Welsh, Clychlys. - Gaelic, Curach-na-cw'aig. - French, Clo-chette, Campanelle. - German, Glocken-blume.
"The frail blue-bell peereth over, Rare broidery of the purple clover," writes Tennyson, in lines which, for their beauty, we cannot quarrel with, though truth has been somewhat sacrificed to rhythm; as the rich leas in which the purple clover flowers could never be decked with the mountain and heath-loving hare-or blue-bell, which would quickly die in any herb-age so long and succulent as the purple clover; though it might, perhaps, grow in the closer tufts of the hill-side white clover.* However, we will not deal too critically with a poet whose observa-tion of nature is usually fresh and true, or who tells us, so prettily:
"When the little airs arise, How the merry blue-bell rings To the mosses underneath".
* If I might venture to speak more scientifically on the subject, I should quote the matter-of-fact words of the botanist, "it is indicative of an extremely barren soil;" but I have respect for the privileges of the poets. * Browne's "Pastorals".
- lines which, in their exquisite simplicity, make dull and heavy Merritt's more earthly -
"Azure hare-bell that doth ceaseless ring Her wildering chimes to vagrant butterflies".
This is the blue-bell of Scotland, the hare-bell, or heath-bell (Campanula rotundifolia):-
"The hare-bell that for her stainless azure blue, Claims to be worn of none but those are true:"* and not, of course, the English blue-bell, or wild hyacinth (Scilla). It is the hare-bell which "raised its head, elastic," from the "airy tread" of Ellen Douglas; and which, turned into silver by "fairy glamour," rung out the wishes of the little maiden, in the well-known tale, when she held it up in the pale moonlight. It is the same which the little boy, in olden days, heard ringing, when, as he sat in a fairy circle on the hill-side, he chanced to touch the flower with his foot, and to the sweet-ness of whose chimes all the sheep on the hill gathered round to listen. Nor did they forget its charm when evening came: for vainly did he try to take the sheep away; and none would go home with him till he gathered the blue-bell, and carried it before the flock, which followed him for days, until the blossom withered. It is the plant that loves the wild, free air of the heath and the hillside, the moorland and mountain, and pines and dwindles, till it dies, in the more sophisticated soil of the garden.
More beautiful in the growth of the plant, though not its rival in the blossom, is the little ivy-leaved bell-flower (Campanula hederacea), of whose grace-ful wreaths an engraving is given, and which so beautifully festoons the damp hollows of mountains in Cornwall, Wales, and other western parts of our island, as it does the clefts of the rocky Pyrenees. This plant is very interesting to the botanist and the geographer, from the circumstance that while in, other respects, it agrees with the division of campanulas, which are peculiar to the northern hemisphere, it resembles in the opening of its seed-capsules the Wahlenburgice,* which division is confined, as M. Alphonse de Candolle remarks, to the southern hemisphere.
Perhaps the best known of our campanulas is the Canterbury-bell, or steeple-bells, which, from the size and beauty of its blossoms, as well as its patience under both cultivation and neglect, is fre-quently introduced in garden culture; and which, formerly, from its abounding in the neighbourhood of Canterbury, as well as in other parts of Kent, was gathered by pilgrims to that shrine, and trea-sured in evidence of the task they had completed; and some other connection with holy or ecclesiastical symbols may have led to the old English name of "steeple-bells".
* Schrader places it, though erroneously, in the last divi-sion. The distinction consists in the opening of the capsules, which, in the Wahlenburgice, takes place by the dehiscence of the upper, or free part of the capsule, the inferior portion re-maining attached. In the others the whole capsule dehisces by lateral fissures.
The rampion (C. rapunculus) is a useful as well as a handsome plant, - the roots and young leaves are frequently employed in salads, or are boiled, and believed to resemble asparagus in flavour. The acrid milky juice of this, and some other campanulas, was formerly administered in throat-complaints, whence the name of throat-wort, though it appears that the "doctrine of signatures" contributed largely to this prescription; and that the throat-like form of the blossoms proved its greatest recommendation, or at least suggested its being so employed.
There occur in Britain twelve varieties of campanula, which, though well marked as distinct species, are distinguished by such delicate shades, that it would be beyond the scope of this little volume to characterise them; and I must therefore refer such of my readers as may be disposed to examine them botanically, to more systematic works on the subject.