron then, and tardy celandine,
To these our lady’s-seal and sows-bread jin.
But these, appearing out of season, were 220
Bid to their homes and proper tribes repair.
There now remain’d of winters genuine store
And off-spring bears-foot, or the Christmas flow’r,
The pride of winter, which in frost can live,
And now alone for empire dar’d to strive. 225
On its black stalk it rear’d itself, and then
With pale but fearless face to plead again.

HELLEBORUS NIGER, or CHRISTMAS FLOWER

“I mean not now my beauty to oppose
To that of lilies, or the blushing Rose.
Old Praetus daughters me from that do scare, 230
Who once with Juno durst their face compare.
Mad with conceit, each thought herself a cow,
Just judgment! teaching all themselves to know.
My noble plant banish’d this wild caprice,
And gave ’em back their human voice and speech. 235
Melampus by my aid soon brought relief,
And for the cure had one of ’em to wife.
And none will charge me with that madness, sure,
Or the same folly I pretend to cure.
The goddesses above a beauty claim 240
Lasting and firm as their immortal frame,
Which time can’t furrow, or diseases wrong.
To be immortal is to be forever young.
In flow’rs or girls, beauty’s a transient thing,
Expect as well the whole year will be spring. 245
Ye flowry race, that open to the sky,
And there have seen a cloud of curious dye,
The gaudy phantome now with pride appears.
Look up again, ’tis strait dissolved in tears.
Such is the short-liv’d glory flowers have, 250
Bending they point still tow’rds their womb and grave.
The wind and rain aim at their tender head,
Besides the stars their baneful influence shed.
Like the fam’d Semele, they die away
In the embraces of the god of day. 255
Expos’d to air, to heat an open prey,
Colds through their tender fibres force their way.
The swallow or the nightengale abhors
Not winter more than do th’ whole race of flow’rs.
If among these a flow’r you can descry 260
(Fitter to be transplanted to the sky)
Which is so hardy as to stand the threat
Of storms and tempests that around her beat,
That with contending winds dare boldy strive,
Scorns cold, and under heaps of snow can live, 265
To this, great goddess, to this noble plant
You ought the empire of the garden grant.
Kings are Joves image, and if that be true,
To virtue onely sovereign sway is due.
Trusting to this, and not the empty name 270
Of beauty, I the flowry empire claim.
Nor will this soft, luxurious, pamper’d race
Of flow’rs, were things well weigh’d, deny me place.
For lo! the winter’s come. What change is there,
What looks, what dismal aspect of the year! 275
The winds from prison broke no mercy yield,
But spoil the native glories of the field.
First on the infant boughs they spend their rage,
And scarcely spare the poor trunks reverend age.
Either with swelling rains the ground below 280
Is drown’d, or covered thick in beds of snow,
Or, stiff with frost, the streams ic’d o’r
Are pent within a bank unknown before.
Each Nymph complains, and every river god
Feels on his shoulders an unusual load. 285
Nature, a captive now to frost become,
Lies fairly buried in a marble tomb.
And can you wonder then that flow’rs shou’d die,
Or, hid within their beds, the danger fly?
D’ye see the sun, how faint his looks, that tell 290
The god of plants himself i’ n’t over-well.
Now let me see the violet, tulip, rose,
Or any of ’em their fine face disclose.
You lilies with your snowy tresses now
Come forth, this is the proper time for snow. 295
Deaf to the call, none of ’em appear,
But, close in bed, the lie half dead with fear.
I onely in this universal dread
Of nature dare exalt my fearless head.
Winter, with thousand several arms prepar’d 300
To be my death, still finds me on my guard.
Great umpire of this harmless fray,
If you are fix’d to crown some plant today,
Let all appear and take the field, let all
Agree to give the chiefest plant the ball. 305
Let it in winter be, though, I desire.
That season does a hardy chief require.
If any of these tender, dainty dames,
Deck’d with their rich perfumes and gaudy names,
Dare but at such a time shew half an eye, 310
I’ll frankly yield, and strait let fall my plea.
Not a plant’s seen, I’ll warrant you. They hate
To gain a kingdom at so dear a rate.
They fear th’ unequal trial to sustain.
None dare appear but those that fill my train, 315
And none of these are so ambitious grown
To stand themselves, but beg for me the crown.
These numerous hardships I can undergo,
I’ll tell you know, fair judg, what I can do.
My virtue’s both active and passive too. 320
Kings get no fame by conquering at home,
That from some forein vanquish’d land must come.
If equal to my triumphs names I bore,
And every vanquish’d foe increast the store,
Old Rome’s most haughty champion I’d defie 325
With me in honours, titles, names to vie.
I act such wonders, I may safely say
The twelve Herculean labours were mere play.
The spreading cancer my blest plant does chase,
And new skins o’r the leper’s monstrous face. 330
The lingring quartan-fever I oblige
To draw his forces off and raise the siege.
Swimmings i’ th’ head that do from vapours come,
I exorcise straight by my counter-fume.
In every swelling part when dropsies reign, 335
I dry the fen, the standing waters drein.
The falling sickness too, to wave the rest,
Though sacred that disease by some confest.
Why in these cures thus trifle I my breath?
Death yields to me, the apoplectick death. 340
Into each part my plant new vigour sends,
And quickly makes the soul and body friends.
These are great things, you’ll say, and yet the rest
That follow must much greater be confest.
I do compose the minds distracted frame, 345
A gifts the gods and I alone can claim.
Madmen and fools are cast beneath my power,
