Farther west, the court of this "Queen of flowers" seems to be kept in the woods of North America, especially of the United States, in whose mighty forests the trees are wreathed and twined by the bright familiar blossoms of various climbing roses, which, assuming the character of liannes* actually out-top the monarchs of the woods. The most curious fact connected with the geographical distribution of the rose, is its being absolutely wanting in the southern hemisphere. Yet cultivation has quite overcome nature in this particular instance, for roses introduced into Australia flourish with a vigour and luxuriance almost unknown elsewhere; and shadow over the newly-raised log-house of the emigrant with the buds and blossoms of his own home.
* A similar effect, produced by the shade of trees, may be seen on a small scale in the wild roses and woodbines of our own woods.
The hip of the rose, as Gerarde tells us, "maketh the most pleasante meats and banqueting dishes, and tarts, and such-like; the making whereof' he commits, in somewhat complicated phraseology, "to the cunning cooke; and teethe to eate them in the riche man's mouth." The Germans still use them as an ordinary preserve; and this as well as a preserve of the blossom is employed in our own village confectionary. That the flowers still form an article of diet - perhaps I should say of luxury - amongst the Chinese, is recorded by Sir John Davis, who, in describing a feast given to him at Shangae by the intendant, mentions a ragout of the flowers of the common China-rose dressed whole, which celestial and ambrosial dish he however declares to have been a "mixture of salt, sour, and other indescribable flavours" such as "forbade a repetition;"* being, therein, of a different opinion from "Master Gerarde," who affirms that they are greatly to be desired as a culinary vegetable; "as well for their virtues and goodness in taste, as also for their beautiful colour." Gerarde hints at "diuers other pretty things made of roses and sugar which are impertinent vnto our historie;" and as they are to mine also, I, like him, "intend neither to make thereof an apothecary's shope, nor a sugar-baker's storehouse, leaving the reste for our cunninge confectioners." Yet I cannot refrain from borrowing from Mr. Adams an unique recipe, extracted from the "Ashmolean MSS.," and which has for its object a most magical effect,* namely, to enable men to see fairies without their eyes being injured:-
* "China during the War, and after the Peace," 1852.
Take "a pint of sallet-oyle, and put it into a vial glasse, but first wash it with rose-water and mary-golde-water: the flowers to be gathered towards the east. Wash it till the oyle come white; then put it into the glass, ut supra, and then put thereto the budds of hollyhocke, and the flowers of mary-golde, the floweres, or toppes of wild thyme, the buddes of young hazle; and the thyme must be gathered neare the side of a hill where the Fayries use to be: and take the grasse of a Fairie throne, then all these put into the oyle into the glasse; and sette it to disolve three days in the sun, and then keepe it for thy use!"
Pliny, Galen, and others have dwelt much on the virtues of the tufty spongioles which grow on the branches of the several wild roses; attributing to them all sorts of medicinal qualities, and evidently considering them a part of the rose itself, though distinguishing them by the name of Bedeguar, from their resemblance to an Arabian thistle so called. They are now, however, well known to be excres-ences produced by the insect powers of the Cynips rosce.
Such are some of the many wonderful merits and virtues ascribed to the rose, but it is more wonderful still that I should have to record the dislike felt to it by any one. Yet such, history assures us, was the case with no less distinguished a person than Mary de Medicis, who could not endure the flower; while the infamous Due de Guise was so affected with dislike at the sight of it, that he fainted. I cannot, however, help supposing that there is some error in this account, and that Catherine de Medicis must have been the lady indicated; judging from natural causes it is not improbable that she might have inherit ed, as a family peculiarity, the dislike which her uncle exhibited to the flower.
* "Moral of Flowers".
Didymus, the Alexandrian ("Geoponika"), somewhat paradoxically says, after enumerating the varied virtues of this flower, "I am really persuaded that the rose is something more than human!" Yet in the nineteenth century, the rose can even be dispensed with, in the manufacture of rose-water; we ignore the necessity of gathering otto of roses from so uncertain a field as that in which the blossoms grow; chemistry has discovered that the refuse of the organic kingdom is the source from which we may henceforth obtain our "essence of roses;" the Bulgarian rose grounds may grow sterile and bleak, - the Vale of Kashmir become arid and bare, but we heed it not. The rose-essence of our future years will be procured from the offal which was before a nuisance to us, just as our vanille is in future to be extracted from pit-coal; and our essence of pears from creosote, ends of old ropes, and other such matters!