Page images
PDF
EPUB

few of them, let us persuade you to choose the scarlet kind, the “old original ” geranium, and not a variety of it,—not one of the numerous diversities of red and white, blue and white, or ivy-leaved. Those are all beautiful, and very fit to vary a large collection ; but to prefer them to the originals of the race is to run the hazard of preferring the curious to the beautiful, and costliness to sound taste.

3. It may be taken as a good general rule, that the most popular plants are the best ; for otherwise they would not have become such. And what the painters call “pure colors” are preferable to mixed ones, for reasons which Nature herself has given when she painted the sky of one color, and the fields of another, and divided the rainbow itself into a few distinct colors, and made the red rose the queen of flowers.

4. Variations in flowers are like variations in music, often beautiful as such, but almost always inferior to the theme on which they are founded the original air. And the rule holds good in beds of flowers, if they be not very large, or in any other small assemblage of them. Nay, the largest bed will look well, if of one beautiful color, while the most beautiful varieties may be inharmoniously mixed up. Contrast is a good thing, but we must observe the laws of harmonious contrast, and unless we have space enough to secure these, it is better to be content with unity and simplicity, which are always to be had.

5. We do not, in general, love and honor any one single color enough, and we are instinctively struck with a conviction to this effect, when we see it abundantly set forth. The other day we saw a little garden-wall completely covered with nasturtiums, and felt how much more beautiful they were than if any thing had been mixed with them ; for the leaves and the light and shade offer variety enough. The rest is all richness and simplicity united, which is the triumph of an intense perception. Embower a cottage thickly and completely with nothing but roses, and nobody would desire the interference of another plant.

6. Every thing is handsome about the geranium, not excepting its name; which can not be said of all flowers, though we get to love ugly words when associated with pleasing

7*

ideas. The word "geranium ” is soft and pleasant; the meaning is poor, for it comes from a Greek word which signifies a crane, the fruit having the form of a crane's head or bill. Cranesbill is the English name for geranium, though the learned appellation has superseded the vernacular. But what a reason for naming a flower! as if the fruit were any thing in comparison, or any one cared about it. Such distinctions, it is true, are useful to botanists; but as a plenty of learned names are sure to be reserved for the freemasonry of the science, it would be well for the world at large to invent joyous and beautiful names for these images of joy and beauty. In some instances we have them ; such as heartsease, honeysuckle, marigold, mignonette (little darling), daisy (day's eye). And many flowers are so lovely, and have associated names, otherwise unmeaning, so pleasantly with one's memory, that no new ones would sound so well, or seem even to have such proper significations.

7. In pronouncing the words lilies, roses, tulips, pinks, jonquils, we see the things themselves, and seem to taste all their beauty and sweetness. Pink is a harsh, petty word in itself, and yet assuredly it does not seem so ; for in the word we have the flower. It would be difficult to persuade ourselves that the word rose is not very beautiful. Pea is a poor, Chinese-like monosyllable ; and brier is rough and fierce, as it ought to be ; but when we think of sweet-pea and sweetbrier, the words appear quite worthy of their epithets. The poor monosyllable becomes rich in sweetness and appropriation; the rough dissyllable, also; and the sweeter for its contrast.

8. The names of flowers, in general, among the polite, are neither pretty in themselves, nor give us information. The country people are apt to do them more justice. Goldylocks, ladies'-fingers, rose-a-ruby, shepherd's-clock, shepherd's-purse, sauce-alone, scarlet-runners, sops-in-wine, sweetwilliam, and many other names, give us some ideas, either useful or pleasant. But from the peasantry come many uncongenial names, as bad as those of the botanist. It is a pity that all fruits and flowers, and animals too, except those with good names, could not be passed in review before somebody with a genius for christening, as the creatures were be

THE FIFTH READER.

THE FIFTH READER.. . 155 fore Adam in paradise, and so have new names given them, worthy of their creation.

