« PreviousContinue »
and was gathered by them with all manner of mystic ceremonies. It is not easy to see why its slender spikes of grey flowers should have been held in such repute, unless the old rhyme, itself half a charm, gives us the reason :—
'Hail to thee, holy herb!
Growing on the ground
First wert thou found.
And healest many a wound;
I lift thee from the ground.'
The trefoil, or ' Herb Trinity,' has an especial interest from the use which, as tradition asserts, was made of it by St Patrick (although the story is to be found in none of the lives—not even the latest and most legendary—printed by Colgan), as an illustration of the divine mystery. The leaf which is now generally recognized as the Irish emblem is that of the white clover, but the name shamrock (seamrog) seems to be generic, and is applied also to the purple clover, the speedwell, the pimpernel, and the wood sorrel. The leaf of herb Trinity is of course 'noisome to witches.' The veronica, or small speedwell, one of the plants to which the name shamrock is given, was also effective against evil spells, and its bright blue flowers were thought to display, in their form and markings, a representation of the kerchief of Saint Veronica, impressed with the features of Our Lord. Many other flowers received the names of saints for less definite reasons, —partly, perhaps, because they blossomed about the time of the saint's, festival, and partly because they were found in plenty about the place which contained his shrine. Although the 'Canterbury bells' which abound in the Kentish woods have only an indirect connexion with St Thomas—having been so called from the small horse-bells of the pilgrims, which they resembled in shape,—the small red pink (Diaitthus prolifer), found wild in the neighbourhood of Rochester, is, perhaps, the original 'sweet Saint William,' for the word ' Saint' has only been dropped since days which saw the demolition of St. William's shrine in the cathedral. This, however, is but a conjecture, and we must be content to remain uncertain whether the masses of bright flowers which form one of the chief glories of old-fashioned gardens commemorate St. William of Rochester, St William of York, or—likeliest, perhaps, of the three—St. William of Acquitaine, the half-soldier, half-monk, whose fame was so widely spread throughout the South of Europe.
The charm and tranquillity of the monastic garden—a world
of of peaceful beauty often set down in the midst of the wildest woods and mountains—have been worthily dwelt upon by M. de Montalembert, the pleasantest and most eloquent, if in some respects the most one-sided, of the many advocates who of late years have taken in hand the cause of the monks. To the Benedictines and Cistercians—the first great agriculturists of Europe, and the first great gardeners, the true predecessors of the Hendersons and Veitches of our own day—we are indebted for many of the old, well-loved flowers that will always keep their places in spite of their gayer, but less permanent, modern rivals. The wall-flower that 'scents the dewy air ' about the ruined arches of its convent; the scarlet anemone, that flowers about Eastertide, and is called in Palestine the 'blood-drops of Christ;' the blossoming almond-tree, one of the symbols of the Virgin; and the marygold, that received her name, are but a few of the old friends, brought long ago from Syria by some pilgrim monk, and spread from his garden over the whole of Europe. Within those quiet walls the brother Pacificus of his monastery found material for the studies of leaf, flower, and insect with which to decorate the borders of his missals and breviaries; and the sculptor could there arrange his wreaths of white lilies, or his branches of 'herb bennet,' before transferring them in stone to the capitals of the neighbouring church:—
'Nor herb nor flow'ret glistened there
In the cloister garden, too, the monk was wont to meditate on the marvels of the plants that surrounded him, and to find all manner of mysterious emblems in their marks and tracings. Many displayed the true figure of the cross. It might be seen in the centre of the red poppy; and there was a ' zucca' (fig) at Rome, in the garden of the Cistercian convent of Santa Potentiana, the fruit of which, when cut through, showed a green cross inlaid on the white pulp, and.having at its angles five seeds, representing the five wounds. This mysterious fig is described and figured by Bosio, who compares it to the ' Crocefisso de la cepa' at Valladolid, a representation of Our Lord on the cross, formed naturally, though ' mirabilmente,' by the twisted growth of a vine root* The banana, in the Canaries, is never cut with a knife, because it also exhibits a representation of the Crucifixion, just as the fern-root shows an oak tree. But the fame of the greatest of all such marvels arrived at Rome in the
* Bosio, * La Trionfante e Gloriosa Croce.' Roma, 1610.
year year 1609, whilst Bosio was labouring: over his ponderous folio on the ' Triumphs of the Cross;' and he pauses accordingly, half doubtful whether he ought to say anything about the ' stupendo e maraviglioso fiore' of which he had been told, seeing that it was a matter almost too ' mostruosa e straordinaria ' for belief; but quite unwilling to omit all notice of it, especially as he was daily receiving new confirmation of its wonders. This 'maraviglioso fiore' was the Passion flower of the New World.