What to my grandeur can the gods add more?
Who thus can do, the world his province is,
Caesar can’t boast a larger sway than this.” 350
She spoke, her trains with shouts the area fill’d,
Nay winter (f you will believe it) smil’d.
Next the gay spring draws out his warlike bands,
Which to the scene a grateful shadow lends.
Homer, though well the Grecian camp he pains, 355
Wou’d fail, I fear, in mustering up these plants.
Bright spring, what various nations dost thou boast!
The Xerxes of a numerous flowry host,
Which cou’d (since flow’rs without due moisture die),
Like his, I fansie, drink whole rivers dry. 360
His flowry troops made the same stately shew,
Whose painted arms a dazling lustre threw.
Then a gay flow’r, for shape the trumpet nam’d,
Blew thrice,and with a strenuous voice proclaim’d
That all but candidates shou’d quit the place, 365
First, as they went, bowing with awful grace.
And now, the pleasure of the goddess known,
The herb call’d ragwort pass’d before the trhone,
A bunchy stalk, and painted bees she bore
With several foolish fancies on her flow’r. 370
Ragwort the satyrs and Priapus love,
Venus herself and the fair judg approve.
Dogs-tooth pass’d next, to ragwort near ally’d,
A faithful friend to love, and often try’d.
Nexty hyacinths, of violet-kind, proceed, 375
A noble, powerful, and a numerous breed,
They wanted courage, though, to keep the place,
Laboring alas! under a late disgrace.
Of noble house themselves they did pretent,
From Ajax bloud directly to descend. 380
The cause in Flora’s Court of Chivalry
Was heard, where they fail’d to make out their plea,
They bore no coat of arms, nor cou’d they show
Those mournful notes said from his bloud to flow.
The next akin, a flow’r which Greeks of old 385
From excrements of birds descended hold,
Which Britain, nurse of plants, a milder clime,
Gentilely calls the star of Bethelehem.
The daizy next march’d off in modest wise,
Dreading to wait the issue of the prize, 390
Though the spring don’t a trustier party know,
After, before and in the spring they grow,
Quick in the charge, and in retreating slow.
They dare not venture, though the sons of art
The names of binders to ’em do impart. 395
They cure all wounds, yet make none, which you grant
Is the true office of a warlike plant.
Next spotted sancle and navel-wort,
Though both have signs of bloud, forsake the court.
Moon-wort goes next, born on its reddish stalk, 400
And after that does gently cranebil walk.
They all gave way. ’Tis nat’ral in a flow’r
More in its form to trust, than worth and pow’r.
Nay more than, the corn flag quits the field,
Though made sword-wise, does to the tulip yield, 405
Though, like some tyrant, rounded with the same,
Yet to affected empire waves all claim.
How much this sword-flow’r differs, as to harm,
From those which we on mortal anvils form!
Nature on this an unguent has besto’wd 410
Which, when ours makes it issue, stops the bloud.
Next you might see the gaudy columbine,
Call’d sometimes lions-mouth, desert the scene,
Though of try’d courage, and of high renown,
In other things, curing diseases, known. 415
The sea-gull flow’r express’d an equal fear,
The tygers more and prettier spots do’nt bear.
These beauty-spots she ought to prize like gold,
Citron held hers at dearer rates, of old.
The Persian lily of a ruddy hue, 420
And next the lily of the vale withdrew,
Lilies o’ th’ vale such looks and smell retain,
They’r fit to furnish snuff for gods and men.
Nor a plant kinder to the brain does live,
A glass of wine does less refreshment give. 425
Next periwinkle or the ladies bow’r
Weakly and halting crept along the floor.
All kinds of crow-foot pass’d and bow’d their head,
The worst run wild, the best in gardens bred.
Day-lily next, the root by Hesiod lov’d, 430
Although not for the chiefest dish approv’d.
Then came a flow’r of a far differing look,
Which on it thy lov’d name, Adonis, took,
But celandine, thy genuine offspring stil’d,
They tell us, at the proud usurper smil’d. 435
Stock-gillow-flow’r the years companion is,
Which the sun scarce in all his rounds does miss,
Officious plant! which in every month can bring,
But rather wou’d be reckon’d to the spring.
This pass’d along with a becoming mien, 440
And in her train the wall-flower wou’d be seen.
The constant marigold next these went out,
And ladies-slipper fit for Flora’s foot.
Then goats-beard, which each morn abroad does peep,
But shuts its flower at noon, and goes to sleep. 445
Then ox-eye did its rowling eye-ball spread,
Such as Joves wife and sister had, they said.
Next viper-grass, fulll of a milky juice,
Good against poison, which curst stepdames use.
Then hollow-root, cautious and full of fear, 450
Which neither summers heat nor cold can bear,
Comes after spring, before it does retire.
Then sattin-flower and moth-mullein withdraw,
Worthy a noble title to enjoy.
The ladies-smock and lugwort went their way, 455
With several more too tedious here to say,
Whith many an humble shrub that took their leaves,
To which the garden entertainment gives,
As honey-suckle, rosemary and broom,
That broom which does of Spanish parents come, 460
Both sorts of pipe-tree, neat in either dress,
White or sky-colour’d, whether please you best.
Next the round-headed elder-rose, which wears
A constellation of your little stars.
The cherry ours and Persian apple add, 465
Proud of the various flowers adorn’d its head.
Nature has issue, eunuch-like, deny’d,
But (like them too) by a fine face supply’d.
These and a thousand more were fain to yield,
And left the candidates to keep the field. 470
Earch flower appear’d with all its kindred, drest
Each in its richest robes of gaudiest vest.
The violet first, springs usher, came in view,
From whose sweet lops these pleasing accents flew.

