Numerous plants tell us of bygone festivities, of well-dressing, decking of town crosses, of weddings, and of funerals. There was a special floral calendar, about which I shall have something to say by-and-bye; for not only had they special flowers for Easter, "Whitsuntide, and Christmas, but for nearly every saint's day as well. There was a reverent love mixed up with these customs. "We can trace it in the somewhat fanciful names given to plants according to their supposed peculiarities. Thus the Scabious (Scabiosa succisa) was called "Devil's-bit," from its peculiar root, which was said to have been bitten by the Evil One. The lesser Celandine (Ficaria ranunculoides), one of the most modest and beautiful of the buttercup tribe, was named "Pilewort," from its tuberous roots. Even now it is used as a remedy for a very painful disease. In Cochin China it is esteemed as a medicine, and in Sweden and Norway its leaves are used as a table vegetable. The Foxglove, or "fairy bells," is another instance of a quaint fancy. The Pennywort (Cotyledon umbilicus) and a thousand others might be given as examples of that strange mixture of quaint conceit, poetic fancy, and close observation which distinguished our forefathers.
Some of the names speak of bygone dainties. How expressive is the term "Poor man's pepper," and "Sauce alone! " Salad Burnet, Corn Salad, Hedge Mustard, and "Winter Cress all indicate the natural yearning for "green stuff" necessary to counteract & long course of salt meat, ere gardeners were common in the land. Many of the names tell of real or imagined uses of the plants. " Fullers' Teazel," " Dyer's Weed," "Glasswort," are easily understood; others were associated with particular seasons, as " Snowdrop," "St. John's Wort," "Maythorn," and "Spring Cresses." Many names were obviously suggested by the structure and their likeness to some well-known part of the animal kingdom, as "Hare's-ear," "Mouse-tail," " Cowslip," " Crowfoot." The " Woodbine " takes us to the climbing plant of our rural lanes;" Lily of the Valley," "Meadow Rue," "Brooklime," "Shore-weed," all speak of the habit or home of the plant. Others bespeak the presence of a religious feeling, and many names are associated with "Our Lady" and Mary, the Apostles and the Saints. Others betoken the presence or remembrance of old superstitions, and in " Enchanter's Nightshade " there may be a hidden secret locked, while the poetic feeling peeps out in "Foxglove," or "Folk's-glove," "Thrift," "Speedwell," and " Forget-me-not." There is a world of historic knowledge connected with these humble plants. The oak and the mistletoe carry us back to the old Druid ages; indeed, the very-word "Druid" is derived from the Greek word signifying "oak." The Vervain and the common St. John's "Wort, before mentioned, were either connected with druldical rites, or had a halo of superstition thrown round them, the meaning of which has lingered until the present time in distant country nooks. Vervain, or Kervain, is still believed to be efficacious in cases of defective vision and of diseases of the bladder. But to make it effective as a "herb of grace" and of "good luck," to be worn about the body, it must, says a correspondent of "Notes and Queries," be gathered with certain formalities, first crossed with the hand, and then blessed thus:
"Hallowed be though, kervein,
As though growest on the ground, For in the mount of Calvary
There though was first found. Though healedst our Saviour Jesus Christ,
And stanchedeot His bleeding wound; In the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I take thee from the ground."
The common Dog Rose (Rosa canina) was noted by-Julius Caesar in his account of the invasion of Britain, and it is yet the prettiest object of our hedgerows.
They formed the distinctive military badge of the Houses of Lancaster and York; but long ere this a more humble plant, the common Broom - (the old Planta genista) had given a name to a famous race of English kings, the Plantagenets. The various species of Heath were used by Highland clans as badges in war. The story of the sweet Forget-me-not is told by Miss Strickland in her "Lives of the Queens of England." She says that "the royal adventurer, Henry of Lancaster - the banished and aspiring Lancaster - appears to have been the person who gave to the Myosotis ar-vensis, or forget-me-not, its emblematic and poetical meaning, by wearing it, at the period of his exile, on his collar of S.S., with the initial letter of his mot or watchword, Souveigne vous demoy; thus rendering it the symbol of remembrance, and, like the subsequent fatal roses of York and Lancaster and Stuart, the lily of Bourbon, and the violet of Napoleon, an historical flower. Few of those who at parting exchange this touching appeal to memory are aware of the fact that it was first used as such by a royal Plantagenet prince, who was, perhaps, indebted to the agency of this mystic blossom for the crown of England. It was with his hostess, at that time wife of the Duke of Bretagne, that Henry exchanged this token of goodwill and remembrance." The Hawthorn, the "sweet-smelling May," calls back memories of the Tudors, who assumed it as their insignia, in remembrance of the crown of Richard III. being found in a fruited hawthorn-bush after the battle of Bosworth. The very spot is yet pointed out by tradition on Crown Hill, near Stoke Golding. There is a touching legend of the hawthorn in connection with the unhappy Mary Queen of Scots, for it was her favourite tree during life, and a thorn named " Queen Mary's Thorn " remained until 1836 at Duddingstone, when it was overthrown by a violent storm. The whole volume of Nature is full of similar reminiscences. The Rue reminds us of Ophelia; the Hemlock of Socrates; while the poets have woven a garland of them all. I cannot here unfold all these stores of learning: I can only indicate by a few jewels the store of wealth which lies in this treasury of knowledge for the earnest seeker. I can only point out the additional interest it gives to the walk - the new world it opens up - the pleasant thoughts and joyous associations, which lend an additional charm to the landscape, and displays new beauties to the awakened soul; for
" Father, My heart is awed within me, when I think Of the great miracle which still goes on In silence round me - the perpetual work Of Thy creation, finished, yet renewed For ever. Written on Thy work I read The lessons of Thy own eternity. Lo! all grow old and die ; but see, again, How on the faltering footsteps of decay Youth presses - ever gay and beautiful youths In all its beautiful forms.
Oh, there is not lost One of earth's charms ; upon her bosom yet, After the flight of untold centuries, The freshness of her far beginning lies, And yet shall live."