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OF PLANTS, BOOK IV
Translated by Nahum Tate

Happy the man whom, from ambition freed,
A little field and little garden feed.
The field do’s frugal natures wants supply,
The garden furnishes for luxury.
What further specious clogs of life remain 5
He leaves for fools to seek, and knaves to gain.
This happy life did th’ old Corycian choose,
A life deserving Maro’s noble Muse.
This life did wise Abdolominus charm,
The mighty monarch of a little farm. 10
When honing weeds that on his walks encroach’d, (hoeing
Great Alexander’s messenger approach’d.
“Receive,” said he, “the ensigns of a crown,
A scepter, mitre and Sidonian gown.”
To empire call’d, unwillingly he goes, 15
And longing looks back on cottage throws.
Thus Aglaus’ farm did frequent visits find
From gods, himself a stranger to mankind.
Gyges, the richest king of former times
(Wicked and swelling with successful crimes), 20
“Is there,” said he, “a man more blest than I?”
Thus challeng’d he the Delphick deity.
“Yes, Aglaus,” the plain-dealing god reply’d.
“Aglaus? Who’s he?” the angry monarch cry’d.
“Say, is there any king so call’d? There’s none, 25
No king was ever by that title known,
Or any great commander of that name,
Or heroe who with gods do’s kindred claim,
Or any who does such vast wealth enjoy
As all his luxury can ne’r destroy. 30
Renown’d for arms, for wealth or birth, no man
Was found call’d Aglaus. Who’s this Aglaus then?”
At last in the retir’d Arcadian plains
(Silence and shades surround Arcadian swains),
Near Ptophis town (where he but once had been), 35
At plow this man of happiness was seen.
In this retirement was that Aglaus found,
Envy’d by kings, and by a god renown’d.
Almighty Pow’r, if lawful it may be,
Amongst fictitious gods to mention Thee, 40
Before encroaching age too far intrude,
Let this sweet scene my life’s dull farce conclude!
With this sweet close my useless toil be blest,
My long-toss’d barque in that calm station rest.