THE VIOLET

“The Ram now ope the golden portal throws, 475
Which holds the various seasons of the year,
And on his shining fleece the spring does bear.
Ye mortals, with a shout salute him as he goes.
(Io triumph!) now now the spring comes on
In solemn state and high procession, 480
Whilst I, the beauteous violet, still before him go
And usher in the solemn show.
As it becomes the child of such a sire,
I’m wrap’d in purple, the first-born of spring,
The marks of my legitimation bring, 485
And all the tokens of his verdant empire wear.
Clad like a princely babe, and born in state,
I all your regal titles hate,
Nor, priding in my bloud and mighty birth,
Unnatural plant, despise the lap of mother earth. 490
Loves goddess smiles on me just new-born,
Rejoycing at the years return.
The swallow is not a more certain sign
That love and warm embraces now begin.
To the lov’d babe a thousand kisses 495
The goddess gives, a thousand balmy blisses.
Besides, my purple lips
In sacred nectar dips.
Hence ’tis, no sooner does the violet burst,
By the warm air to a just ripeness nurst, 500
But from my opening, blooming heard
A thousand fragrant odours spread.
I do not onely please the smell
And the most critick tast beguile,
Not onely with my pretty die 505
Impose a cheat upon the eye,
But, more for profit than for pleasure born,
I furnish out a wholesom juice
Which the fam’d Epicurus did not scorn
Upon a time, when sick, to use. 510
O’erpressing and vexatious pain,
I such a silent vict’ry gain,
That though the body be the scene,
It scarcely knows whether a fight has been.
The fevers well-known valor I invade, 515
Which blushes with mere rage to yield
To one that n’er knew how to read a field,
But onely was for sights and nuptial banquets made.
It yields, but in a grumbling way,
Just as the winds obedience pay, 520
When Neptune from the floud does peep,
And silences those troublers of the deep.
What though some flowers a greater courage know,
Or a much finer face can show,
That does but still the fansie feed, 525
Whilst I for business sit, in real worth exceed.
Search over all the globe, you’ll find
The glory of a princely flower
Consists not in tyrannick power,
But in a majesty with mildness join’d.” 530

