« PreviousContinue »
Donegal, and sprightly as the peasant maidens who cull the flax at their feet-even my beautiful Jess, sits with ruffled plumage and depressed head, a miniature personification of the king of birds, as described by Gray, when slumber has quenched
The terror of his beak, the lightning of his eye.
Who would not pity a poor scribbler under such circumstances, reminded by a hint from the region of types—I mean a typographical, not a typical hint --that it was full time to supply the cravings of the press with a Chapter on Flowers. With loitering step and woful countenance, and head as misty as the weather, I entered my study this morning, trying to conjure up the phantom of some flower, with its appropriate reminiscences, when behold! just placed on my table by the hand of affectionate indulgence, -unconscious how timely was the boon-appeared two flower-pots, the one containing a most beautiful heath, the other a plant of fragrant mignonette. Both of these are full to overflowing with recollections precious to my heart. The language of flowers, addressed to me as I walk along, is ever, ‘ Don't you remember?' and oh, in what touching unison the heath and mignonette appeal to my spirit now! The seed of the latter was the first that my fond father gave me to sow in the little garden portioned out, in his own most noble and spacious one, and divided between me and my lovely brother, with the scrupulous impartiality that tends above all other things to keep unbroken the bond of fraternal love: the former, the flowering heath, was the last gift bestowed by that beloved hand on his delighted girl, before a sudden, instantaneous blow, laid it powerless in death. I know not now, but hereafter I shall know, why two out of the three precious ties which bound my heart from infancy, were snapped with such fearful abruptness ;-why my midnight sleep was broken by a frantic summons to come and see my father die ; and why, after many a long year, my waking eye must fall upon a letter exciting no alarm, but holding out the hope of pleasant news from the distant object of my fondest affection-and telling me that he was drowned !
“ Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” There is not in man, nor in any created intelligence, that which will enable the lacerated heart secretly and sincerely to breathe those words. I say secretly, because, without any conscious insincerity, the lip will often utter such language, when the spirit is internally writhing with resisted, but not subdued, rebellion. I know not whether perfect and unvarying resignation to the stripes of our Father's rod is the experience of any of his children. It is not mine ; rebellion is written on me, in legible characters; but sometimes, when the tide of awakened emotion sets in with a rush of recollections the most overwhelming, a voice mightier than the noise of many waters, says, “ Peace, be still !” and immediately there is a great calm; so great, so sweet, so wonderful, that it can be no other than the work of Him, who, touched with a feeling of our infirmities, has the sympathy of man, to comprehend the sorrow, and the omnipotence of God to subdue it.
Now, looking again upon the flowers before me, I am struck with the vast privilege of mind; its prerogatives so far above the nearest approach that animal instinct in its highest developement can attain to. My dumb companions are all remarkably sagacious, and have been brought to such an amicable understanding, that the little dog frequently shares his basket with the cat,—the latter has many a game of play with the squirrel, through his bars,-and I have seen the falcon between the dog's paws,without either exhibiting alarm or anger, although the whole party combine in testifying the hottest displeasure, if a strange animal enters their presence. So companionable they are, that sometimes I can hardly trace the separating line between their fine instinct and the reasoning principle in man; but here it stands out in striking inferiority. There is in them no perception of what is so thrillingly felt by me: they all look at the beauteous plants, because their vigilance is alive to the introduction of any new object among them : the squirrel is fearful, the cat suspicious, the falcon curious, and the dog jealous : but the whole world of flowers may bloom, in all their splendid tints, and breathe their united sweets, without affording aught that can counteract the atmospherical influence. In short, matter remains buried in the fog, while mind soars far above it to regions of sunshine and joy.
The Mignonette, as I have remarked, takes precedence of all other flowers in my gardening associations. Well do I remember the site of my small estate, skirting a gentle grassy ascent in the orchard, down which it was our special delight to roll our plump little persons on a warm dry day. My father, whose taste for floriculture was remarkable, had requested his favourite gardener to procure a new and choice specimen of the flower; and, on opening the
paper, he exclaimed, 'Why, Thorne, you promised me a particular sort; but this is the common Mignonette.' • No, no, sir,' replied the gardener, proudly pointing to the inscription on the wrapper; “this is the Mig-no-net-te.' The deep dimple in my father's cheek betrayed the smile that his kind feeling strove to repress; and without farther remark, he served out to us respectively a pinch of the distinguished seed, which we carefully deposited and raked over: though I cannot suppose that it came to maturity; as an obstinate propensity for having what is called too many irons in the fire, generally induced me to set one plant over another, to the destruction of all. The Mignonette became, however, from that day, a prime favourite with me; and such it will remain, while memory holds her seat;' for it brings to mind, almost to view, that noble orchard, with its many trees; in the midst of them a magnificent mulberry, of great age and extraordinary dimensions, from whose topmost height I have often seen the large white owl sally forth on her nocturnal foray, and the bat wheel round and round, then plunge into the impenetrable fortress of twisted boughs and broad luxuriant leaves. On the opposite side of the garden, a shrubbery wound, interspersed with many rare and beautiful plants; while our own little grassy knoll stretched down even to the low windows of the principal room in an old-fashioned brick house, covered to the eaves with a vine that seemed coeval with itself. These recollections are the sweeter, because the scene survives in memory only. I was but ten years old when we bade a final adieu to the abode; and, eight years after that, having an opportunity of revisiting it, I flew, rather than ran, to the window of
my old apartment overlooking the garden, and beheld -a timber-yard !
Sometimes I regret having ever undertaken these Chapters on Flowers. They lead to much egotism ; and no doubt provoke many smart observations from readers whose minds, unsoftened by adversity, and, perhaps, naturally superior to the comparative trifles that always had power to engage mine, see little besides puerility, affectation, and prejudice, in their pages. Yet, occasionally, I meet a tearful look, accompanied with the remark, “Your chapter touched a chord in my bosom and soothed a troubled spirit;' or something similar. Therefore, in the commencement of a new year, I have again resumed the floral biography, desiring to assure those who feel with me that their approval is dear to my heart; and protesting to those who do not, that they cannot think more contemptuously of me and my work, than, by God's grace, I am myself enabled to do.
Next after the heartsease, I think the Mignonette is the most perseveringly delightful of flowers. As lowly in situation, less attractive in aspect, but so fragrant, so durable, so willing to take root, and grow, and gladden all around it, in any soil, on any spot, under any circumstances, it seems to typify the active, unassuming Christian, with singular propriety. How often, on entering a garden, or a room, the sense is feasted as by the odour of a thousand flowers, when not a single bright tint meets the eye, until the faint blush upon those tiny blossoms, distinguishing them from the green stem and leaf, reveals the source of such welcome fragrance. That blush especially becomes the lowly flower, and the retiring Christian, who lives, and grows, and works, while