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Heaven in a cloud attracted Those tears shed not in vain; And sent them swiftly speeding To that far battle plain.
There from the cloud they trickled Like dew-drops o'er the brave; That tears the turf might hallow Upon his foreign grave.
BROOK WEED, or WATER PIMPERNEL; (Samosus Valerandi; so called because gathered in the Isle of Samos, by Valerandus, a botanist of the sixteenth century), was one of the holy herbs of the Druids, and used by them in solemn incantations. Its pretty little white bell-shaped flowers are not common in England, though generally met with in wet places in most parts of the world.
RUE (Ruta Graveolens) was in ancient times accounted as magical, and was used in spells and sorceries. Subsequently it acquired a better reputation, from the properties ascribed to it of preserving from infection, and of being antidotal to poison; thence it came to be esteemed holy, and was used in the Roman Catholic church as an Aspergillum, or holy water sprinkler (and in the early ages, especially in exorcisms, for the expulsion of evil spirits); hence it was called Herb of Grace. "There's rue for you, and some for me: we may call it Herb o' Grace on Sundays." So says poormad Ophelia Hamlet, Activ., scene 6). But the Rue, from it bitterness, is also esteemed an herb of sorrow.
"Here di he drop a tear: here in this
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace;
King Richard II., act iii., scene 4.
THE COMMON FENNEL GIANT, or FERULE, (Ferula Communis) was verated among the Greeks as the plant in whose stalk Prometheus concealed the fire which he stole from the chariot of the sun, and brought down to earth from heaven. And certainly the plant is well adapted for the conveyance of fire: the stalk, which is erect, jointed, and from ten to twelve feet high, is
filled with a dry, spongy pith, in which fire can be kept smouldering like tinder, without consuming the outside: it is thus used by the Sicilians. The stem rises from the centre of a bunch of bright green leaves spreading on the ground; and is surmounted by a panicle of yellow flowers.
It was early adopted as the badge of authority, from its sceptre-like form, by the principals of schools; hence Martial calls it "the Sceptre of the Pedagogues." It was borne as a sceptre by the sovereigns of the Lower Empire, and hence became a symbol of monarchial power; it was, indeed, a fitting emblem of the fragility of the sway of those emperors. Bacchus commanded his votaries to carry no other weapon but the stalk of the Ferula in their feasts, that the quarrels excited by wine might at least be bloodless.
Ferula Asafoetida yields the disagreeably scented gum Asafoetida, and is only found in Persia; and that in two districts alone, in the fields and mountains about Herat, and in the province of Laar. Its stem is not above two feet in height. Ferula Orientalis gives animonia, and attains the height of three feet.
From the connexion of the common Ferula, or Great Fennel Giant, with the chariot of the Sun, we must associate with it a solar song :-
He parts! the glorious king is gone
Well may those Courtiers mourn the light
Of hidden diadem:
They shone in its reflections bright,
Its rays were wealth to them. But must this night of grief remain? Must they for ever mourn? Shall not the absent sovereign Back to his realm return?
Yes! yes!-e'en now is midnight past,
But far more brilliant, far more gay
Roses are scattered in his path,
And pearls around him shine: Great King! what earthly monarch hath
A welcome such as thine? The silent hours when thou wert not,
Hours lonely, long and drear, Are now redeem'd, repaid, forgot In bliss to greet thee here.
So hearts may mourn the sun-set hours That bring a night of care:
Yet they may hail in orient bowers
THE DITTANY OF CRETE, (Origanum Dictamnus) among the Romans crowned Juno Lucina, whence it was made the emblem of nativity. It was esteemed as vulnerary; when Eneas was wounded by an arrow, in his combat with Turnus, Venus gathered the Dittany from Mount Ida in Crete, its native isle, and brought it to Iapis, the physician of Eneas, and taught him to express the juice, and give it to his patient, and thus a cure was effected (Eneiad xii.). Pliny says (book xxv.) that men learned the healing qualities of Dittany from the stags, that browsed upon it to cure themselves of arrow wounds. Virgil ascribes the same instinct to goats:
Non illa feris incognita capris Gramina, cum tergo volucres hæsere sagittæ. Eneid, xii.
The Dittany evolves a viscid juice, which in the evening becomes an inflammable gas, so easily ignited that the least spark suffices to set it blazing all over the plant, but without injury to it. The stalks are nine inches high, hairy and purplish; the leaves are round, thick, woolly, and very white; the flowers in spikes of loose, nodding, purplish heads.