Once more my Muse in wild digression strays, 45
Ne’r satisf’d with dear retirements praise.
A pleasant road — but from our purpose wide.
Turn off, and to our point directly guide.
Of summer-flow’rs a mighty host remain,
With those which autumn musters on the plain, 50
Who with joint forces fill the shining field,
Grudging that spring shou’d equal numbers yield
To both their lists, or ’cause some plants had been
Under the service of both seasons seen.
Of these, my Muse, rehearse the chief (for all, 55
Though Mem’ry’s daughter, thou can’st ne’r recall,
The spokes of summer corn thou mayst as well,
Or ev’ry grape of fruitfull autumn tell).
The flamy pansie ushers summer in,
His friendly march with summer does begin. 60
Autumn’s companion too (for Proserpine
Hides half the year and half the year is seen).
The violet is less beautiful than thee,
That of one colour boasts, and thou of three.
Gold, silver, purple are thy ornament, 65
Thy rivals thou mightst scorn, hadst thou but scent.
The hesperis assumes a violet’s name,
To that which justly from the hesper came.
Hesper do’s all thy precious sweet unfold,
Which coyly thou dost from the day with-hold. 70
In him more than the sun thou tak’st delight,
To him like a kind bride thou yieldst thy sweet at night.
The anthemis a small but glorious flower,
Scarce rears his head, yet has a giant’s tow’r.
Force the lurking fever to retreat75
(Ensconc’d like Cacus in his smoky seat),
Recruits the feeble joints and gives them ease,
He makes the burning inundation cease.
And when his force against the stone is sent,
He breaks the rock and gives the waters vent. 80
Not thunder finds through rocks so swift a course,
Nor gold the rampir’d town so soon can force.
Blew-bottle, thee my numbers fain would raise,
And thy complexion challenges my praise.
Thy countenance like summer skies is fair, 85
But ha! how diff’rent thy vile manners are!
Ceres, for this excludes thee from my song,
And swains to gods and me a sacred throng,
A treach’rous guest, destruction thou dost bring
To th’ hospitabile field where thou dost spring. 90
Thou bluntst the very reaper’s sicle, and so
In life and death becom’st the farmers foe.
The fenel-flow’r do’s next our song invite,
Dreadful at once, and lovely to the sight.
His beard all bristly, all unkemb’d his hair, (Uncombed 95
Ev’n his wreath’d horns the same rough aspect bear.
His visage too a watrish blew adorns,
Like Achelous, ere his head wore horns.
Not without reason (prudent Nature’s care
Gives plants a form that might their use declare): 100
Dropsies it cures, and makes moist bodies dry,
It bids the waters pass, the frighted waters fly.
Do’s through the bodies secret channels run,
A water-goddess in the little world of man.
But say, corn-violet, why dost thou claim 105
Of Venus looking glass the pompous name
Thy studded purple vies, I must confess,
With the most noble and patricial dress.
Yet wherefore Venus looking glass? That name
Her off-spring rose did ne’r presume to claim. 110
Antirrhinin, more modest, takes the stile
Of lions-mouth, sometimes of calfsnout vile.
By us snap-dragon call’d to make amends.
But say what this Chimera-name intends?
Thou well deserv’st it if, as old wives say, 115
Thou driv’st nocturnal ghosts and sprights away.
Who do’s thy head, napellus, armor wear?
Thy guilt, perfidious plant, creates thy fear.
Thy helmet we cou’d willingly allow,
But thou, alas hast mortal weapons too. 120
But wherefore ar’md, as if for open fight,
Who work’st by secret poyson all thy spight.
Helmet ’gainst helmet justly thou dost wear,
Blew anthora, upon thy lovely hair.
This cov’ring from felt wounds thy front do’s shield, 125
With such a head-peace Pallas goes to field.
What god to thee such baneful force allow’d,
Which such heroick piety endow’d?
Thou poyson’st more than e’r Medea slew,
Yet no such antidote Medea knew. 130
Nor powerful only ’gainst thy own dire harms,
Thy virue ev’ry noxious plant disarms.
Serpents are harmless creatures made by thee,
And Africa itself from poyson free.
Air, earth and seas, with secret taint opprest, 135
Discharge themselves of the unwelcome guest.
On wretched us they shed the deadly bane,
Who dye by them that should our life maintain.
Then Nature seems t’ have learnt the poys’ning trade,
Our common parent our step-mother made. 140
’Tis then the sickly world perceives thy aid,
By thy prevailing force the plague is staid.
A noble strife ’twixt fate and thee we find,
That to destroy, thou to preserve mankind.
Into thy lists, thou martial plant, admit 145
Goats rue, goats rue is for thy squadrons fit.
Thy beauty, campion, very much may claim,
But of Greek-rose how didst thou gain the name?
The Greeks were ever priviledg’d to tell
Untruths, they call thee rose, who hast no smell. 150
Yet formerly thou wert in garlands worn,
Thy starry beams our temples still adorn.
Thou crown’st our feasts, where we in mirth suppose,
And in our drink allow thee for a rose.
The Chalcedonian soil did once produce 155
A lychnis of much greater size and use.
Form’d like a sconce, where various branches rise,
Bearing more lights than Juno’s bird has eyes.
Like those in palaces, whose golden light
Strokes up and makes the gilded roofs more bright. 160
This great mens tables serves, while that’s preferr’d
To altars and the gods celestial board.
Should Maro ask me in what region springs
The race of flow’rs inscrib’d with names of kings,
I answer that of flow’rs deservedly crowned 165
With royal titles many may be found.
This royal loose-strife, royal gentian grace
Our gardens, proud of such a princely race.
Soap-wort, though coarse thy name, thou dost excell
In form, and art enrich’d with fragrant smell. 170
As great in virtue too, for thou giv’st ease
In dropsies and fair Venus foul disease.
Yet doest not servile offices decline,
But condescend’st to make our kitchins shine.
Rome’s great dictator thus, his triumph past, 175
Return’d to plow, nor thought his pomp debas’d.
The same right hand guides now the humble stive (millstone
And oxen yoaks, that did fierce nations drive.
Next comes the flow’r in figure of a bell,
Thy sportive meaning, Nature, who can tell? 180
In these what musick, Flora, dost thou find?
Say for what jocund rites they are design’d.
By us these bells are never heard to sound.
Our ears are dull, and stupid is our mind,
Nature is all a riddle to mankind. 185
Some flow’rs give men as well as gods delight,
These qualifie nor smell, nor taste, nor sight.
