"Ah, joyous time ! through verdant meads to rove With wild flowers strewn."

MANY a flower has peeped out in the deep fur-rows, warm woodland nooks, and under the hedgerows ere the glorious kingcups and cuckoo-buds have gladdened the meadows, and "The buttercups across the mead Make sunshine rift of splendour."

The gay meads and spring flowers are indelibly associated with childish "treasures of silver and gold." Though we noticed the "wee, modest, and crimson-tipped " Daisy by the wayside, the verdant mead is its true home, side by side with the glorious spring Buttercups, the creeping and bulbous Crowfoot (Ranunculus repens and R. bulbosus), which are distinguished by the form of the root. Equally do children hold the bright and "gold-eyed Kingcups fine" beneath their chins to know if they "like butter;" and schoolboys dig for the marble-like bulbs, to taste their acrid flavour and to deceive the green and ignorant home-bird. The bulbous crowfoot has furrowed flower-stalks, and the sepals are turned back, and it is the first to flower. The creeping variety has runners like the strawberry plant. The Summer Buttercup is Ranunculus acris, and has round and smooth flower-stalks, and the sepals spread outwards. Sometimes the Lesser Celandine adds its golden charms to the meadow, though it prefers the wayside bank, where we have placed it.

Earlier even than the buttercups, we have what Ebenezer Elliot terms the "sunflower of the spring," the Yellow-rayed Dandelion (Taraxacum dens leonis), which decks alike the meadows and the moors with unpaled sunlight, gathering up honey for the early bees, and furnishing pipes for childish fingers to make neck-chains of. Its serrated leaves are searched for by the French peasant to add to his salad, and when blanched they are not to be despised. The English villager, intent upon diet drinks, plucks up the root, and, indeed, it forms a not-to-be-despised tonic. "When dried and roasted the young roots are used as coffee. Its downy balls of seeds are called clocks and blowballs by the village children, who ask questions as to time and weather of the ball, and then blow the seeds into the air for an answer. This custom is at least as old as Shakespeare, and is mentioned by Ben Jonson. Useful as dandelions are to the herbalist, they are by no means loved by the agriculturists, though undoubtedly they have their economic uses in the feeding of cattle, lambs especially being, it is said, peculiarly fond of them.

When the meadows are damp, or a streamlet runs through them the Marsh Marigold (Callha palus-tris), the winking Mary-buds of Shakespeare, "ope their golden eyes " in the early spring months. The foliage is large, dark, and shining. The flowers are the calyx, and are supported on thick, strong stems which defy the March winds. Country folk call it "water-blob." In Scotland, Sweden, Norway, and Holland it is plentiful, and is there the first spring flower. Like all dark-foliaged plants, the leaves are poisonous, though the young buds, when pickled with vinegar, are said to be a good substitute for capers. One use the marsh marigold has: its flowers, when boiled with alum, afford a good dye, but now it is seldom used. Not far off the Mary-buds, and frequently blooming alongside of them, is "the Ladysmock all silver white" (Cardamine pratensis), whose pale, lilac, cross-shaped flowers stand erect in pretty clusters on stems from eight to ten inches high. They form a conspicuous object in the meadows, and are great favourites with children, who like the pungent leaves, which have the taste of cress. Indeed, one of its old names was the wild watercress.

The spring sun gets warmer towards the end of April, and then we may look for the fragrant Cowslip (Primula veris) and its larger relative, the yellow Oxlip (Primula elatior). The latter is, however, comparatively scarce, and appears to partake equally of the character of the primrose and the cowslip. The latter is the loved of the villagers, for they make tea of the dried flower-pips, and wine from them when gathered fresh. The village damsels use it also as a cosmetic, and we know it adds to the beauty of the complexion of the town-immured lassie when she searches for and gathers it herself in the early spring morning. The old names of the cowslip were "petty mullein " and "palsy-wort;" the latter name is preserved by the French. Cowslips form no insignificant feature in the May garlands, and when intermingled with the flowers of the purple orchis, or the handsome flowers of the Bugle (Ajuga reptans), which grows not only in the meadows, but its creeping root finds its way to the spinney, and starts up amongst the primroses. The spike of the bugle is blunt, and the upper lip is very short. Fortunate indeed will be the lover of wild flowers if he can find the large purple blossom of the Snake's-head or Fri-tillary (Fritillaria meleagris). It formerly grew in Foot-meadow, Northampton, but it has long since disappeared, and I have never found it elsewhere, though it is not very rare in the Eastern counties. Its drooping head is shaped something like a tulip; its colour is a rich purplish-brown, sometimes lighter and tinged with green. It is covered at regular intervals with small squares of reddish-purple, like a draught-board. Its old name was guinea-hen, or turkey-hen, but now country people frequently call it the wild tulip.

If the spring weather is fine and open, the charms of the flowers of the meadows will be enhanced by the sweet-smelling Purple Clover {Trifolium pratense). All country-bred children have sucked the honey from its florets, when they have raised their heads to meet the sun. They are the honey-stalks and suck-bottles of our fathers, and the bees love the honey of the flowerets, as well as the baby fingers of the young. The name "trefoil" has been given to it, from its' treble leaflets, and in the Meadow Clover each leaflet is marked by a crescent-shaped greyish spot. This spot is absent in the darker flowered Zigzag Clover (Trifolium medium), which, however, is easily distinguished by its zigzag stem. The white Dutch Clover (T. repens) is more common, and decks the shady lanes with its white blossoms. This was the "cloefer-wort" of our ancestors. In our rambles over the footprints of the old Roman settlers we seldom if ever found the Dutch clover absent, and it adds its beauty, we are told, to the valley of Sharon. The white clover, too, is the shamrock of the Irish. "We shall notice other species of trefoil during our summer rambles. The sensitive nature of the leaves of all trefoils to moisture was known to the ancients; and when a storm comes on, the appearance of the field changes, the leaflets fold to prepare alike for the dews of evening and the coming storm.

In The Meadows 30