Welsh, Llygad y dydd, Blodau'r dydd. - French, Marguerite, Parquerette. - German, Massliebe, Liebesblumchen, Ganse-augen-blume, Marien-blume. - .Dutch, Madelieven. - Italian, Margheritina, Fiori di prima vera, Fiori gentili. - Spanish, Maya. - Portuguese, Bonina. - Russian, Barchat-naja zwietoschka.
Syngenesia polygamia superflua.
"Behold," says Abu Nawas, the Eastern poet, "Behold the gardens of the earth, and consider the emblems of those things which Divine power has formed: eyes of silver (daisies) everywhere dis-closed, with pupils like molten gold, united to an emerald stalk; these avouch that there is no one equal to God;" while a modern British poet speaks of daisies as "Those pearled aucturi of the earth, The constellated flowers that never set".
And this is no mere poetical license; for, except in North America, where it is treasured as a garden plant, there are few regions where the daisy does not bloom; and even in some tropical lands, the intense heat at the sea level merely drives the plant into the more genial mountain heights, where its blossoms refresh the eye and gladden the heart of the wanderer from some distant home. Men, in all ages, and men of all ages, have loved the plant; and oft have poets sung of the flower so loved in childhood; but, perhaps, no poet has so consecrated his verse to its beauty, as Chaucer. In the springtime he says, -
"When coming is the maie That in my bede ther dawith me no daie, That I n'up and walking in the mede, To see this flower against the sun spreade Whan it uprisith earlie on the morrowe, That blissful sight softenith all my sorrowe. So glad am I, when that I have presence Of it, to do it all reverence,* As she that is of alle flouris the floure, Ful filled of alle virtu and honoure, And ever alike faire and freshe of hue. And ever I love it, and ever like new. And ever I schall, till that mine hart die. Thir lovith no one better in hys life, And whan that it is eve, I runne blithe, Soe soone as ever the sonne sinkith west To see this floure how he will goe to reste. For fear of night - so hateth she darknysse Her cheere is plainlie spread in the briteness Of the sonne - for thir it will unclose".
And again -
"Above all flouris in the mede Than I love most those flouris white and rede; Soche that men callen daisies in our towne."†
* In allusion to the custom which prevailed in the days of chivalry; that every lady and every knight made an obeisance as they plucked the daisy-flower, the emblem of fidelity in love.
† In a MS. of the fourteenth century a portrait of this daisy-loving poet is embellished in the upper right hand:
"The long daie I hope me for to abide For nothing ellis, and I shalle not lie, But for to lokin upon the daisie".
While he makes his fair ladies sing,
"Righte womanlie A bagaret in praisinge of the daisie, For (as methought) amonge her notis swete She said, si douce est la Margerete!"
But to quote at length all that poets have written in praise of:
"The daisy, scattered on each mead and down, A golden tuft within a silver crown, Full fain that dainty flower;" * or, as old Fletcher calls them,
"Dasies smelless, but most quaint," would, indeed, be an endless task, and I must refer my readers to the works of the authors themselves for such exquisite lines as those of Burns "To a daisy disturbed by the plough;" of Montgomery "To a daisy in India," and many others; confining my extracts to some of the scattered and detached thoughts of Clare, a Welsh bard,Sutton, and Elliot. Clare says:
"Daisies, ye flowers of lowly birth, Embroiderers of the carpet earth, That gem the velvet sod; corner, where it is usual, in portraits of the period, to insert the coat of arms of the person represented, with a beautifully executed daisy-plant in full bloom. A most happily chosen device.
* Browne's "Pastorals".
"Open to Spring's refreshing air, In sweetest, smiling bloom declare Your Maker, and my God".
The Welsh bard, to whom I have elsewhere re-ferred,* has:
"Blodau'r dydd, pan font yn dryfrith, Ar y ddol y manwlith: Megis gemman rhain a welir, Yn addurno gwisg y glasdir,
Maent yn glws!
0 maent yn glws!"†
Sutton's lines are:
"A gold and silver cup,
Upon a pillar green, Earth holds her daisy up,
To catch the sunshine in. A dial chaste, set there,
To shew each radiant hour: A field astronomer -
A sun-observing flower. The children with delight,
To meet the daisy run; They love to see how bright,
She shines upon the sun. Like lowly, white-crowned queen,
Demurely doth she bend,
And stands with quiet mien,
The little children's friend."‡ * * * *
* V. infrd, "Violets".
† "The daisies teeming on the dewy plain,
Shine out like jewels on the earth's green robe They are beautiful! Oh, they are beautiful!"
‡ In Yorkshire the daisy is called bairnwort.
"She lifteth up her cup,
She gazeth on the sky-Content, so looking up,
Whether to live or die; Content in wind and cold,
To stand, in shine or shower; A white-rayed marigold,
A golden-bosomed flower".