Why therefore should not our fifth sense be serv’d?
Or is that pleasure for the gods reserv’d?
But of all bell-flowr’s bindweed do’s surpass, 190
Of brighter metal than Corinthian brass.
My Muse grows hoarse and can no longer sing,
But throat-wort hasts her kind relief to bring.
The colleges with dignity enstall
This flow’r, at Rome he is a Cardinal. 195
The fox-glove on fair Flora’s hand is worn,
Lest while she gathers flow’rs she meet a thorn.
Love-apple, though its flo’wrs less fair appears,
Its golden fruit deserves the name it bears.
But this is new in love, where the true crop 200
Proves nothing. All the pleasure was i’ th’ hope.
The Indian flow’ry-reed in figure vies,
And lustre, with the Cancer of the skies.
The Indian cress our climate now do’s bear,
Call’d larks-heel, ’cause he wears a horse-mans spur. 205
This gilt-spur knight prepares his course to run,
Taking his signal from the rising sun,
And stimulates his flow’r to meet the day.
So Castor mounted spurs his steed away.
This warrour sure has in some battel been, 210
For spots of blood upon his breast are seen.
Had Ovid seen him, how would he have told
His history, a task for me too bold!
His race at large and fortunes had exprest,
And whence those bleeding signals on thy breast. 215
From later bards such mysteries are hid,
Nor do’s the god inspire, as heretofore he did.
With the same weapon, lark-spur, thou doest mount
Among the flowr’s, a knight of high account.
To want those war-like ensigns were a shame 220
For thee, who kindred dost with Ajax claim.
Of unarm’d flowers he cou’d not be the sire,
Who for the loss of armor did expire.
Of th’ ancient hyacinth thu keep’st the form,
Those lovely creatures, that ev’n Phoebus charm. 225
In thee those skilful letters still appear,
That prove the Ajax his undoubted heir.
That up-start flow’r that has usurpt thy fame,
O’rcome by thee, is forc’d to quit his claim.
The lily too wou’d fain thy rival be, 230
And brings, ’tis true, some signs that well agree,
But in comparison differs much from thee.
At spring thou mayst adorn the Asian bow’rs,
We reap there here among our summer flow’rs.
But martagon a bolder challenge draws, 235
And offers reason to support his cause.
Nor did Achilles armor e’r create
’Twixt Ajax and Ulysses such debate,
So fierce, so great, as at this day we see,
For Ajax spoils, ’twixt martagon and thee. 240
That bastard ditanny of sanguine hue
From Hector’s reeking blood conception drew,
I cannot say, but still a crimson stain
Tinctures its skin, and colours every vein.
In Man the three chief seats it do’s maintain, 245
Defends the heart, the stomach, and the brain.
But all in vain thy virtue is employ’d,
To save a town must be at last destroy’d.
In vain thou fight’st with heav’n and destiny.
Our Troy must fall, and thou our Hector die. 250
Next comes the candy-tufts, a Cretan flower,
That rivals Jove in country and in power.
The pellitory healing fire contains,
That from a raging tooth the humor drains.
At botton red, above ’tis white and pure, 255
Resembling teech and gums, for both a certain cure.
The sow-bread do’s afford rich food for swine,
Physick for man, and garlands for the shrine.
Mouse-ear, like to its name-sake, loves t’ abide
In place out o’ th’ way, from mankind hid. 260
It loves the shade, and Nature kindly lends
A shield against the darts that Phoebus sends.
’Tis with such silky bristles cover’d o’r,
The tend’rest virgin’s hand may crop the flow’r.
From all its num’rous darts no hurt is found, 265
Its weapons now to cure, but not to wound.
Sweet-Willam small, has form and aspect bright,
Like that sweet flower that yields great Jove delight.
Had he majestick bulk, he’d now be stil’d
Jove’s flower, and if my skill is not beguil’d, 270
He was Jove’s flower when Jove was but a child.
Take him with many flow’rs in one conferr’d,
He’s worthy Jove, ev’n now he has a beard.
The catch-fly with sweet-William we confound,
Whose nets the stragglers of the swarm surround. 275
Those viscous threads that hold th’ entangled prey
From its own treach’rous entrails force their way.
Three branches in the barren-wort are found,
Each branch again with three less branches crown’d.
The leaves and flowers adorning each are three, 280
This frame must needs contain some sacred mystery.
Small are thy blossoms, double pellitory,
Which yet united are the garden’s glory.
Sneezing thou does provoke, and love for thee
When thou wert born sneez’d most auspiciously. 285
But thou that from fair Mella tak’st thy name,
Thy front surrounded with a star-like flame,
Scorn not the meads, for from the meads are born
Wreaths which the temples of the gods adorn.
Kind sustenance thou yieldst the lab’ring bee, 290
When scarce thy Mother Earth affords it thee.
Thy winter-store in hardest months is found,
And more than once with flow’rs in summer crown’d.
Thy root supplies the place of flowers decay’d,
And fodder for the fainting hive is made. 295
Behold a monster loathsome to the eye,
Of slender bulk, but dang’rous policy.
Eight legs it bears, three joynts in every limb,
That nimbly move and dexterously can climb.
Its trunk (all belly) round, deform’d, and swell’d, 300
With fatal nets and deadly poyson fill’d.
For gnats and wand’ring flies she spreads her toils,
And, robber-like, lives high on ravish’d spoils.
The city spider, as more civiliz’d,
With this less hurtful practice is suffic’d. 305
With greater fury the tarantula,
Tho small itself, makes men and beasts its prey,
Takes first our reason, then our life away.
Thou, spider-wort, doest with the monster strive,
And from the conquer’d foe thy name derive. 310
Thus Scipio, when the worlds third part he won,
While to the spoils the meaner captains run,
The only plunder he desir’d was fame,
And from the vanquish’d foe to take his name.
The marvail of the world comes next in view 315
At home, but stil’d the marvail of Peru.
(Boast not too much, proud soil, they mines of gold:
Thy veins much wealth, but more of poyson hold).
Bring o’r the root, our colder earth has power
In its full beauty to produce the flower, 320
But yields for issue no prolifick seed,
And scorns in foreign lands to plant and breed.
The holihock disdains the common size
Of herbs, and like a tree do’s proudly rise.
Proud she appears, but try her and you’ll find 325
No plant more mild, or friendly to mankind.
She gently all obstructions do’s unbind.
The Africans their rich leaves closely fold,
Bright as their countrey’s cenebrated gold.