She spoke, and from her balmy lips did come
A sweet perfume that scented all the room.
The smell so long continued, that you’d swear
The violet, though you heard no sound, was there.
Quitting the stage, the next that took her place 535
Were ox-lips, pugles with their numerous race,
A parti-colour’d tribe of various hue,
Red, yellow, purple, pale, white, dusky, blew.
The primrose and the cowslip too were there,
Both of ’em kin, but not so handsom far. 540
Bears-ear, so call’d, did the whole party head,
And yellow, claiming merit, needs wou’d plead.
Tossing her hundred heads in slanting rate,
Each had a mouth, and cou’d at pleasure prate.

BEARS-EAR

“Great queen of flow’rs, why is thy snowy breast 545
With such a sight of various posies drest?
Whereas one stalk of mine
Alone a nosegay is, alone can make three fine.
A lovely, harmless monster, I
Gorgon’s many heads outvie. 550
Others, as single stars, may glory beam,
Take me, for I a constellation am.
Let those who subjects want pursue the flowry crown,
A flowry nation I alone.
Nor did kind Nature thus in vain 555
So many heads to me assign.
I for Mans head, lifes chiefest seat,
Am set apart and wholly consecrate.
The minds imperial tow’r, the brain
(A poor apartment for so great a queen), 560
The lighthouse where Mans reason stands and shines,
Maugre the malice of contending winds (Despite
I guard the sacred place, repel the rout,
And keep the everlasting fire from going out.
Go now, and mock me with this monstrous name 565
Which the late barbarous age did coin and frame,
The true and proper name of things of old,
Through a religious silence ne’r were told.
Thus guardian gods true names were seldom known,
Lest some invading foe might charm ’em from the town. 570
Impudent fool! That first stil’d beauteous flowers
By a detested name, the ears of bears,
Worthy himself of asses ears, a pair
Fairer than Midas once was said to wear.”

At this rate singing (for your merry flowers 575
Still sing their words, nor bring ’em forth like ours),
The daffadil succeeded, once a youth (i. e., the narcissus
(As any poets tell, a sacred truth),
And all his clients and his kindred came,
A numerous train, to vote and poll for him. 580
All of ’em pale or yellow did appear,
The livery which wounded lovers wear.
Though Virgil purple honours has assign’d
And blewish dy, too liberal and kind,
The Chalcedonick with white flower thought best 585
To be the mouth, and sing for all the rest.

THE DAFFADIL (NARCISSUS)

“What once I was, a boy, not ripen’d to a man,
My roots of one years growth explain,
A lovely boy, of killing eyes,
Where ambuscading witchcraft lies, 590
Which did at last the owners self surprize.
Of fatal beauty, such as cou’d inspire
Love in coldest breasts, in water kindle fire.
Me the hot beds of sand in Libya burn,
Or Ister’s frozen banks to ruine turn. 595
I, when a boy, among the boys
Had still the noblest place,
The same my plant among the flow’rs enjoys,
And is the gardens ornament and grace.
Become a flower, I cannot tell 600
Why my face shou’d not please me still.
Downwards I lean my bending head,
Longing my looks in the same glass to read.
Shew me a stream, that liquid glass
Will put me in the self-same case. 605
In th’ colour with the same Nymphs I am drest,
Who wear me in their snowy breast,
Who with my flowers their pride maintain,
And wish I were a boy again.”

She spoke. Anemone her station took, 610
To whom the goddess deign’d a smiling look.
For, with the tulip’s leave, I needs must say
No race more numerous, none more fine or gay.
The purple with its large and spreading leaf
Was chosen by consent to be their chief. 615
Of fair Adonis bloud’s undoubted strain,
And to this hour it shews the dying stain.
As soon as Zephyr had unloos’d its tongue,
The beauteous plant after this manner sung.

