The Bible says, "the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose;" and though commentators have disputed whether the flower referred to is the "rose," yet as this plant is a native of Syria, there is no physical reason against it. The older travellers, who often saw a marvel where they deemed it right that a marvel should exist, represent the rose of Sharon to be a peculiar species, "redder and more beautiful, and larger" than any other kind; and ever shewing forth, in its deepened hue, a memorial of the blood of the Saviour who "died that we may-live." It is, however, generally agreed that the word rendered rose (Cant. ii. 1; Isa. xxxv. 1), rather represents some bulbous plant, probably the tulip, which abounds at the present day in Judaea, while the rose is stated by recent travellers to be unknown in the plains of Sharon. The Hebrew name too, khabatsaleth, the root of which word (bazal, or batsal), signifies an onion, or coated bulb, like the Arabic basal, confirms this conjecture, and sufficiently proves it not to "be a rose." The same plant, the tulip, appears to be the "lily" of the New Testament, of which our Saviour says that "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these;" the expression "lilies" being applied in the sense of "flowers," as is often the case, like the word "rose" in Persian, Arabic, and other languages, as I have before stated.
* "Aspects of Nature." † As Gul ba ferman, for benefse, "violet".
Kitto mentions "white, damask, yellow, and evergreen" roses as flourishing in Palestine; and they do grow profusely in gardens there; but these bear no relationship to the "rose" of the Bible. And the plant now called the "rose of Jericho" is the anastalica hierochuntica.
There is a strange old idea, not yet wholly extinct, to which even the over-credulous Gerarde, speaking experimentally, gives the most emphatic contradiction, namely, that the yellow rose is produced by grafting a rose-spray on the yellow broom! a thing, as he observes, contrary to the principle, "naturae sequitur semina quodque suae".
Though Egypt does not abound in roses, like Persia, many are cultivated in the province called El Fyoom, where much rose-water of excellent quality is made. They are more abundant on the coast of Barbary, where they even grow wild, as about Tunis; and Captain Kennedy mentions a garden, belonging to the Bash-Memlook, near that city, containing upwards of ten thousand rose-trees. Tunis, indeed, is celebrated for its otto of roses, and rose-water, and these are amongst the articles of its commerce; the plants which give the otto are said to be the R. damascena, R. centifolia, R. moschdta, and others; but that from which the otto is extracted at Tunis, is a single white species (called in Arabic nusree) very like our dog-rose. The coast of Barbary was always famed for its roses; and Athenseus' (xv. p. 682) says "the rose which has the strongest scent is that of Cyrene, wherefore the ointment from that place is the sweetest." Pliny (xxi 4) says, "the most esteemed kinds of roses among us are those of Prseneste and Campania," and the latter is supposed to be the same as that of Paestum, famed for its rose-beds mentioned by Virgil, which flowered twice a year.
The more luxurious amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans made use of rose-leaves to stuff their cushions and mattresses so that the Sybarites were not the only men of old who reposed upon rose-leaves.
The custom alluded to by Shakespeare of increasing the sweet perfume of the rose by "neighbouring" it with some ill-smelling herb, is thus confirmed by Bishop Reynolds; "they say those roses are sweetest which have stinking weeds growing near them." And Montaigne has the following passage: "les roses et violettes naissent plus odorife'-rantes pres des aulx et des oignons, d'autant qu'ils succent et tirent a eux ce qu'il y a de mauvaise odeur en la terre".
I cannot turn from the recollections of the poetical and historical associations connected with the flower, without a glance at the oft-told tale of the Eastern philosopher, who so beautifully, yet silently, expressed the quiet hopeful determination of his own character through the allegorical medium of a simple rose-leaf.
Having applied for a certain professorship, to which he felt that he could do every justice, the authorities, with whom the appointment rested, handed to him a cup filled to the brim with water; thus, in the true oriental manner, indicating to him that the office was already filled, and that no vacancy remained for him. The philosopher on receiving the silent answer, took up one of the rose-leaves (which we may presume lay scattered, as before described, around him) and gently placing it on the surface of the water, as silently returned the cup to the heads of the assembly. Ingenuity, and a happy and graceful mode of pointing a moral, or conveying a lesson, were qualities most highly valued in the ancient philosopher and preceptor, and it is almost needless to add that the task which he sought to undertake was without further hesitation awarded to him.
Byron celebrates the beauty of Eastern vegetation somewhat at the expense of our own:
"The queen, the garden queen, the rose, Unbent by winds, unchilled by snows, Far from the winters of the west, By every breeze and season blest, Returns the sweets by nature given In softest incense back to Heaven; And grateful yields that smiling sky Her fairest hue, and fragrant sigh".
Hooker however asserts our claim to nineteen different roses of our own, besides a number of sub-varieties into which the common dog-rose (R. canina) has been separated. Two of these species are peculiar to Ireland. These are the R. hibernea, which grows only in the counties Down and Derry; and the R. dicksoni, which was discovered by Mr. Drummond. In the whole are included three species of sweet-briar; namely, the slightly scented R. inodorata, the small flowered R. micrantha, and the true sweet-briar (R. rubiginosa). The roses of Cashmere may raise visions of unrivalled beauty in our minds, or the same roses, when creeping up the walls of our homes, decorating our gardens, and impressing on us the force of the old lines:-
"Oh how much more doth beauty beauteous seem By that sweet ornament which truth doth give! The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem For that sweet odour which doth in it live;" are gems which seem unparalleled in value; and yet little less beautiful are our own native roses blowing in some quiet country lane, or clothing the dry sand banks with a spring-robe of beauty, and perfuming the whole atmosphere with their sweetness, as does the pretty little white-flowered sand or burnet-rose (R. spinosissima) - the pimpernel-rose of the old writers - which has been chosen for my illustration. Elsewhere, roses are decking with their wild festoons, and blushing wreaths, the face of some majestic rock, suggesting to us pictures, such as those pourtrayed by Sir Walter Scott, where:
BURNET ROSE. Rosa spinosissima.
"All twinkling with the dew-drop's sheen The briar-rose fails in streamers green;" and "Boon nature scattered, free and wild, Each plant and flower, the mountain's child. Here eglantine embalmed the air, Hawthorn and hazel mingled there; The primrose pale, and violet flower, Found in each cliff a narrow bower; Foxglove and nightshade, side by side, Emblems of punishment and pride, Grouped their dark hues with every stain The weather-beaten crags retain;" or the * * "rose in all her pride Paints the hollow dingle-side".