MANDRAKE (Atropa Mandragora) is peculiarly a plant of the gloomy superstitions, from its poisonous properties, and its foetid smell. root is fleshy, and often forked; the leaves dark green, and springing from the crown of the root; the flower is whitish and five-cleft; the fruit, a soft globular berry, as large as a nut-meg, and of a greenish yellow colour when ripe. The root was supposed to resemble the human body, and to be endowed with many magical qualities, and especially with that of exciting love. In small doses it was narcotic:
Not Poppy, nor Mandragora, Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world, Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep, Which thou ow'dst yesterday.-Othello. Act
* Psalm, xxx, 5.
It was believed to grow under gibbets whereon the decaying bodies of murderers were hanging, and to shriek and groan when pulled up; nay, to pull it up was fatal, wherefore it was customary to tie a dog to the root, and compel him to pluck it up, by which he died; the by-stander stopping his ears not to hear the fatal groan of the angry plant.
There the sad Mandrake grows, whose groans are deathful.-The Sad Shepherd, a play by Ben Jonson.
The root is still worn on the person among the Greeks, as a love-charm. Charlatans often substitute Briony roots, which they fashion into a likeness of the human figure. Health, prosperity, and the cure of diseases, were supposed to be obtained by keeping these charms in the house. The roots were carried into Northern nations (where the Mandragora does not grow) and sold by traders, formed into Lares, or house-hold Gods. They were from six to ten inches high; were clothed, laid upon wool in small boxes, and moistened with wine, and meat offered to them at every meal. They were never taken out but to be oracularly consulted, when they were fancied to answer questions, and to foretell events by movements of the head.
The Mandrakes mentioned in Scripture, as so eagerly coveted by Rachel, were of a different species from the above. They are supposed to be identical with a plant of the Melon species which is found in Tuscany as well as in the East. It has leaves like those of the Lettuce, and an agreeable fruit of the size, shape, and colour of a small apple, with a fragrant smell; it is ripe in May, about the period of the wheat harvest in Judea, the time when Reuben found the Mandrakes in the field. These fruits have been supposed to be the classical apples of love. A surname of Venus was Mandragoritis.
There is in Cayenne a shrub called Epitet, venerated by the natives as possessing the same love-inspiring properties as the Mandrakes. has had Epitet given to him," is a proverb among the Aborigines of Cayenne to signify a man devotedly in love: eperdument amoureux, as the French express it,
Translated from the German of E. Geibel.
Where heart in silence glows with love, Lay not a hand ungentle there; Quench not the spark of heavenly fire, That were unhallow'd deed-forbear.
If on the earth may ought be found That unprofan'd and pure can prove, It is the young and hopeful heart
Blest in its first and guileless love.
Ogrudge it not that spring-tide dream,
How many a strong heart breaks at
When of its own dear love bereft : And hearts that can endure, live on, With nought but hate and darkness left.
And some that clos'd to hide their wounds,
Cry loud for pleasure in their need, And grovel in the dust- alas!
To them sweet love is dead indeed,
Ah, fruitless comes repentance then, The bitterest tears are all in vain To make the wither'd roses bloom, Or the dead heart be young again,
BALM OF GILEAD, or balm of Jericho (Balsamum Judaicum) was a shrub highly venerated from early times on account of its medicinal qualities, especially for the cure of wounds. It was celebrated by Pliny, Strabo, Tacitus, and Justin. In Judea it grew only in the gardens near Jericho. Justin describes it as like a fir tree, but not so tall, Josephus
says it was brought first out of Arabia Felix by the Queen of Sheba, as a present to Solomon, who planted it at Jericho: but the Balın of Gilead is mentioned as a precious article of merchandise in Genesis xxxvii, long before the era of the Queen of Sheba. A shrub of this species was brought to Egypt by Cleopatra and planted at Aim Shems, now Matara, in an old garden mentioned with great interest by travellers, both Mahometan and Christian.
The Eastern Christians attached a religious value to it, and had many superstitious opinions relating to it. They believed that it would only flourish under the care of Christian gardeners; and that the incision for causing the gum to flow should be made in the bark by an implement of stone, or of bone, but not of iron, otherwise the balsam would be corrupt. They believed it to be a Sovereign remedy for fifty diseases : and in Confirmation they used it to anoint the persons confirmed. . It was also mingled in the oil at the Coronation of European monarchs.
Not all the water in the rough, rude sea, Can wash the balm from an anointed King. King Richard II., act 3, scene 2.