Each hollow leaf, envelop’d, does impart 330
The form of a gilt pipe, and seems a work of art.
Wou’d kind Apollo once these pipes inspire,
They’d give such sounds as should surpass his lyre.
A more than common date this flow’r enjoys,
And sees a month compleated ere she dies. 335
These only fate permits so long to stand,
And crops ’em then with an unwilling hand.
The calyx where her fertile seeds are laid
In likeness of a painted quiver made.
With store of arrows too this quiver’s grac’d, 340
And decently on Flora’s shoulder plac’d,
When she in gardens hunts the butterfly.
In vain the wretch his sun-burnt wings do’s try,
Secure enough, did fear not make him fly.
Himself would seem a flow’r if motionless, 345
And cheat the goddess with his gaudy dress.
Retreating, the keen spike his sides do’s goad,
To earth he falls, a light and unfelt load.
Such was the Punick caltha, which of yore
Of Juno’s rose the lofty title bore. 350
Of famous Carthage, now by Fate bereft,
This last (and surely) greatest pride is left.
How vain, o flowers, your hopes and wishes be,
Born like yourselves by rapid winds away.
Once you had hopes at Hannibal’s return 355
From vanquish’d Rome, his triumphs to adorn,
And ev’n imperious Carthage head surround,
When she the mistress of the world were crown’d.
Presum’d that Flora wou’d for you declare,
Tho she that time a Latin goddess were. 360
But now (alas) reduc’d to private state,
Thou shar’st, poor flower, thy captive countrey’s fate.
Why, holly-rose, dost thou, of slender frame,
And without scent, assume a rose’s name?
Fate on thy pride a swift revenge does bring, 365
The day beholds you dead that sees thee spring.
Yet to the shades thy soul triumphing goes,
Boasting that thou didst imitate the rose.
A better claim sweet-cistus may pretend,
Whose sweating leaves a fragrant balsam send. 370
To crop this plant the wicked goat presumes,
Whose fetid breat the precious balm perfumes.
But in revenge of the unhallowed theft,
The caitiff’s of his larded beard bereft.
Baldness thou dost redress, nor are we sure 375
Whether the beard or balsam gives the cure.
Thy ointment, jessamine, without abuse
Is gain’d, yet grave old sots condemn the use,
Tho Jove himself, when he is most enrag’d,
With thy ambrosial odour is asswag’d. 380
Capricious men! Why should that scent displease
That is so grateful to the deities?
Flora her self to th’ orange-tree lays claim,
Calls it her own, Pomona does the same.
Hard words ensue (for under sense of wrong 385
Ev’n goddesses themselves can find a tongue.
“If apples please you so,” Pomona cries,
“Take your love-apple, and let that suffice.
To claim anothers right is harlots trade.
So may a gooddess of an harlot made.” 390
“And on what score,” Flora incens’d reply’d,
“Were you by kind Vertumnus deify’d?
You kept (no thanks) your maiden virtue, when
He was a matron, when a youth — what then?
Such fragrant fruits as these may flowers be call’d, 395
And henceforth with that name shall be enstall’d.
On sundry sorts of pulse we do bestow
That title, though in open field they grow,
As others oft are in the garden sceen,
Witness the everlasting pease and scarlet bean.” 400
The vulgar beans sweet scent who does not prize?
With iv’ry forehead, and with jet-black eyes,
Amongst our garden-beauties may appear.
If gardens only their cheap crop did bear!
Pythagoras, not rightly understood, 405
Has left a scandal on the noble food.
Take care henceforth, ye sages, to speak true.
Speak truth, and speak intelligibly too.
Lupine, unsteep’d, to harshness does encline,
And, like old Cato, is of temper rough. 410
But drench the pulse in water, him in wine,
They’ll lose their sowrness and grow mild enough.
These flowers, and thousands more, whose num’rous tribe
And pompous march ’twere endless to describe.
The mandrake only imitates our walk, 415
And on two legs erect is seen to stalk.
This monster struck Bellona’s self with aw,
When first the man-resembling plant she saw.
The water-lilly still is wanting here.
What cause can water-lilly have to fear, 420
Where beauties of inferiour rank appear?
Her form excells, and for nobility
The whole assembly might her vassals be.
A Water-Nymph she was, Alcides bride (Hercules
(Who sprung from gods, himself no deify’d). 425
This cost her dear — by love of him betray’d,
The water-goddess a poor plant was made.
From this misfortune she does tristful prove, (sad
And to this hour she hates the name of love.
All freedom she renounces, mirth and play, 430
That to more close embraces lead the way.
And since our Flora’s former pranks are known
(If in a goddess we such crimes may own),
In life the common mistris of the town,
She scorns at her tribunal to be seen, 435
Nor would on terms so scandalous be queen.
To be from earth divorc’d she’d rather choose,
And to the sun her wither’d root expose.
Thee, maracot, a much more sacred cause
From these profane ridic’lous rites withdraws. 440
With signals of a real God adorn’d,
Poets and painter’s gods by thee are scorn’d.
T’ unfold the emblems of this mystick flower
Transcends (alas!) my feeble Muses power.
But nature sure by chance did ne’r bestow 445
A form so diff’rent from all plants that grow,
Enrob’d with ten white leaves, the proper dress
Of virgins chast and sacred priestesses,
Twice round her two-fold selvedge you may vie (hem
A purple ring, the sacred martyrs hue. 450
Thick sprouting stems of ruddy saffron-grain
Strive to conceal the flower, but strive in vain.
This coronet of ruby-spikes compos’d
The thorny blood-stain’d crown may be suppos’d.
The blood-stain’d pillar too a curious ey 455
May there behold, and if you closely pry,
The spunge, the nails, the scourge thereon you’ll spy,
And knobs resembling a crown’d head descry.
So deep in earth the root descends, you’d swear
It meant to visit Hell and triumph there. 460
In ev’ry soil it grows, as if it meant
To stretch its conquest to the world’s extent.
Besides the fore-nam’d candidates, but few
Remain’d, and most of them were modest too.
But where such fragrant rivals did appear, 465
Who would have thought to find rank moly there?
Amongst competitors of such fair note,
Sure garlick only will for moly vote.
Yet something ’twas (and plants themselves confess
The honour great) that Homer did express 470
Her famous name in his immortal song.
Swell’d with this pride, she presses through the throng.
Deep silence o’r the whole assembly spreads,
Whilst with unsav’ry breath her title thus she pleads.