ANEMONE, or EMONIES

“Thou gentle Zephyr, who didst Flora wed, 620
Thrice worthy of the goddess bed,
Who, in a winged chariot hurl’d,
With breezing airs dost fan this nether world,
Which kind refreshing motion, far
I before lazy rest prefer, 625
That air with which thou everything dost cheer,
Inspire into the goddess ear
That the fair judg would mindful be
Of her lov’d consort and of me.
For since I take my name from thee, 630
Nay of thy kindred said to be,
Since I with thee do sympathize,
Who in Aeolian dungeon captive lies,
And, viewing Zephyr’s doleful state,
All dress and ornament I hate, 635
And, locking up my mournful flower,
Myself a pris’ner make, the same restraint endure.
Since I have change of suits and gaudy vests,
Which in my various flowers are exprest,
In brief, since I’m akin to gods above, 640
All these together sure may favour move.
Sprung from the fair Adonis purple tide
And Venus tears, to both I am ally’d.
 The rosy youth, the lov’d Adonis stood,
The pride and glory of the wood, 645
Till a boars fatal tusk let out the precious bloud.
In to each flowing drop that still’d,
A falling tear the goddess spill’d,
Which to a bloudy torrent swell’d.
The lovers tears and bloud combine 650
As if they wou’d in marriage join.
From such fair parents, and that wedding morn,
Was I, their fairer off-spring, born.
My force and power perhaps you question now.
My power? why, I a handsom face cans how. 655
Besides, my heavenly extract I can prove,
And that I’m sister to the god of love.”

The crown imperial (as she step’d aside)
Advanc’d with stately but becoming pride,
Not buskin’d heroes strut with nobler pride, 660
Nor gods in walking use a finer stride.
No friends or clients made her train, not one.
Conscious of native worth, she came alone.
With an erect and sober countenance
In following terms she did her plea commence. 665

THE IMPERIAL CROWN

“With furious heats and unbecoming rage
Ye flowry nations cease t’ engage,
Since on my stately stem
Nature has plac’d th’ imperial diadem.
Why all these words in vain, why all this noise? 670
Be judg’d by Nature and approve her choice.
Perhaps it does your envy move
And to my right may hurtful prove.
That I an upstart novel flower am
Who have no rumbling hard Greek name. 675
Perhaps I may be thought
In some plebeian bed begot,
Because my lineage wears no stain,
Nor does romantick shameful stories feign
That I am sprung from Jove, or from his bastard strain. 680
I freely own, I have not been
Long of your world a denizen,
But yet I reign’d for ages past
In Persia and in Bactria plac’d,
The pride and joy of all the gardens of the east. 685
My flower a large-siz’d golden head does wear,
Much like the ball kings in their hands do bear,
Denoting sovereign rule and striking fear.
My purple stalk I, like some scepter, wield,
Worthy in regal hands to shine, 690
Worthy of thine, great god of wine,
When India to thy conquering arms did yield.
Besides all this, I have a flowry crown
My royal temples to adorn,
Whose buds a sort of hony-liquor bear, 695
Which round the crown like stars or pearls appear,
Silver threads around it twine,
Saffron, like gold, with them does join.
And over all
My verdant hair does neatly fall. 700
Sometimes a threefold rank of flowers
Grows on my top, like lofty towers.
Imperial ornaments I scorn,
And, like the Pope, affect a triple crown.
The heavens look down and envy earth 705
For teeming with so bright a birth.
For Ariadnes starry crown
By mine is far out-shone.”

She thunder’d out her speech, and walk’d to greet
The judg, not falling meanly at her feet, 710
But as one goddess does another meet.
A flower that wou’d too happy be and blest,
Did but its odour answer all the rest!
The tulip next appear’d, all over gay,
But wanton, full of pride and full of play. 715
The world can’t shew a dye, but her has place.
Nay, by new mixtures she can change her face.
Purple and gold are both beneath her care,
The richest needlework she loves to wear.
Her onely study is to please the eye, 720
And to outshine the rest in finery.
Oft of a mode or colour weary grown,
By which their family had long been known,
They’ll change their fashion straight, I know not how,
And with much pain in other colours go, 725
As if Medea’s furnace they had past
(She without plants old Aeson n’er new-cast),
And though they know this change will mortal prove,
They’ll venture yet — to change so much they love.
Such love to beauty, such the thirst of praise, 730
That welcome death before inglorious days!
The cause by all was to the white assign’d,
Whether because the rarest of the kind,
Or else because every petitioner
In antient times, for office, white did wear. 735