The Coptic Christians had a tradition that when the Holy Family were leaving Egypt to return to Judea, they stopped to rest at Matara, and went from house to house begging a cup of water, which was everywhere refused. The Virgin Mary sat down, faint from thirst and sorrow, under the Balsam trees that had been cultivated there from the one formerly brought from the Holy Land, and immediately a fountain sprang up beside her, to relieve her distress; and from that time forth the trees would not grow unless watered from that fountain. The Balm trees of Matara were killed by an inundațion of the Nile in 1615.
It is believed that the true Balm tree is now extinct; the tree at present known as such grows about Babelmandel; the trunk is eight or ten inches in diameter, the wood is light, the bark smooth, the leaves are few, and the flowers like those of the Acacia, small and white, except that five flowers hang on the filaments, and in the Acacia only one flower,
amongst the Christian females; it is called the HOLY ROSE OF JERICHO, (Anastatica Hieropuntica.) It grows among the sands of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, and is found in Barbary. It is cruciform; and when its flowers and leaves have withered and fallen off, the branches, as they dry, curl inwards, and form a round mass, thence called a rose. The roots die ; the winds tear it up, and blow it about the sands till it lodges in a moist spot, or is wetted with the rain; then the curled-up globe expands and suffers the seeds to escape from the seed-vessel in which they were enclosed; and becoming embedded in the sands, they germinate anew, hence its name, Anastatica, from AvaoTaois, Resurrection. It is venerated in Palestine from the tradition that it blossomed at the moment when our Lord was born, and was endowed with qualities propitious to nativity. Wherefore the Eastern women, when occasion requires, are anxious to have one of these dried plants expanding in a vase of water beside them, firmly believing that it has a salutary influence. It is an article of commerce, and bears a high price in the East.
There are some lines, by an old Italian poet, very applicable to this "Rose," to whose existance and expansion moisture is so necessary.
Translated from the Italian of Benedetto dell' Uva.*
Come tenero fiore
Spiega la chioma sua, se lo nodrica Pioggia, o rugiada amica.
E'en as a gentle flower Unfolds its beauties to the view, If cherished by the genial dew, Or kindly shower;
So may a lovely thought bloom fair Within the heart if foster'd there By Grace with drops divine. Not so then vainly would it ope, Of flower or fruit can be no hope,
For it must droop and pine, And like a plant unwater'd die Upon a soil parch'd up and dry.
How can the fragile flower Unfold its beauties to the view Unless it drinks the genial dew, Or kindly shower?
The BANYAN TREE of the East Indies is called the fig tree of Adam and Eve, from the idea that our first parents used its large leaves for clothing. Some have supposed it the tree of the forbidden fruit in Eden. The Portuguese in old times scrupled to eat of the fruit, because, when cut transversely, it showed within the figure of a cross. With the Brámins it is a holy tree, for, say they, the supreme deity, Brahma, took shelter under it from a thunder storm, and blessed it, and gave it the power of averting lightning.
In Senegal is a sacred tree called Ded, which the natives believe to afford an impenetrable asylum to fugitives, from which no force could avail to remove them, and where no weapon, not even the poisoned arrows of their pursuers, could reach them.
The name of the Peony (Paonia officinalis) is derived from Peon, the celebrated Greek Physician of Thessaly. Theseus having descended to the infernal regions, and attempted to carry away Proserpine, was detained in captivity by Pluto: Hercules going to deliver the prisoner, fought with and wounded Pluto so seriously that the latter was obliged to repair to Thessaly, to seek the aid of Peon, who cured him by medicaments drawn from the Peony.
This flower is esteemed by the superstitious Greeks to be of divine origin, emanating from the light of the full moon, on which account it was believed to cure epilepsy, long considered as a moon-struck malady. The once popular "Anodyne Necklace," worn round the neck to cure or avert epilepsy, was formed of dried Peony roots cut into regular pieces, and strung on a narrow ribbon. The black seeds powdered and taken in wine when fasting in the morning, and just before bed time, were believed, even in late days, to preserve from nightmare and evil dreams. Pliny says (book xxv.), that it was efficacious in the sports of the Fauns, from whose malicious antics nightmares and evil dreams were supposed to proceed. The Peony was formerly used by adepts in some of their ceremonies, and was superstitiously believed to have power over the winds (from its lunar origin), to protect the
* A Monk, native of Capua; flourished about 1570. VOL. XLVIII.-NO. CCLXXXIII.