MOLY

“To find a name for me the gods took care,
A mystick name, that mighty my worth declare.
They call’d me moly? Dull grammarians sense
Is puzzled with the term,
But Homer held divine intelligence. 475
In Greek and Latin both my name is great,
The term is just, but moly sounds more neat.
My pow’rs prevented Circes dire design,
Ulysses but for me had been a swine.
In vain had Mercury inspir’d his brain 480
With craft, and tipt his wheedling tongue in vain,
Had I not enter’d timely to his aid.”

Thus moly spoke, and would much more have said,
But by mischance (as if some angry pow’r
Had ow’d her long a shame) a belch most sowr 485
Broke from her throat, perfuming all the court,
And made her rivals unexpected sport.
Her pompous name no longer can take place,
Her odour proves her of the garlick race.
For with with one consent the gibing throng 490
Set up their notes, and sunt the well-known song:

He that to cut his father’s throat
Did heretofore presume,
T’ have garlick cram’d into his gut
Receiv’d the dreadful doom.
495

Flora, to silence the tumultuous jest
(Though secretly she smil’d among the rest),
That she herself would speak a sign exprest.
Then with sweet grade into these accents broke,
Th’ unhallowed place perfuming while she spoke. 500
“Homer I will not vain or careless call,
Though he no mention makes of me at all.
That he blame-worthy was in this, ’tis true,
But the blind bard gives other gods their due.
To doubt his truth were piety to slight, 505
Ev’n what of moly what he affirms is right.
I once had such a flower, but now bereft
O’ th’ happiness, the name is onely left.
No sooner men its wondrous virtue knew,
But jealous gods the pow’rful plant withdrew. 510
’Tis said that Jove did Mercury chastise
For shewing to Ulysses such a prize.
To say I saw him do’t I’ll not presume,
But witness am of moly’s unjust doom.
Ev’n to the shades below her root strikes down, 515
As she wou’d make th’ infernal world her own,
As from their seats the very fiends she’d drive,
And spight of flames and blasting sulphur thrive.
Jove saw’t and said, ‘since fire can’t stop thy course,
We’ll try some magick-water’s stronger force.’ 520
Then, calling Lympha to him, thus at large
Unfolds his mind, and gives the goddess charge:
‘Thou know’st,’ said he, ‘where Cicones reside.
There runs a marv’lous petrifying tide.
Take of that stream (but largely take) and throw 525
Where-e’r thou seest the wicked moly grow.
Our empire is not safe, her power’s so large.
Whole rivers therefore on her head discharge.’
Lympha with lib’ral hand the liquor pours,
While thirsty moly her own bane devours. 530
Her stem forthwith is turn’d (o prodigy)
Into a pillar. Where her flow’r should be,
The sculpture of a flow’r is onely shown.
Poor moly, thus transform’d to marble stone,
The story of her fate do’s still present, 535
And stands in death her own sad monument.
Here ended little moly’s mighty reign,
By jealous gods for too much virtue slain.
What wonder then if that bold flow’r did prove
The object of his wrath that rival’d Jove, 540
That to embrace chast Juno did aspire,
Gallant t’ a goddess, of a god the sire.
The vig’rous herb begat a deity,
A god like Jove himself for majesty,
And one that thunders too as loud as he, 545
With one short moment’s touch begot him too,
That’s more than ever threshing Jove could do.
The flow’r itself appears with warriours mien
(As much as can in growing plants be seen).
With stabbling point and cutting edg ’tis made, 550
Like warlike weapon, and upon its blade
Are ruddy stains like drops of bloud display’d.
Its spikes of faulchion-shape are sanguine too, (dagger-shaped
Its stem and front is all of bloudy hue.
The root in form of any shield is spread, 555
A crested helmet’s plac’d upon its head.
Upon his stalk, strings, bow and arrows grow,
A horsman’s spur upon his heel below.
Minerva I would have this warrour wed,
A warrour fit for chast Minerva’s bed. 560
So might she teem, yet keep her maiden-head.
My garden had but one of these, I own,
And therefore by the name of phoenix known,
The herb that could encrease Jove’s mighty breed.
T’ itself an eunuch was and wanted seed. 565
Grieving that earth so rich a prize should want,
I try’d all means to propagate the plant.
What cannot wit, what cannot art fulfil,
At least where pow’rs divine wou’d shew their skill?
One tender bulb another did succeed, 570
And my fair phoenix now began to breed.
But mark th’ event. ‘Shall I expecting sit,’
Cries Jove, ‘till this young sprout more gods beget?
To have a rival in my heav’n, and see
An herb-race mingle with Jove’s progeny?’ 575
A dreadful and blind monster then does make, (the mole
That on his rival dire revenge might take,
Though less of size, shap’d like a forest boar,
And turns him loose into my garden’s store.
What havock did that savage make that day! 580
(I weep to think what flow’ry ruins lay).
With sulphur’s fume I strove to drive him thence,
The fume of sulphur prov’d too weak defence.
Great spurge and assa foetida I try’d
In vain, in vain strong moly’s scent apply’d. 585
Small vermin did his ancestors suffice,
When they cou’d catch a beetle ’twas a prize.
But such coarse fare this salvage does despise.
He, like a swine of Epicurus breed,
On the best dainties of my soil must feed. 590
Tulips of ten pounds price (so large and gay
Adorn’d my bow’r) he’d me ten a day.
For twice the sum I could not now supply
The like, though Jove himself should come to buy.
Yet, like a goddess, I the damage bore 595
With courage, trusting to my art for more.
While therefore I contrive to trap the foe,
The wretch devours my precious phoenix too.
Not to devour the sire is satisfy’d,
But tears the tender off-spring from his side. 600
O impious fact — ” Here Flora paus’d awhile,
And from her eyes, a goddess, checkt her grief,
And thus proceeds, in language sweet and brief.
“The, moly, Homer did perhaps devour,
For, to heav’ns shame be’t spoke, the bard was poor, 605
But in thy praise wou’d ne’r vouchsafe to speak.
From these examples, moly, warning take,
To fatal honours seek not then to rise,
’Tis dangerous claiming kindred with the skies.
Thou honest garlick art, let that suffice. 610
Of countrey-growth, own then thy earthly race,
Nor bring by pride on plants or Man disgrace.”
She said, and to the lily waiting by
Gave sign that she her title next should try.