TULIP

“Somewhere in Horace, if I don’t forget,
(Flowers are no foes to poetry and wit,
For us that tribe the like affection bear,
And of all men the greatest florists are),
We find a wealthy man 740
Whose ward-robe did five thousand suits contain.
He counted that a vast prodigious store,
But I that number have twice told and more,
What’er in spring the teeming earth commands,
What colours e’r the painted pride of birds, 745
Or various lights the glistering gem affords,
Cut by the artful lapidary’s hands,
Whate’r the curtains of the heavens can show,
Or light lays dyes upon the varnish’d bow,
Rob’d in as many vests I shine, 750
In everything bearing a princely mein.
Pity I must the lily and the rose
(And the last blushes at her tredbare closhes)
Who think themselves so highly blest,
Yet have but one poor tatter’d vest. 755
These studious, unambitious things, in brief,
Wou’d fit extreamly well a college life,
And when the god of flowers a charter grants,
Admission shall be given to these plants.
Kings shou’d have plenty and superfluous store, 760
Whilst thirstiness becomes the poor.
Hence spring himself does chiefly me regard:
Will any flower refuse to stand to his award?
Me for whole months he does retain,
And keeps me by him all his reign. 765
Caress’d by spring, the season of the year
Which before all to love is dear.
Besides the god of love himself’s my friend,
Not for my face alone, but for another end.
Lov’d by the god upon a private score, 770
I know for what — but say no more.
But why shou’d I,
Become so silent or so shy?
We flow’rs were by no peevish sire begot,
Nor from that frigid, sulllen tree did sprout, 775
So fam’d in Ceres sacred rites.
Nor in moroseness Flora’s self delights.
My root, like oil in antient games, prepares
Lovers for battel or those softer wars.
My quickning heat their sluggish veins inspires 780
With vigorous and sprightly fires.
Had but chast Lucrece us’d the same,
The night before bold Tarquin try’d his flame,
Upon record she ne’r a fool had been,
But wou’d have liv’d to reap the pleasure once again.” 785

The goddess, conscious of the truth, a while
Contain’d, but then was seen to blush and smile.
The flower-de-luce next loos’d her heavenly tongue,
And thus, amidst her sweet companions, sung.

IRIS, or the FLOWER-DE-LUCE

“If empire is to beauty due 790
(And that in flowers, if anywhere, holds true),
Then I by Nature was design’d for reign,
Else Nature made a beauteous face in vain.
Besides, I boast a sparkling gem
And brighter goddess of my name. 795
My lofty front towards the heavens I bear,
And represent the sky, when ’tis serene and clear.
To me a godlike power is given
With a mild face resembling Heaven,
And in the kingly stile, no dignity 800
Sounds better than serenity.
Beauty and envy oft together go,
Handsom myself, I help make others so.
Both gods and men of the most curious eyes
With secret pleasures I surprise. 805
Nor do I less oblige the nose
With fragrance from my root that blows.
Not Sibaris or soft Capua did know
A choicer flower for smell or show,
Though both with pleasure of all kinds did flow. 810
I own, the violet and the rose
Divinest odours both disclose.
The saffron and stock gilliflower,
With many more,
But yet none can so sweet a root produce. 815
My upper parts are trim and fair,
My lower breath a grateful air.
I am a flower for sight, a drug for use.
Soft as I am amidst this luxury,
Before me rough diseases fly. 820
Thus a bold Amazon with virgin face
Troops of dastard men will chase.
Thus Mars and Venus often greet,
And in single Pallas meet,
Equal to her in beauties charms, 825
And not to him inferiour in arms.
By secret virtue and resistless power
Those whom the jaudice seizes I restore.
Though moist with unguent, and inclin’d to love,
I rather was for luxury design’d, 830
And yet, like some enraged lioness,
Before my painted arms the yellow foe doest hast.
The dropsie headlong makes away
As soon as I my arms display.
The dropsie, which Mans microcosm drowns, 835
Pulling up all the sluces in its rounds,
I follow it through every winding vein,
And make it quit in hast the delug’d man.
The nation of the Jews, a pious folk,
Though our gods they don’t invoke, 840
And not to you, ye plants, unknown
I’ th’ days of that great flowrist Solomon,
Tell us that Jove, to cheer the drooping ball
After the Floud, a promise past,
How that so long as earth shou’d last, 845
No future deluge on the world shou’d fall.
And as a seal to this obliging grant
The rain-bow in the sky did plant.
I am that bow in poor hydropick Man,
The same refreshing hopes contain. 850
I lok as gay, and show as fine,
I am the thing of which that onely is the sign.
My plant performs the same
Towards Mans little worldly frame,
And when within him I appear, 855
He need no deluge from a dropsie fear.”

