Sivut kuvina

In such a night
Medea gathered the enchanted herbs
That did renew old Æson.


It has been suggested also that, as Medea is sometimes called Colchis, it was this plant that reliered Æson from his infirmities. Hence it came to be considered as a preservative against all sorts of diseases. The Swiss hang it round their children's necks, and imagine them to be thenceforth exempt from every kind of ailment.

Most superstitious notions, however, ridiculous as they may now appear, originated in the first instance in some reasonable opinion. Could we divest the tales of antiquity of their fabulous dress, we should probably find them all explanatory of real events. In this case, we should perhaps discover that Medea, having relieved Æson from a fit of the gout, his subjects celebrated her praise for having restored their sovereign to youthful sprightliness. This interpretation is rendered the more plausible by the late discovery of the powerful efficacy of the Colchicum, not only in gout and rheumatic affections of the joints, but also in most inflammatory disorders. In many cases, however, it has produced injurious effects; so that, as a medicine, it ought not to be administered but by the most cautious practitioners; for the Colchicum is undoubtedly a poisonous root, and its deleterious effects are to be dreaded until the precise dose is accurately ascertained.

The poisonous quality of this plant seems to be known as it were by instinct to all kinds of cattle. They all shun it, and it is no uncommon thing to see it standing alone in pastures, where every other kind of herbage has been eaten down, without a leaf of this plant being touched.

The Meadow-Saffron cannot but interest the botanist on account of the singular phenomena which it exhibits. Its corolla, six-cleft, of a violet colour, has neither leaves nor stem: a long tube, white as ivory, which is but a prolongation of the flower, is its sole support. At the bottom of this tube Nature has placed the seed, which is not destined to ripen before the following spring. The seed-vessel which encloses it is buried in the turf during the winter; but, on the return of spring, it rises from the ground, waving in the sunshine, surrounded by a tuft of broad leaves of the brightest green. The seeds ripen in May. Thus, this plant, reversing the accustomed order of the seasons, mingles its fruits with the flowers of spring, and its flowers with the fruits of autumn.

Theu bright from earth, amid the troubled sky,
Ascends fair Colchicum, with radiant eye,
Warms the cold bosom of the hoary year,
And lights with beanty's blaze the dusky sphere.



Although this plant is a native of Italy, it remained unknown till the present century, when M. Villan, a skilful botanist of Grenoble, was attracted by its delightful fragrance at the foot of Mount Pilatus, in Switzerland, whence he brought it to perfume the winter gardens of our continental neighbours. It cast its first odour on the British shore in 1806, and it has become so far naturalized to our climate as to discharge its fragrance over our walks in winter, as freely as the mignonette of Egypt does in summer.

Thus genius, hidden beneath a modest exterior, is not discerned by the vulgar; but, if it once meets the eye of an enlightened judge, its powers are revealed, and it commands the admiration of those who, with stupid indifference, perceive in it nothing extraordinary. A young miller in Holland, having a taste for painting, exercised it at leisure-hours in portraying the



scenery amidst which he lived. His master's mill and cattle, an admirable verdure, the effects of the sky, clouds, vapour, light, and shade, were transferred with exquisite truth to the canvass by his untutored pencil. No sooner had he finished one picture than he carried it to the colourman and exchanged it for materials to paint another. It happened that the innkeeper of the place, expecting company at his house, wished to decorate the apartment destined for their reception, and bought two of the pictures for that purpose. An eminent painter, chancing to stop at the inn, admired the truth of these landscapes, offered one hundred florins for what had cost but a crown, and, on paying for them, promised to take all the works of the young miller at the same price. Thus was the reputation of the latter established and his fortune made. In his prosperity he never forgot his dear mill, the figure of which is to be found in all his pictures, which are so many masterpieces. Who would imagine that plants, like men, need a patron in order that their merits may be duly appreciated!

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