Welsh, Bronwerth, Tafod yrych, Llawenlys. - French, Bourache. - German, Borretsch, Burretsch. - Italian, Borrana, Borra-gine. - Spanish, Borraja. - Arabic, Lissan-et-tor.
COMMON BORAGE. Borago officinalis.
London Published by John Van Voorst, 1858.
" Ego borago gaudia semper ago," or, according to the old English version,
"I, Borage, Always bring courage," is the boastful assurance with which the pretty plant, of which an engraving is given, advances it-self to our notice; and thus ably are its pretensions seconded by poet, naturalist, and philosopher:-
"Friend to the spirits, which with vapour's bland So greatly mitigates; companion fit Of pleasantry," says Phillips; while Gerarde informs us, that "those of our time do vse the flowers in sallads to exhila-rate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of them, vsd every where for the com-fort of the hart, for the driving away of sorrowe, and increasing the ioie of the minde." To which Dr. Withering appends the following wisest and most true remark: "pity it were that even a fic-titious expellant of the blue devils should become obsolete; better even to be cheated into good spirits, than suffered to sink into melancholia for want of a little credulity." It would be well, indeed, and the world would be a happier world if more men and women acted in accordance with this wish; for here credulity might be satisfactorily carried to a tolerably high pitch. "The leaf," says Bacon, "of burrage hath an excellent spirit to repress the fuli-ginous vapour of dusky melancholia;" and, accord-ing to Salmon, "Borage is one of the four cordial flowers; it comforts the heart, cheers melancholy, and recovers the fainting spirits' Bruel prescribes an "epithem" to be applied to the heart, of borage, bu-gloss, and water-lily, etc, for the same purpose; while Burton, in his "Anatomie of Melancholy," says that Diodorus, Pliny, Plutarch, Dioscorides, and Ccelius, all thought it so valuable in this disorder, that they regarded it as the famous nepenthe of Homer, which Polydamna "sent Helena for a token, of such rare vertue, that if taken steept in wine, if wife and children, father and mother, brother and sister, and all thy dearest friends should dye before thy face, thou couldst not grieve nor shed a tear for them!"
After such accounts as these, and more especially when we see that its very names express the quali-ties assigned to it - Borago, corrupted from cor (the heart), and ago (to bring), Llawenlys (herb of glad-ness), Bronwerth, breast (for heart) herb,* and others- it is very disheartening to be obliged to limit these vaunted powers simply to a cooling and mucilaginous succulence, which renders the tender leaflets and stems agreeable and refreshing in spring salads, or in soups, etc.; while the older sprays, by the nitre, or nitrate of potash, which they yield,* impart a pleasant coolness to water; hence their use in the summer-drink known as "cool-tankard," or "sum-mer-cup." But as some atonement is necessary for thus "At one fell swoop," dispelling beliefs so agreeable to retain, the reader shall have a prescription from the pen of the man "who most studied melancholy," which he may rely on with implicit faith. The more implicit, the happier for himself. It is old Burton him-self who says, "only take this for a corollary and conclusion, as thou tenderest thine own welfare (in this, and all other, melancholy) thy good health of body and minde; observe this short precept, give not way to solitariness and idleness. Be not solitary, be not idle.
Sperate miseri, cavete felices." To the bees, however, the borage is still Llawen-lys,† and it will regain somewhat of the credit we have taken from it, when, in going forth in the sunny hours of mid-day we see the exquisite beauty of its cerulean blossoms, and the intense enjoyment of the "busy bees" which crowd around it. It is curious how very little, save in some antiquated and "out of the way" district, these very decided tastes of the bees are regarded by those who keep them. And if any reader conies under this category, and wishes to reform his legislative measures for his "honey-bees,' I can suggest no better step with which he should begin than by forthwith sowing, or planting near their hive, a large patch of the beautiful blue borage. Other reforms may happily follow. This will be a first step in the right direction. Their favourite plants bees must have, and if they do not find them close at hand, they will surely wander - aye, miles away - to the places where they are to be found; thus wearily wasting on the wing hours which should be spent in collecting honey near the hive.
Besides which, numbers of bees thus forced to gather honey far from home, are doomed, by various acci-dents, never to return, or only to arrive after sun-set in so exhausted a condition, that admittance is refused to them by the watchful workers of this commonwealth. And thus, before morning dawns, the over-worked bees lie dead before the door. This is an occurrence, which may be constantly seen by an observer in the long summer evenings, and it always bespeaks a great amount of negligence on the part of the bee-keeper.
* The Welsh name Tafod yr ych, or ox-tongue, is equivalent to the Arabic Lissan-et-tor, or bull's-tongue.
* Some of the Boragineae, as shewn by Marggraff, yield pure nitre in considerable quantities. "Mem. de Berlin, 1747." † See last page.
This borage, the B. officinalis, is our only British species, which, though occurring wild on waste and rubbish-covered ground, is best known to us as a garden plant.