The peony then, with large red flower came on,
And brought no train but his lov’d mate alone.
Numbers cou’d not make him the cause espouse.
’Las! the whole nation made but one poor house. 860
Nor did her costly wardrobe pride inspire:
All dress’d alike all did one colour wear.
And yet he wanted not for majesty,
Appearing with a sober gravity,
As he advanc’d his purple forehead, which 865
A flower with thousand foldings did enrich.
Some love to call it the illustrious plant,
And we may well, I think, that title grant.
Physicians in their publick writings show
What praise is to the first inventor due. 870
Paeon was doctor to the gods, they say,
By the whole college honour’d to this day.
With her own merits and this mighty name
Hearten’d and bouy’d, she thus maintained her claim.

THE PEONY

“If the fond tulip, swell’d with pride, 875
In her fools-coat of motley colours dy’d,
If lov’d Adonis flower, the celandine,
Would proudly be prefer’d to mine,
Then let Joves bird the eagle quit the field,
The thunder to the painted peacock yield. 880
Then let the tyrant of the woods be gone,
The lion yield to the chamelion.
You’ll say, perhaps, the Nymphs make much of you,
They gather me for garlands too.
And yet d’ ye think I value that? 885
Not I, by Flora, not a jot.
Virtue and courage are the valuable things,
On difficult occasions shown,
Nor painted arms ennoble kings,
Virtue alone gives lustre to a crown. 890
Hence I, the known Herculean disease,
The falling-sickness, cure with ease,
Which, like the club that hero once did wear,
Down with one single blow mankind does bear.
I fansie, hence the story rise, 895
That Pluto, wounded once by Hercules,
My juice, infus’d by Paeon, gave him ease,
And did the groaning god appease.
Paeon was fam’d, I’m sure, for curing this disease.
Pluto is god of Hell, ’t shou’d seem, 900
Prince of inexorable death.
Now this disease is death, but not, like him,
Without a string, plac’d in the shades beneath.
I should be vain, extreamly vain indeed,
A quarrel on punctilio’s to breed, 905
Since a more noble flower than I
The sun in all his journey does not spy.
Nor do I go in physick’s beaten road,
By other plants before me trod,
But in a way worthy a healing god. 910
I never with the foe come hand to hand,
My odour death does at a distance send.
Hung round the neck straight without more ado
I put to flight the rampant foe.
I neither come (what think you, Caesar, now?) 915
Nor view the camp, and yet can overthrow.”

She spoke, and bow’d, and so the court forsook.
Her consort follow’d with a blushing look,
When straight a fragrant air of strong perfume
And a new lustre darted through the room. 920
No wonder, for the rose did next appear,
Spring wisely plac’d his best and choicest troops i’ th’ rear.
Some wild in woods, yet worthy and beauty show,
Such as might in Hesperian gardens grow.
Nought, by experience, than the wood-rose found 925
Better to cure a mad dogs poisonous wound.
This brings away the gravel and the stone,
And gives you ease though to a quarry grown.
The beauteous garden-rose she did not shame,
Though better bred and of a softer name, 930
Which in four squadrons drawn, the Damask rose,
In name of all the rest maintain’d the cause.
Which sprung, they say, from Syrian Venus bloud,
Long time the pride of rich Damascus stood.