WHITE-LILY

“Such as the lovely swan appars 615
When rising from the Trent or Thame,
And as aloft his plumes he rears,
Despises the less beauteous stream,

So when my joyful flow’r is born,
And does its native glories show, 620
Herk clouded rival she does scorn,
Th’ are but foils where lily’s grow.

Soon as the infant comes to light,
With harmless milk alone ’tis fed,
That from the innocence of white 625
A gentle temper may be bred

The milky teat is first apply’d
To fiercest creatures of the earth,
But I can boast a greater pride,
A goddess milk produc’d my birth. 630

When Juno in the days of yore
Did with the great Alcides teem, (Hercules
Of milk the goddess had such store,
The nectar from her breast did stream.

Whitening beyond the pow’r of art 635
The pavement where it lay,
Yet through the crevices some part
Made shift to find its way.

The earth forthwith did pregnant prove,
With lily flow’rs supply’d, 640
That scarce the Milky Way above
With her in whiteness vy’d.

Thus did the race of Man arise,
When sparks of heav’nly fire,
Breaking through crannies in the skies, 645
Did earth’s dull mass inspire.

Happy those souls that can, like me,
Their native white retain,
Preserve their heav’nly purity,
And wear no guilty stain. 650

Peace in my habit comes array’d,
My dress her daughters wear.
Hope and joy in white are clad,
In sable weeds despair.

Thus beauty, truth and chastity 655
Attir’d we always find.
These in no female meet but me,
From me are ne’r disjoin’d.

Nature on many flow’rs beside
Bestows a muddy white. 660
On me she plac’d her greatest pride,
All over clad in light.”

Thus lily spoke, and needless did suppose,
Secure of form, her virtues to disclose.
Then hallow’d liles of a different hue, 665
Who (’cause their beauty less than hers they knew)
From birth and high descent their title drew.
Of these the martagon chief claim did bring
(The noble flow’r that did from Ajax spring),
But from the noblest hero’s vein to flow 670
Seem’d less than from a goddess milk to grow.
At last the drowzy poppy rais’d her head
And sleepily began her cause to plead.
Ambition ev’n the drowsy poppy wakes,
Who thus to urge her merit undertakes. 675

POPPY

“O sleep, the gentle ease of grief,
Of care and toil the sweet relief,
Like sov’reign balm thou canst restore
When doctors give the patient o’r.

Thou to the wretched art a friend, 680
A gust that ne’r does harm intend,
In cottages mak’st thy aboad,
To th’ innocent thou art a god.

On earth with Jove bear’st equal sway,
Thou rul’st the night as Jove the day. 685
A middle station thou doest keep
’Twixt Jove and Pluto, pow’rful sleep!

As thou art just and scorns’t to lie,
Confess before this company
That by the virtue of my flow’r 690
Thou holdest thy nocturnal pow’r.

Why do we call thee loiterer,
Who fly’st so nimbly through the air?
The birds on wing confess thy force,
And stop i’ th’ middle of their course. 695

Thy empire, as the ocean wide,
Rules all that in the deep reside,
That moving island of the main,
The whale, is fetter’d in thy chain.

The desart lands thy pow’r declare, 700
Thou rul’st the lion, tyger, bear.
To mention these, alas, is vain,
O’r city-tyrants thou dost reign

The basilisk whose looks destroy,
And Nymph more fatal, if she’ coy, 705
Whose glances surer death impart
To her tormented lover’s heart,

When sleep commands, their charms give way,
His more prevailing force obey.
Their killing eyes they gently close, 710
Disarm’d by innocent repose.

That careful Jove does always wake
The poets say, a foul mistake!
For when to pow’r the wicked rise,
Can Jove look on with open eyes? 715

When bloud to heav’n for vengeance calls,
So loud it shakes his palace walls,
Yet does unheard, unanswer’d sue.
Must Jove not sleep, and soundly too?

That Ceres with my flow’r is griev’d 720
Some think, but they are much deceiv’d.
For where her richest corn she shows,
The inmate poppy she allows.

Together both our seeds does fling,
And bids us both together spring. 725
Good cause, for my sleep-giving juice
Does more than corn to life conduce.

On us the mortals freely feed,
Of other plants there’s little need.
Full of poppy, full of corn, 730
Th’ Hesperian garden you may scorn.

Bread’s more refreshing mix’d with me,
Honey and I with bread agree.
Our tast so sweet it can excite
The weak or sated appetite. 735

In Ceres garland I am plac’d,
Me she did first vouchsafe to tast,
When for her daughter lost she griev’d,
Nor in long time had food receiv’d.