Drawings and descriptions of the Passion flower were published for the first time, in both Spain and Italy, in 1609. 13osio's chief authority was Father Emmanuello de Villegas, an Augustinian monk, and a native of Mexico, who was at this time visiting Rome. But Father Emmanuel's wonderful account had, been confirmed, we are assured, by many personages 'di qualita e di gravita' who had travelled in New Spain, and especially by certain Mexican Jesuits. It would seem, says Bosio, that in this wonderful and mysterious 'flower of the five wounds' ('flor de las cinco llagas'), as the Spaniards called it, the Creator of the world had chosen to represent the principal emblems of his Son's Passion; so that in due season it might assist, when its marvels should be explained to them, in the conversion of the heathen people in whose country it grew. He goes on to describe the flower as follows:—The upper petals are tawny (' di color leonato') in Peru; in New Spain they are white, tinged with rose colour. The fringelike filaments above are blood-red: 'as though referring to the scourge with which Our Lord was beaten.' In the midst of the flower rises the column to which He was bound; and above are the nails, both of a 'clear green.' Above, again, is the crown of thorns, surrounded by a kind of veil of threads—seventy-two in number—(the traditional number of the thorns on Our Lord's crown) coloured like a peacock's feather ('di color pavonazzo'). In the centre of the flower, and under the column, are five marks or spots, of a blood colour, 'clearly representing the five chief wounds that Christ received on the cross.' The plant, he continues, is rich in leaves, which in shape resemble the iron of a pike or lance-head, and refer to that with which Our Lord's side was pierced. At nightfall the flower closes entirely; and in the day it only half unfolds itself, keeping always the form of a bell, so that the mysteries so wonderfully enclosed in it cannot be generally seen. Bosio, however, thought proper to draw it fully opened,' per gusto de' pii lettori' —who would thus have the comfort of contemplating in the flower the 'profound marvels of its, and of our own, Creator.' The close shrouding of the flower, he suggests, may have been
designed, designed, by infinite wisdom, as an indication that the mysteries of the cross were not to be revealed to the heathen people of those countries until such time as it seemed good to Him.
In spite of the suggestion of our own Master Parkinson, who was the first to describe the Passion flower in England, that it should be assigned to that' bright occidental star Queen Elizabeth, and be named in memory of her the Virgin climber,' the Passion flower has retained its original name and significance. It is the one great contribution of the Western hemisphere to the symbolical flowers of Christendom; and its starlike blossoms have taken a worthy place beside the mystical roses and trefoils of ecclesiastical decoration; never more appropriately than in the ironwork of the beautiful choir-screens at Lichfield and at Hereford.
Before concluding, we must say a word or two about the 'Floral Calendars' which we have placed at the head of this article. A complete arrangement of the plants and flowers named after certain saints, or recording the festivals of the Church, so far as such plants exist, would be of very great interest and value. It would not only record much curious folklore, now rapidly passing away, but would bring back to us many a graceful and touching association with which earlier ages regarded the commonest flowers of the field and the hedgerow. Something of the sort is attempted in the pamphlet entitled 'Flores Ecclesiae,' which, following the Roman calendar, assigns a particular flower to the saint who is recorded on each successive day throughout the year. Many are thoroughly appropriate, but by far the greater number are selected in the most arbitrary fashion; and we can see not the slightest reason for associating St. James the Less with ' red bachelors' buttons;' St. Mammutus with 'Lancashire asphodel;' or St. Willibrord with the ' Mexican tiger flower.' If colour alone is the rule, we may surely be allowed to choose our own flowers. For anything else there is no other guide than tradition; and the compiler of the 'Flores Ecclesiae' seems in most instances to have followed a peculiar tradition of his own. In the beautiful volume which stands next on our list—' The Church's Floral Calendar'—we find something of the same fault We can see no reason why certain flowers should be chosen, rather than others of the same colour and time of flowering, as characteristic of the saint whose festival they illustrate. But in this case the arbitrary selection— which after all is but rare—is balanced by the beauty of the illuminations, which, in true Mediaeval fashion, ornament each page; and by the well-chosen verses which Miss Cuyler, gathering them from poets old and new, has brought to illustrate her
subject In truth, every such book is welcome, provided it display a true love for the 'flowers of the field.' They are their own best interpreters; and there is not one that cannot preach its own sermon.
• With all, as in some rare limned hook, we see
Abt. VIII.—Roba di Roma. By William W. Story. Second Edition, 2 vols., post 8vo. London, 1863.
THE author of this book is a son of the celebrated American Judge Story, and has risen to high eminence as a sculptor. His • Cleopatra' attracted much admiration in the International Exhibition of 1862, although open to the serious objection that, whereas the artist had laboured to give beauty and refinement to the African type of face, the daughter of the Ptolemies was really of Greek descent; and among the most remarkable novelties of the Roman studios last winter was Mr. Story's model of ' Saul tempted by the Evil Spirit'—a figure of extraordinary power, and, as we believe, thoroughly original, notwithstanding the remembrances which it almost inevitably suggested, of King Claudius in Maclise's 'Hamlet,' and of Scheffer's 'Konig in Thule.'
Mr. Story is not one of those Americans who, with the unfailing red book in hand, 'do the whole Vatican and Peter's easily in one day;' who in a few hours make up their minds that 'Rome is a one-horse place,' and will never allow us to enjoy anything there, or in any other part of Europe, without some disparaging comparison with things beyond the Atlantic. His knowledge of Rome is the result of long residence; he loves the place; he has gone among its people, and knows their ways; and when he draws a comparison with other nations, it is not for the sake of running down the Romans, but rather by way of vindicating them. How far he is disposed to carry this at times may appear from his plea for the stiletto, the use of which he attributes not merely to the passionate nature of the Italians, but
* Henry Peacham.