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The Flowers Personified

Section 6



[1] [2] [3] [4]
[5] [6] [7] [8] [9]


* * * * * * **

          We are now in the heart of the middle ages.

      I arrive in France.

     It must be confessed that Paris is a very dismal place. Murders are common at every street-corner; and great numbers die of the plague. One has little time here to think of women or of flowers.

      At length Malherbe appears, and is the first in France to give the rose a wide popularity, -- thanks to the stanzas which he addressed to the unfortunate Duperier: –

 “Of this world was she, where the fairest are doom’d,
And the loveliest are first to die;
Herself a sweet rose, with the roses she bloom’d,
And fell ere the morn had pass’d by.”

           The poet Ronsard has also spoken of the rose, in a little poem which some persons prefer even to that of Malherbe. Forgive them, shade of Boileau!

 “Haste, darling, where yon shrubbery blows,
And mark the vermeil-tinted rose,
Which spread, this morning, freshly bright,
Its robe of damask to the light.
Those folds, that lay in beauty there, —
Those hues – not thine more soft and fair, —
Say – does their luster linger yet?
Or, with the sun, has that, too set?
Alas! How soon with ruins rounds,
That gorgeous flower has strew’d the ground.
From morn to eve – its shortlived date!
Ephemeral bliss! Untimely fate!
Can mighty Nature’s step-dame heart
To such a child no more impart?
Then, dearest, while thy greener years
Yet bloom, undimm’d by cares and tears,
Cull every joyous, smiling flower
That clusters, fragrant, round they bower;
Cull them ere evening, cold and gray,
And age, shall steal they charms away —
Faded, ere all thy beauty fly,
And like these wither’d roses, die.”

                             I should never stop, were I to cite all the poets, since the days of Malherbe and Ronsard, who have sung the praises of the rose.

           It was Delille who one day exclaimed:

“To roses due homage by mortals be paid!
‘Tis roses the arbor of Venus that shade:
Spring’s garlands, love’s nosegays, of roses are made.”

           In conclusion, I must cite that delicate and ingenious verse, which for a short time was called the verse of the age: —

“A woman like a rose is.”

           I have since learned that the author was M. Dupaty, and that he was a member of the French Academy.

          As the roses came again into fashion, I found my condition improved. From the time of Francis I. To that of Louis XIV. I – (several leaves are here defaced).          *          *          *          *

           In the year 1754, I received often the visits of a certain financier, who preferred to every thing else the conversation of men of talent.


          At this period, most of the literati were visiters at my table, and in my saloons. They showed their gratitude for my attentions, by sending me copies of their works. One of them dedicated to me a little poem in three cantos, entitled – “The Art of raising Roses.” From the notes I extract the following items, which are flattering to my vanity as a flower: --


          “The god Vishnou, seeking a wife, found her at length in the calyx of a rose.


          “St Francis d’Assises, in order to mortify his flesh, one day rolled himself over thorns. Immediately afterward, in every spot where the saint’s blood had fallen, sprang up red and white roses.


          “A law was passed during themiddle ages, allowing nobles only to cultivate roses.


          “The Chevalier de Guise used to faint away at the sight of a rose; and the Lord Chancellor Bacon, if he saw the same flower, even in a picture, flew into a passion.


          “Mary of Medicis was liable to the same infirmity.


          “In the twelfth century, the Pope established the order of the Golden Rose. At each royal accession, the pope sent this to the new monarch, in token of his official recognition.


          “The grand Mogul was one day sailing, with Nourmahal, his favorite slave, on a small lake, which the capricious odah-lic had filled with roses. The oar cleft the leafy wave, and at each motion left behind a furrow of golden liquid, which floated on the surface like a brilliant oil. Nourmahal put her hand into the water, and withdrew it all perfumed. The essence which the sun had disengaged from the flower, was the ottar of roses, the production of a woman’s fancy.”