THE ROSE

“And who can doubt my race,” says she, 935
“Who on my face love’s tokens see?
The god of love is always soft, and always young,
I am the same, then to his bloud what’s wrong?
My brother winged does appear,
I leaves instead of wings do wear. 940
He’s drawn with lighted torches in his hand,
Upon my top bright flaming glories stand.
The rose has prickles, so has Love,
Through these a little sharper prove.
There’s nothing in the world above, or this below, 945
But would for rosy-colour’d go.
This is the dye that still does please
Both mortal maids and heavenly goddesses.
I am the standard by which beauty’s try’d,
The wish of Chloe, and immortal Juno’s pride. 950
The bright Aurora, queen of all the east,
Proud of her rosy fingers, is confest.
When from the gates of light the rising day
Breaks forth, his constant rounds to go,
The winged hours prepare the way, 955
And rosy clouds before him strow.
The windows of the sky with roses shine,
I am days ornament as well as sign.
And when the glorious pomp and tour is o’er,
I greet it posting to the western shore. 960
The god of love, we must allow,
Shou’d tolerably beauty know.
Yet never from those cheeks he goes,
Where he can spy the blushing rose.
Thus the wise bee will never dwell 965
(That, like the god of love, has wings,
That too has honey, that has sting)
On vulgar flowers that have no grateful smell.
Tell me, blest lover, what’s a kiss
Without a rosy lip create the bliss? 970
Nor do I onely charming sweets dispence,
But bear arms in my own and Mans defence,
I without the patient’s pain
Mans body, that Augean stable, clean.
Nor with a rough and pressing hand, 975
As thunder-storms from clouds command,
But as the dew and gentle showers
Dissolving light on herbs and flowers.
Nor of a short and fading date
Was I the less design’d for rule and state. 980
Let proud ambitious floramour, (amaranth
Usurping on the gods immortal name,
Joy to be stil’d the everlasting flower.
I ne’r knew yet that plant that near to Nestor came.
We too too blest, too powerful shou’d be grown, 985
Which wou’d but envy raise,
If we could say our beauty were our own,
Or boast long life and many days.
But why shou’d I complain of Fate
For giving me so short a date, 990
Since flowers, the emblems of mortality,
All the same way and manner die?
But the kind gods above forbid
That virtue e’er a grave shou’d find,
And though the fatal Sisters cut my thread, 995
My odour, like a soul, remains behind.
To a dead lion a live worm’s prefer’d,
Though once the king of all the savage herd.
After my death I still excel
The best of flowers that are alive and well. 1000
If that the name of dead will bear,
From whose meer corps does come
(Like the dead bodies still surviving heir)
So sweet a smell and strong perfume,
Let ’em invent a thousand ways 1005
My mangled corps to vex and squeeze,
Though in a sweating limbeck pent (alembic
My ashes still preserve their scent.
Like a dead monarch to the grave I come,
Nature embalms me in my own perfume.” 1010

She spoke, a virgin blush came o’r her face,
And an ambrosian scent flew round the place,
But that which gave her words a finer grace,
Not without some constraint she seem’d to tell her praise.
Her rivals rembled, for the judge’s look 1015
A secret pleasure and much kindness spoke.
The virgin did not for well-wishers lack,
Her kind red squadrons stood behind her back. (kindred
The yellow nearest stood, unfit for war,
Nor did the spoils of cur’d diseases bear. 1020
The white was next, of great and good renown,
A kind assistant to the eye-sight known.
Third, a mighty warrier, was the red,
Which terribly her bloudy banner spread.
She binds the flux with her restringent arts, 1025
And stops the humours journey to those parts.
She brings a present and a sure relief
To head and heart, the fountains both of life.
The fevers fires by her are mildness taught,
And the hag’d man to sweet composure brought. (insomniac 1030
By help of this, Jason of old, we read,
Yok’d and subdu’d the bulls of fiery breed.
One dose to sleep the watchful dragon sent,
By which no more but a high fever’s meant.
Between this squadron and the white, we’re told, 1035
A long and grievous strife commenc’d of old.
Strife is too soft a word for many years
Cruel, unnatural, and bloudy wars.
The fam’d Pharsalian fields twice dy’d in bloud
Ne’r of a nobler quarrel witness stood. 1040
The thirst of empire, ground of most our wars,
Was that which solely did occasion theirs.
For the red rose cou’d not an equal bear,
And the white wou’d of no superior hear.
The chiefs by York and Lancaster upheld 1045
With civil rage harass’d the British field.
What madness drew ye roses to engage,
Kin against kin to spend your thorns and rage?
Go, turn your arms where you may triumph gain,
And fame unsullied with a blushing stain. 1050
See the French lily spoils and wasts your shore,
Go conquer there, where you’ve twice beat before,
Whilst the Scotch thistle with audacious pride,
Taking advantage, gores your bleeding side.
Do roses no more sense and prudence own 1055
Than to be fighting for domestrick crown?
From Venus you much of the mother bear,
You both take pleasure in the god of war.
I now begin to think the fable true,
That Mars sprung from a flower, fulfill’d by you. 1060
War ravages the field, and, like the furious boar
That turns up all the gardens beauteous store,
O’rthrows the trees and hedges, and does wound
With his ungentle tusk the bleeding ground,
Roots up the saffron and the violet-bed, 1065
And feasts upon the gaudy tulip’s head.
You’d grieve to see a beauteous plat so soon (field
Into confusion by a monster thrown.

But oh, my Muse, oh whither doest thou tow’r?
This is a flight too high for thee to soar. 1070
The harmless strife of plants, their wanton play,
Thy pipe perhaps may well enough essay,
But for their wars, that is a theme so great,
Rather for Lucan’s martial trumpet fit,
To him that sung the Theban brothers death, 1075
To Maro or some such, that task bequeath.

Go to Book IV