9. Suppose flowers themselves were new! Suppose they had just come into the world, a sweet reward for some new goodness, and that we had not yet seen them quite developed ; that they were in the act of growing ; had just issued, with their green stalks, out of the ground, and engaged the attention of the curious. Imagine what we should feel on seeing the first lateral stem bearing off from the main one, or putting forth a leaf. How we should watch the leaf gradually unfolding its little graceful hand; then another, then another; then the main stalk rising and producing more; then one of them giving indications of astonishing novelty—a bud! then this mysterious bud gradually unfolding like the leaf, amazing us, enchanting us, almost alarming us with delight, as if we knew not what enchantment were to ensue, till at length, in all its fairy beauty, and odorous voluptuousness, and mysterious elaboration of tender and living sculpture, shone forth

[ocr errors]

“The bright, consummatc flower !”.

10. Yet this phenomenon, to a person of any thought and lovingness, is what may be said to take place every day; for the commonest objects are wonders at which habit has made us cease to wonder, and the marvelousness of which we may renew at pleasure, by taking thought.

XXXIV.-NOTHING IS LOST IN NATURE.

GAIL HAMILTON. 1. Kindness to animals is, like every other good thing, its own reward. It is homage to Nature, and Nature takes you into the circle of her sympathies and refreshes you with balsam and opiate. We, too, delight in green meadows and blue sky. Resting with our pets on the southern slope, the heavens lean tenderly over us, and star-flowers whisper to us the brown earth's secrets. Ever wonderful and beautiful is it to see the frozen, dingy sod springing into slender grassblades, purple violets, and snow-white daisies.

2. There is no foot so humble, so little loved, so seldom listened for, that the earth will not feel its tread and blossom up a hundredfold to meet her child. And every dainty blossom shall be so distinctly wrought, so gracefully poised, so generously endowed, that you might suppose Nature had lavished all her love on that one fair flower.

3. As you lie on the grass, watching the ever-shifting billows of the sheeny sea, that dash with soundless surge against the rough old tree-trunks, marking how the tall grasses bend to every breeze and darken to every cloud, only to arise and shine again when breeze and cloud are passed by, there comes through your charmed silence—which is but the perfect blending of a thousand happy voices—one cold and bitter voice,

Golden to-day, to-morrow gray :
So fades young love from life away!”

and darken to enloud are passerut the per

4. O cold, false voice, die back again into your outer darkness! I know the reaper will come, and the golden grain will bow before him, for this is Nature's law; but in its death lies the highest work of its circling life. All was fair ; but this is fairest of all. It dies, indeed, but only to continue its beneficence ; and with fresh beauty and new vigor it shall blossom for other springs. 5. Fainter, but distinctly still, comes the chilling voice,

“ Though every summer green the plain,

This harvest can not bloom again.” False still! This harvest shall bloom again in perpetual and ever-increasing loveliness. It shall leap in the grace of the lithe-limbed steed, it shall foam in the milk of gentlehearted cows, it shall shine in the splendor of light-winged birds, it shall laugh in the baby's dimple, toss in the child's fair curls, and blush sin the maiden's cheek. Nay, by some inward way, it shall spring again in the green pastures of the soul, blossoming in great thoughts, in kindly words, in Christian deeds, till the soil that cherished it shall seem to seeing eyes all consecrate, and the earth that flowers such growths shall be Eden, the Garden of God.

XXXV.-BEFORE THE RAIN.

T. B. ALDRICH 1. We knew it would rain, for, all the morn,

A spirit on slender ropes of mist Was lowering its golden buckets down

Into the vapory amethysts

2. Of marshes and swamps and dismal fens,

Scooping the dew that lay on the flowers, Dipping the jewels out of the sea,

To sprinkle them over the land in showers.

3. We knew it would rain, for the poplars showed

· The white of their leaves, the amber grain Shrunk in the wind,-and the lightning now

Is tangled in tremulous skeins of rain.

XXXVI.-AFTER THE RAIN. .

T. B. ALDRICH.
1. The rain has ceased, and in my room

The sunshine pours an airy flood;
And on the church's dizzy vane
. The ancient cross is bathed in blood.

2. From out the dripping ivy leaves,

Antiquely carven, gray and high,
A dormer, facing westward, looks

Upon the village like an eye:

3. And now it glimmers in the sun,

A globe of gold, a disk, a speck :
And in the belfry sits a dove

With purple ripple on her neck.

« PreviousContinue »