The flower is not only used for strewing the floors of the baths, but some rose-water is put into the bath itself. According to Hasselquist, one particular rose is principally used for this purpose, and he describes it as one of those roses the pink of which is delicately tinged with blue. Large quantities of rose-water are distilled in Persia, and exported to various countries in copper vessels, coated inside with wax. Ben Jonson thus alludes to the custom of using baths scented with flowers:
"Their bath shall be the juice of gilly-flowers, Spirit of roses, and of violets".
Sir R. K. Porter remarks that the Persian servants "did not neglect to strew roses profusely over the carpets of my chamber, as if I were equally enamoured of their sweets with the nightingale." And throughout his account we find that almost every time he speaks of any assembled group of Persians, some reference to the roses scattered around them, or wreathed on their kalions is sure to occur. No wonder then, that in this land the Feast of Roses should be a season of rejoicing, lasting, according to Pietro de la Valle, through the whole period of their flowering; when.
* * "A wilderness of flowers, Seems as tho' from all the bowers, And fairest fields, of all the year The mingled spoil is scattered here. The lake too like a garden breathes,
With the rich buds that o'er it lie; As if a fairy shower of wreaths,
Had fallen upon it from the sky;" and when,
"Those infant groups at play Among the tents that line the way, Fling, unawed by slave or mother, Handsful of roses at each other".
The late Sir Gore Ouseley relates a curious circumstance with regard to one peculiar species of rose (which, however, he does not indicate) as elucidating an old Persian distich, "Give me wine, but not that wine which causes indigestion; give me roses, but not those roses which produce a cold in the head." This he actually found by experience to be the case with certain roses, which produced in him all the symptoms of a cold (and that before he became acquainted with the poem); and the same was corroborated by the evidence of several Persians to whom he mentioned it.* It would be curious to ascertain what effect the scent of this rose would have on a person subject to "hay-fever;" whether in this instance, as in other cases, his greater sensitiveness of organization would increase in proportion to that of persons who, under ordinary circumstances, are so affected by this rose?
* "Notice of Persian Poets," by Sir G. Ouseley, with a Memoir by the Rev. J. Reynolds.
Sir R, K. Porter observes that some of the ancient sculptures at Persepolis have fillets of roses around the necks of the figures; a circumstance which scarcely appears to require the additional fact that headings of the same flower decorate some of the friezes, and other architectural ornaments, in order to shew that the Persians of old had the same love for the rose, as that which distinguishes their descendants. Yet learned men have perplexed themselves, and their readers, in the endeavour to account for the origin of what one of them has actually termed, "so singular an emblem!"
Even the Persian, in his mild and fertile clime, might envy the roses of our English gardens; since the recent extraordinary improvements in their propagation and culture have given us such endless and exquisite varieties, many of which really merit their appellation of "perpetual," and which, instead of confining our enjoyment of the rose to a single month, or, at most, six weeks in the summer time, - as was the case in the days of our grandfathers - extend it to a period embracing the whole of the spring, summer, and autumn; and even, now and then, enliven the gloomy days of winter: bidding fair, in short, to falsify the oft-quoted couplet:
"The rose has but a summer's reign, The daisy never dies".
This indeed is very far from true as regards the duration of the rose-tree, though it may still partly apply to the blossom; for Humboldt mentions that it "has been ascertained" that the dog-rose (R. canina) will survive at least eight hundred years.*
In the Persian and Turkish, the word Gul (Giul), which signifies flowers in general,† is applied to the rose in particular, on account of the high estimation in which it is held; and so, in Arabic, is the term Werd. Syria is the land from whence sprang the celebrated damask-rose, or rose of Damascus, which still bears the name of its eastern home, the earthly paradise of the Arab, the fair city which Mohammed refused to enter, after he had gazed on it from afar, lest - since it was but promised to man that he should enjoy one heaven - so beautiful a rest on earth should be obtained at the price of the eternal rest hereafter.