And in the lament of Elliot, is -
"Peeps not a snowdrop in the bower,
Where never froze the spring? A daisy! Oh, bring childhood's flower,
The half-blown daisy bring! Yes, lay the daisy's little head,
Beside the little cheek; Oh, haste - the last of five is dead -
The childless cannot speak! "
The old Celtic belief was that each new-born babe, taken away from the earth, became a spirit which scattered down some new kind of flower on the land it had left for the home of "just men made perfect;" and the tale is thus gracefully told:
"The virgins of Morven, to soothe the grief of Malvina, who had lost her infant son, sung to her, 'we have seen 0 Malvina, we have seen the infant you regret; reclining on a light mist, it approached us, and shed on our fields a harvest of new flowers. Look, 0 Malvina! Among these flowers we dis-tinguish one with a golden disk surrounded by silver leaves; a sweet tinge of crimson adorns its delicate rays; waved by a gentle wind, we might call it a little infant playing in a green meadow; and the flower of thy bosom has given a new flower to the hills of Cromla.' Since that day, the daughters of Morven have consecrated the daisy to infancy. 'It is,' said they, 'the flower of innocence, the flower of the new-born.' "
Chaucer, however, gives another, and even a more beautiful account of the origin of the daisy, saying, in his "Legende of Gode Women:"
"Hast thou not a boke in thy cheste:
The grete godenesse of the Queen Alceste,
That tumid was into a daisie?
She that for her husbande chese [chose] to die,
And eke to gone to hel, rathir than he.
And Hercules rescuid her parde,
And brought her out of hel again to blis? -
And answered I again, and saide yes;
Now I know her; and this is gode Alceste,
The daisie; and mine owne hert is reste.
Now fele I wel the godnesse of this wife,
That both aftir her deth, and in her life,
Hir grete bounte doublith her renoun,
Wel have she gave me mine affectioun,
That I have to her flowre the daisie.
No wonder is through Jove her stellifie *
As tellith Agaton, for her godenesse.
Hir white crowne berith of it witnesse,
For all so many virtius had she,
As small florowris in her corowne be †
In remembrance of her, and in honour,
Cybilla made the daisie, and the flowre,
Is crownid al with white, as man may see,
And Mars gave her a corown red parde,
Instede of rubies set amonge the white. * * * *
* "Stellified," i.e., turned into a star by Jove, † The composite flowerets gathered together in the single blossom of the daisy.
And wostisl wel that kalendir is she,
To any woman that wol lovin be,
For she taughte alle the crafte of trewe lovinge,
And namily of wifehode the livinge".
The name of the daisy speaks for itself; like the Welsh Llygad y dydd (eye of day), and Blodau'r dydd (flowers of day), for,
"Wel by reason men it calld maie The daisie, or els the eye of the daie: The emprize, and the flowre of flowris alle." *
The daisy is the badge of Languedoc.
The old English, and the present French, name of Marguerite, is of course taken from the resemblance of its pearly bud to the rarer pearls of the ocean, and the two have become inseparable in our mind. From this name the plant became sacred to St. Mar-garet; though the poet, confounding cause and effect, says, - -
"There is a double flowret, white and red, That our lasses call Herb Margaret, In honoure of Cortona's penitent, Whose contrite soul with red remorse was rent, While on her penitence kind Heaven did throw The white of purity, surpassing snow; So white and red in this fair flowere entwine, Which maids are wont to scatter at her shrine".
The old name of bruise-wort relates to the use of the plant for "bruises and alle kindes of paines and aches," which, as Gerarde tells us, it "doe mitigate," besides curing fevers, inflammation of the liver, and "alle the inwarde parts".
And the Northumbrian name of ban-wort appears to point to the same thing. "Dases," says Turner, "whyche growithe abrode in every grene and hyhe waye, the northern men they calle thys herbe a banwurt, because it helpeth bones to knigt agayne." The still more northern name of gowan has been usually, though erroneously, supposed to relate to the golden colour of the centre of the blossom; but it is evidently derived, as Dr. G. Johnston* observes, from the Celtic guen or guenes (Welsh, gwen), fair, white, and hence beautiful; thus mean-ing nearly the same as the Latin name Bellis (bellus), pretty. The beautiful Italian names, Fiori di prima vera, and Fiori gentili, speak for them-selves; and if the Germans, in too earthly a manner, call the eye of day the goose's eye flower, ganse-augen-blume, they compensate for it by their names of liebes-blumchen, love-flowret, and Massliebe, love's wound; which last is similar to the Dutch, Madelieven.
It would be almost as needless to say that Britain possesses but one species of daisy as it would be superfluous and impertinent to offer any description of this "Little children's friend," the first loved and the last; though I may remark, in passing, on the consternation with which, on looking into some botanical volume for an enume-ration of the beauties of the "wee modest flower," we discover it to be possessed of a "scape one flowered, with leaves spathulate, obovate, crenate!" words which, however cabalistic in their signification, we would not willingly repeat over the graves of the daisies in winter time, lest the effect should be anything rather than that of raising "their forms from underground With a soft and happy sound!" *
* "Botany of the E. Borders".