Where ideas are equally the offspring of imagination we are free to choose between them as our fancy lists, but pleasanter far is the image thus expressed - the yearning for human sympathy, for human companionship, attributed to the inanimate creations of the vegetable world - than that conveyed by the school of pseudo-benevolence, which declares its philo-phytological sensibilities to be so tender as not to endure the thought of severing a blossom from the parent stem, which it endows with positive feeling. For my own part I feel a real pleasure in gathering the flowers in which I delight; and if we must - like the Greeks of old - endue with sentiment all beautiful things, we should in our imagination attribute to them some moral meaning rather than endue them with physical feelings. I can yet look back with the disgust of early childhood on the poems, and diluted story-books vainly - though with the very laudable desire of making us tender-hearted and merciful - urged on our attention to prove to us the cruelty* of gathering the flowers which made our very lives glad.
Such lessons proceeded from a very inadequate conception of the nature or requirements of a child's mind, and "Flower laden" from our rambles; that on Saturday every wild flower should be left in the hedgerows to cheer, on the following day, the sight of the closely pent-up town-workmen, with their wives and children, and whose only opportunity of seeing them was on that one weekly "day of rest".
* A kind of poetical instinct makes one regard as very beautiful the belief of the natives of the Society Isles, that were, indeed, of a different cast from those we received from our mother's lips - when she counselled, that on one day only in all the week, we should not return.
Dr. G. Johnston, in his "Botany of the Eastern Borders," has repeated, and satisfactorily answered, the often-raised question as to what plant is indicated by the blewart of Hogg's beautiful "Spring Pastoral." The poet wrote:
"When the blewart bears a pearl, And the daisy turns a pea, When the bonnie lucken-gowan Has fauldit up her e'e," etc.; plants, as well as animals, have souls; but in a Christian country in the nineteenth century, the whole thing wears a different aspect. Though, indeed the beauty of such lines as the following might almost tempt us to forget the fallacy of their reasoning.
"It is, and ever was, my wish and way To let all flowers live freely and all die Whene'er their genius bids their souls depart, Among their kindred in their native place. I never pluck the rose; the violet's head Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank And not reproached me; the ever-sacred cup Of the pure lily hath, between my hands, Felt safe, unsoiled, nor lost one grain of gold".
Walter Savage Landor and his readers somewhat precipitately concluded that he referred to the corn-flower, knapweed, or blue bottle (Centaurea cyanus), the bluette of the French; till the observer of nature came to the rescue with the remark that the centaurea is a corn-plant,* not a blossom of the commons, that it flowers in autumn, and is not a sleeper at the eventide; while the germander-speedwell entirely answers to the description given, even to its bearing a pearl when it closes for the night, incurving its pretty buds until, instead of displaying their brilliant upper surface, they only shew the pearly and "pale glaucous" exterior of the petals.
This is the best known of our English species, which altogether includes eighteen individual plants; all of which, with the exception of the flesh-coloured marsh, and shrubby speedwells (V. scutellata, and fruticulosa), are blue; and which are representatives of three of the four great divisions into which the family is arranged: namely, those having the flower-spikes terminal, and the leaves opposite; those in which the spikes are lateral; and, lastly, those with solitary axillary flowers.
In the first group are contained: 1. The spiked-speedwell (V. spicata), which occurs sparingly in dry or chalky pastures; 2. The thyme-leaved V. ser-pyllifolia, which is often confounded with the alpinespeedwell; 3. (V. alpina), which, however, is distinguished from it by its larger, and more decidedly serrated leaves, and the increased brilliancy of its few blue flowers; 4. The rare rock-veronica (V. saxatilis), whose beautiful corymbs tempt many a botanist to scale almost inapproachable and perpendicular Scottish rocks; and 5. The flesh-coloured V. fruticulosa.
* The Chicoreum intybus, and the Scabius succisa, are both called "corn-flowers," but it was the Centaurea cyanus which was formerly so remarkable in the corn-fields of England and France, for the brilliant contrast of its blue flower with the scarlet poppy.
In the second division we have: 1. the second flesh-coloured marsh-speedwell (V. scutellata); 2. The water-veronica (V. anagallis), which appears to hold an intermediate position between this and the following, and which is yet clearly and definitely distinct from each; 3. The brooklime (V. beccabunga), which is represented in the woodcut, and which takes its name from the German appellation, bach-bunge, so pleasantly recalling to us the old provincialism still retained in the slightly altered form of beck for a brook; 4. The common, or V. officinalis, which, as its name suggests, was the plant most employed as a medicine; 5. The, so-called, mountain-speedwell (F. montana), which, however, is an inhabitant of moist and shady woods; 6. And last, though not least, the beautiful V, chamcedrys, the germander-speedwell; of which Professor Henslow records a curious and interesting variety with chocolate-coloured blossoms.
Brooklime. - Veronica beccabunga.
The third division contains: 1. The prettily-growing, and early-flowering, ivy-leaved speedwell (V. hederifolia); 2. The green; and 3. The grey, field-speedwells (V. agrestis and polita), which bear so great a resemblance as to be barely separable; 4. The buxbaum, or V. buxbaumii; 5. The wall-speedwell (V. arvensis); 6. The very rare blunt-fingered; and 7. Vernal, speedwells (V. triphyllos and verna).
The following anecdote, extracted from Mr. Hib-berd's "Brambles and Bay-leaves," is too pleasantly told not to be a welcome addition to this account of the veronica:
"During the earliest and happiest years of the life of Rousseau, he was one day walking with a beloved friend. It was summer time, the evening was calm, quiet, and serene. The sun was setting in glory, and spreading his sheeted fires over the western sky, and upon the unrippled surface of the lake; making the still water transparent with a vivid and glowing light. The friends sat on a soft, mossy bank, enjoying the calm loveliness of the scene, and conversing upon the varied phases of human life, in the unaffected sincerity of true friendship. At their feet was a bright tuft of the lovely germander-speedwell, covered with a profusion of brilliant blue blossoms. Rousseau's friend pointed to the little flower, the Veronica chamce-drys, as wearing the same expression of cheerfulness and innocency as the scene before them. Thirty years passed away! Care-worn, persecuted, and disappointed, acquainted with poverty and grief, known to fame, but a stranger to peace, Rousseau again visited Geneva. On such a calm and lovely evening as thirty years before he had conversed with the friend of his bosom, and had received a teaching from the simple beauty of a flower, he again was seated on the self-same spot. The scene was the same.
The sun went down in golden majesty as before; the birds sang as cheerfully in the soft light of eventide; the crimson clouds floated solemnly in the western sky; and the waters of the lake were skimmed by glittering boats as heretofore. But the house wherein the first feelings of love and friendship, and the first fruits of his genius, had budded, was now levelled with the ground. His dearest friend was sleeping in the grave. The generation of villagers who had partaken the bounty of the same beneficent hand was passed away, and none remained to point out the green sod where that benefactor lay. He walked on pensively; the same bank, tufted with the same knot of bright-eyed speedwell, caught his eye, the memories of past years of trouble and sorrow came upon him, he heaved a sigh, and turned away, weeping bitterly".