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Drayton in his Pastorals makes the Daffodil the same flower with the Lily :
See that there be store of lilies.
(Called by shepherds Daffodillies). The Narcissus major, the largest of this family of flowers, a native of Spain, is common in our gardens, and rarely seen single. Its magnificent gold-coloured flowers are supported by a stalk nearly two feet high.
A modern poet has taken the Narcissus for an emblem of the pains of unrequited love. Thus, too, the ancients, on account of its narcotic properties, regarded it as the flower of deceit, which, as Homer assures us, delights heaven and earth by its odour and external beauty, but, at the same time, produces stupor and even death. It was therefore consecrated to the Eumenides, Ceres, and Proserpine, on which account Sophocles calls it the garland of the great goddesses; and Pluto, by the advice of Venus, employed it to entice Proserpine to the lower world.
In the East, the Daffodil is a particular favourite. The Persians call it, by way of eminence, Zerrin, which signifies golden; and by the Turks it is denominated Zerrin Kadech, golden bowl.
One of our older poets moralizes upon this flower in the following lines :
Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
But to the even song,
with you along
We have short time to stay as ye,
We have as fleet a spring,
Ne'er to be found again.
The Hawthorn, or White Thorn, was among the Greeks a symbol of the conjugal union; its blossomed boughs were carried about at their wedding festivities, and the new-married couple were even lighted to the bridal chamber with torches of its wood.
Among the Turks a branch of the Hawthorn expresses the wish of a lover to receive a kiss from the object of his affection.
In England, where the hedges, principally formed of Hawthorn, give such beauty and diversity to our landscapes, and where the air is perfumed during the season of flowering by the aromatic fragrance of its blossom, this shrub held a distinguished place among the May-day sports of our ancestors. From its flowering in that month, it received the name of May, by which it is still more frequently called than by its proper appellation.
Stow tells us that, on May-day in the morn
ing, “every man, except impediment, would walk into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds praising God in their kind.” People of all ranks joined in this recreation. King Henry VIII. rode a-maying from Greenwich to Shooter's Hill,with his queen Katherine, accompanied by many lords and ladies.
In the country, the juvenile part of both sexes were accustomed to rise soon after midnight, and walk to some neighbouring wood, accompanied with music and the blowing of horns; there they would break branches from the trees, and adorn them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. This done, they returned homeward about sunrise with their booty, and decorated their doors and windows with the flowery spoil. The after-part of the day was chiefly spent in dancing round a tall pole, called a May-pole; which, being placed in a convenient part of the village, stood there, consecrated as it were to the goddess of flowers, without suffering the least violation during the whole year.
Herrick, in his beautiful poem of “ Corinna's going a-maying," has also given us some idea of the manner in which this day was kept in his time.
Come, my Corinna, come; and, coming, mark
Made green and trimmed with trees; see how
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Can such delights be in the street
The proclamation made for May,
A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Before that we have left to dream;
Many a green gown has been given,