’Bove all she does extol my plant, 740
For if sustaining corn you want,
From me such kind supplies are sent
As give both sleep and nourishment.

The reason therefore is most plain
Why I was made the fruitful’st grain. 745
The Persian brings not to the field
Such armys as my camp does yield.

Diseases in all regions breed,
No corner of the world is freed.
Hard labour ev’rywhere we find 750
The constant portion of mankind.

Sick earth great Jove beheld with grief,
And sent me down to her relief.
And ’cause her ills so fast did breed,
Endu’d me with more fertile seed.” 755

This poppy spake, nor did, as I suppose,
So soon intend her bold harangue to close.
But, seiz’d with sleep, here finished her discourse,
Nor cou’d resist her own lethargick force.
I tell strange things (but nothing should deter, 760
Since ’tis most certain truth what I aver),
Nor would I sacred History profane
As poets use with what is false and vain.
While poppy spoke —
Th’ assembly could no longer open keep 765
Their eyes, e’vn Flora’s self fell fast asleep.
So daffadils with too much rain opprest
Recline their drooping heads upon their breast.
Zephyr not long could bear this foul disgrace,
With a brisk breeze of air he shook the place. 770
Flora, who well her husbands kisses knew,
Wak’d first, but rear’d her head with much ado.
With heavy motion to her drowsie eyes
Her fingers lifts, and “what’s a clock?” she cryes.
At which the rest (all by degrees) unfold 775
Their eye-lids, and the open day behold.
The sun flow’r, thinking ’twas for him foul shame
To nap by day-light, strove t’ excuse the blame.
It was not sleep that made him nod, he said,
But too great weight and largeness of his head. 780
Majestick then before the court he stands,
And silence with Phoebean voice commands.

SUN-FLOWER

“If by the rules of Nature we proceed,
And likeness to the sire must prove the breed,
Believe me, sirs, when Phoebus looks on you, 785
He scarce can think his spouse the earth was true.
No sooner can his eye on me be thrown,
But he by Styx will swear I am his own.
My orb-like golden aspect, bound with rays,
The very picture of his face displays. 790
Among the stars long since I should have place,
Had not my mother been of mortal race.
Presume not then, ye earth-born mushroom brood,
To call me brother. I derive my blood
From Phoebus self, which by my form I prove, 795
And (more than by my form) my filial love.
I still adore my sire with prostrate face,
Turning where he turns, and all his motions trace.
Who seeing this (all things he sees) decreed
To you his doubtful, if not spurious, breed, 800
These poor climes to be in dow’r enjoy’d,
Of that divine Phoebean metal void.
On me that richer soil he did bestow,
Where gold, the product of his beams, does grow.
Amongst his treasures well might he assign 805
A place for me, his like and living coin.”
He said, and, bowing twice his head with grace,
Twice to Flora thrice to’s sire, resum’d his place.
To him succeeds a flow’r of greater name,
From whom high Jove himself deriv’d his claim. 810

GILLY-FLOWER

“How this pretender, for no medicine good,
Can be allow’dbe allow’d the son of physick’s god,
I leave to the wise judgment of the court.
With better proofs my title I support.
Jove was my sire, to me he did impart 815
(Who best deserv’d) the empire of the heart.
Let him with golden aspect please the eye,
A sov’raign cordial to the heart am I.
Not Tagus, nor the treasures of Peru,
Thy boasted soil, can grief like mine subdue. 820
Should Jove once more descend in golden show’r,
Not Jove cou’d prove so cordial as my flow’r.
One golden coat thou hast, I do confess:
That’s all, poor plant, thou hast no change of dress.
Of sev’ral hue I sev’ral garments wear, 825
Nor can the rose herself with me compare.
The gaudy tulip and the emony
Seem richly coated when compar’d with thee.
Both view their stocks, my ward-robe has the same,
The very Croesus I of colours am. 830
Rich but in dress they are, in virtue poor,
Or keep, like misers, to themselves their store,
Most lib’rally my bounty I impart,
’Tis joy of mine to ease anothers heart.
Some flowers for physick serve, and some for smell, 840
For beauty some— but I in all excell.”
While thus she spake her voice, scent, dress and port,
Majestick all, drew rev’rence from the court.
Well might th’ inferour plants concern’d appear,
The very rose herself began to fear. 845
Her next of kin, a fair and num’rous host,
Of their alliance to carnation boast.
Then divers more, who, though to fields remov’d,
From garden gilly-flower their lineage prov’d.
They of the saffron house next took their course, 850
Of dwarfish stature, but gigantick force.
Led by their purple chief, who dares appear,
And stand the shock of the declining year.
In autumn’s stormy months he shews his dead,
When tainted skies their baneful venom shed. 855
He scarce began to speak when, looking round,
The Colchic tribe amongst his train he found.
“Hence, ye profane,” he cry’d, “nor bring disgrace
On my fair title. I disown your race.
Repair to Circe’s or Medea’s tent, 860
When on some fatal mischief they are bent.
To baneful Pontus fly, seek kindred there,
You who of flowers, hearth, heav’n the scandal are.”
Thus did he storm, for tho by nature mild,
Against the poys’nous race his choler boil’d. 865
His sacred virtue the intruders knew,
And from th’ assembly consciously withdrew.

