Welsh, Gwrryw, Gwlydd Mair. - Irish, Ruinn ruish. - French, Pimprenelle. - German, Pimpernelle. - Italian, Pimpinella. - Spanish, Pimpinela. - lllyric, Kriviciza, Krikka, Zele-nikka, Krupnik, etc.
"Prithee, bring that tiny scarlet flower, "With eye of lustrous amethyst adorned, Endued with prescience of the stormy hour;
Meek pimpernel, Whose closing lids wise shepherd never scorned,
But heeds them well".
* * "Pimpernel, whose brilliant flower,
Closes against the approaching shower, Warning the swain to sheltering bower,
From humid air secure".
"Closed is the pink-eyed pimpernel: 'Twill surely rain! - I see with sorrow Our jaunt must be put off to-morrow".
All proclaim the familiar fact of the closing and expanding of this little flower, caused by the dryness or humidity of the air, from which it is called the "poor man's weather-glass." And an unfailing one it is. It grows plentifully in northern as well as southern climates, and the A, arvensis is a common weed in the valley of the Nile. Its botanical name is the same as the Greek avayarris, which some pretend to interpret, the reviver of the spirits, in allusion to the medical and magical properties for which it was formerly so highly valued, but which seem now to be doubted. A record of them may, however, be traced in the Welsh Gwlydd Mair,
"Mary's (the Virgin) gentleness,"which refers to her mercy, in bestowing it as a remedy for illness; and in Gwrryw, signifying manliness, which alludes to the strength it was supposed to impart against evil spirits.
The valuable "Stockholm MS." so often quoted, thus describes the pimpernel family, and details the uses of the little scarlet species figured in the woodcut:-
"Pypnielle a noble gres Yt pinpernolle callyd is: Of yis erbe am spycis [species] iij*
Scarlet Pimpernel. Anagallis arvensis.
* It is difficult to tell to what plant the writer refers under his description of the first. We have in Britain but:
Wel on lyk sawe i quauntyle,
[Well (much) alike, save in quantity],
Ye feind on howys wt. lytyl whyth flowris,
In gret plente et lytyl honour is.*
Wt smale blo [blue] flowris ye toyer [other] is wylde,
Plente in what is growyth in felde [field],
Ye thrydde [third] is best of euerie chon [one],
A wel cowthe [known] erbe of on et on [one and one, for every one?],
In somer he beryth a smal reed flour,
Purpur in syth [inside] et in colour;
Hys stalke is flegged fowre square,
And beryth all wey [always] a flowur et is anhare [? preparing],
Al day ageyn [against] vndern et non [------? and noon]
He wyl try spredy et on don [to spread and undo]
And ageyn [against] ye ewene tyde [evening tide]
He loketh [locketh, shuts up] hy self he ewery side [every side],
He growyth be [by] ye erthe lowe,
Ayh euery man wyl hy knowe [will him know],
He hath in hy [him] vertus manye,
Zif he be meynt clene wt. betonye.
Wt thre pater noster in monyth of May,
It schulde be gaderyd in sprynge of day.
Yis [this] erbe alono yus [alone thus] gaderyd clene,
Mythly he flowyth [? flooreth!] ye splene.
Ye man yt beryth it day or nyth,
Wekked spryt of hy [him] schal hau no myth [shall have no might, power],
It wt. stant fendys [withstands fiends] power,
And dystroyith weny yt syt hy ner,
[And destroys (them) when that (they) sit near him].
Zif it be dronkyn wt. betonye two anagallis plants; and his second species must be the blue variety of the A. arvensis; the bog-pimpernel (A. tenella) was evidently not recognised by him as of the same family. * The first species.
Thow qweke wurmys be in ye manye,
[Though many living worms be in ye],
Throw yis drynk it schwen out drywe,
[Through this drink, it shall them out drive],
Yer [there] schal nozt [not] be lewy on on lywe [left one alive], Ewene with oyer i porsion all [Even with other (herbs) in (the) portion all], He goth to ye merwall And on euery oyer [other] halwe He is good to euery salwe [salve], To euery salwe et to ye syth [sight] Mekyl vertue et meche of myth." [Mickle virtue, and much of might].
It was also recommended, in the proportion of twenty grains four times a day, for epilepsy and "melancholia," for which last Pliny and Diosco-rides highly commend it. At present its only use seems to be as a pot-herb, and it is also sometimes - more especially on the Continent - eaten as a salad.
Beautiful as is this most familiar flower, the palm of beauty might even be disputed with it by its sister plant, the graceful and delicate bog-pimpernel (A. tenella), which, however, is of minor importance from its occurring more rarely, and in unfrequented places; and therefore diffusing less of that real and exquisite pleasure created by every beautiful thing which Nature has given us to look upon and admire.