SAFFRON

“While others boast of their proud original,
And Sol or Jove their parents call,
I claim (contented with such slender flowers) 870
No kindred with almighty pow’rs.
I from a constant lover took my name,
And dare aspire no greater fame.
Whom after all the toils of anxious life,
’Twixt hopes and fears a tedious strife, 875
Great Jove to quit me of my hopeless fire
(My patron he, though not my sire),
Transform’d me to a smiling flower at last,
To recompence my sorrows past.
‘Live cheerful now,’ he said, ‘nor only live 880
Merry thyself, but gladness give.’
Then to my sacred flow’r with skill he joyn’d
Stems three or four of star-like kind,
Made them the magazines of mirth and joy,
What’er can sullen grief destroy. 885
Gay humours there, conceit and laughter ly,
Venus and Cupid’s armor.
Bacchus may like a quack give present ease,
That only strengthens the disease.
You crush (alas!) the serpent’s head in vain, 890
Whose tail survives to strike again.
All noxious humours from the heart I drive,
And spight of poyson keep alive.
The heart secur’d, through all the parts beside
Fresh life and dancing spirits glide. 895
But still ’tis vain to guard th’ imperial seat
If to the lungs the foe retreat,
If of those avenues he’s once possesst,
Famine will soon destroy the rest.
I watch and keep those passes open too, 900
For vital air to come and go.
Ungrateful to his friend that breath must be,
That can abstain from praising me.
But having been an instance of love’s pow’r,
To females still a sacred flow’r, 905
’Tis just that I shou’d now the womb defend,
 And be to Venus seat a friend.
’Gainst all that wou’d the teeming part annoy
My ready succour I employ.
I ease the lab’ring pangs, and bring away 910
The birth that past its time wou’d stay.
If this assembly then my claim suspend,
Who am to Nature such a friend,
Who all that’s good protect, and ill confound,
If you refuse to have me crown’d, 915
If you decline my gentle cheerful sway
Let my pretended kinsmen come in play,
Punish your folly and my wrongs repay.”

He said, and, shaking thrice his fragrant head,
Through all the court a cordial flavour spread. 920
While of his scatter’d sweets each plant partakes,
And on th’ ambrosial scent a banquet makes.
Touch’d with a sense of joy, his rivals smil’d,
Ev’n them his virtue of their rage beguil’d.
Ev’n poppy’s self, refresh’d, erects her head, 925
Who had not heard one word of what he said.
Flower-gentle last, on lofty stem did rise,
And seem’d the humble saffron to despise.
On his high name and stature he depents,
And thus his title to the crown defends. 930

AMARANTH, FLOWER-GENTLE

“What can the puling rose or violet say,
Whose beauty flies so fast away,
Fit only such weak infants to adorn,
Who dye as soon as they are born?
Immortal gods wear garlands of my flowers, 935
Garlands eternal as their powers,
Nor time, that does all earthly things invade,
Can make a hair fall from my head.
Look up, the gardens of the sky survey,
And stars that appear so gay. 940
If credit may to certain truth be giv’n,
They are but th’ amaranths of heav’n.
A transient glance sometimes my Cynthia throws
Upon the lily or the rose,
But views my plant, astonish’d, from the sky, 945
That she should change, and never I.
Because with hair instead of leaves adorn’d,
By some, as if no flower, I’m scorn’d,
But I my chiefest pride and glory place
In what they reckon my disgrace. 950
My priv’ledge ’tis to differ from the rest.
What has its like can ne’r be best,
Nor is it it fit immortal plants shou’d grow
In form of fading plants below.
That gods have flesh and blood we cannot say, 955
That they have something like to both we may.
So I, resembling an immortal power,
Am only as it were a flower.”

Their pleas thus done, the several tribes repair,
And stand in ranks about the goddess chair, 960
Silent and trembling betwixt hope and fear.
Flora, who was of temper light and free,
Puts on a personated gravity,
As with the grave occasion best might suit,
And in this manner finish’d the dispute. 965
“Amongst the miracles of ancient Rome,
When Cineas thither did as envoy come,
Th’ august and purpled Senate he admir’d,
View’d ’em, and if they all were kings enquir’d.
So I in all this num’rous throng must own 970
I see no head but what deserves a crown.
On what one flower can I bestow my voice,
Where equal merits so distrct my choice?
Be rul’d by me, the envious title wave,
Let no one claim what all deserve to have. 975
Consider how from Roman-race we spring,
Whose laws you know wou’d ne’r permit a king.
Can I, who am a Roman deity,
A haughty Tarquin in my garden see?
Ev’n your own tribes, if I remember right, 980
Rejoyc’d when they beheld the tyrant’s flight.
With Gabine slaughter big, think how he slew
The fairest flow’rs that in his plat-forms grew.
Mankind and you, how he alike annoy’d,
And both with sportive cruelty destroy’d. 985
You, who are lords of earth as well as they,
Shou’d free-born Romans government display.
Rest ever then a common-wealth of flow’rs,
Compil'd of People and of Senators.
This, I presume, the best for you and me, 990
With sense of men and gods does best agree.
Lily and Rose this year your Consuls be,
The year shall so begin auspiciously.
Four Praetors to the seasons four I make:
The vernal praetorship thou, tulip, take. 995
Jove’s flow’r the summer, crocus autumn sway,
Let winter war-like hellebore obey.
Honour’s the sole reward that can accrue,
Tho short your office, to your charge be true.
Your life is short — ” The goddess ended here, 1000
The chosen with her verdict pleas’d appear,
The rest with hope to speed another year.

Go to Book V