The plant-lore & garden-craft of Shakespeare
by Henry Nicholson Ellacombe
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Like many other low plants, the Camomile is improved by being pressed into the earth by rolling or otherwise, and there are many allusions to this in the old writers: thus Lily in his "Euphues" says: "The Camomile the more it is trodden and pressed down, the more it spreadeth;" and in the play, "The More the Merrier" (1608), we have—

"The Camomile shall teach thee patience Which riseth best when trodden most upon."


[46:1] Lawson, "New Orchard," p. 54.



(1) Perdita.

The fairest flowers o' the season Are our Carnations and streak'd Gillyvors, Which some call Nature's bastards.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (81).

(2) Polyxenes.

Then make your garden rich in Gillyvors, And do not call them bastards.

Ibid. (98).

There are two other places in which Carnation is mentioned, but they refer to carnation colour—i.e., to pure flesh colour.

(3) Quickly.

'A could never abide Carnation; 'twas a colour he never liked.

Henry V, act ii, sc. 3 (35).

(4) Costard.

Pray you, sir, how much Carnation riband may a man buy for a remuneration?

Love's Labour's Lost, act iii, sc. 1 (146).

Dr. Johnson and others have supposed that the flower is so named from the colour, but that this is a mistake is made very clear by Dr. Prior. He quotes Spenser's "Shepherd's Calendar"—

"Bring Coronations and Sops-in-Wine Worn of Paramours."

and so it is spelled in Lyte's "Herbal," 1578, coronations or cornations. This takes us at once to the origin of the name. The plant was one of those used in garlands (coronae), and was probably one of the most favourite plants used for that purpose, for which it was well suited by its shape and beauty. Pliny gives a long list of garland flowers (Coronamentorum genera) used by the Romans and Athenians, and Nicander gives similar lists of Greek garland plants (stephanomatika anthe), in which the Carnation holds so high a place that it was called by the name it still has—Dianthus, or Flower of Jove.

Its second specific name, Caryophyllus—i.e., Nut-leaved—seems at first very inappropriate for a grassy leaved plant, but the name was first given to the Indian Clove-tree, and from it transferred to the Carnation, on account of its fine clove-like scent. Its popularity as an English plant is shown by its many names—Pink, Carnation, Gilliflower[48:1] (an easily-traced and well-ascertained corruption from Caryophyllus), Clove, Picotee,[48:2] and Sops-in-Wine, from the flowers being used to flavour wine and beer.[48:3] There is an historical interest also in the flowers. All our Carnations, Picotees, and Cloves come originally from the single Dianthus caryophyllus; this is not a true British plant, but it holds a place in the English flora, being naturalized on Rochester and other castles. It is abundant in Normandy, and I found it (in 1874) covering the old castle of Falaise in which William the Conqueror was born. Since that I have found that it grows on the old castles of Dover, Deal, and Cardiff, all of them of Norman construction, as was Rochester, which was built by Gundulf, the special friend of William. Its occurrence on these several Norman castles make it very possible that it was introduced by the Norman builders, perhaps as a pleasant memory of their Norman homes, though it may have been accidentally introduced with the Normandy (Caen) stone, of which parts of the castles are built. How soon it became a florist's flower we do not know, but it must have been early, as in Shakespeare's time the sorts of Cloves, Carnations, and Pinks were so many that Gerard says: "A great and large volume would not suffice to write of every one at large in particular, considering how infinite they are, and how every yeare, every clymate and countrey, bringeth forth new sorts, and such as have not heretofore bin written of;" and so we may certainly say now—the description of the many kinds of Carnations and Picotees, with directions for their culture, would fill a volume.


[48:1] This is the more modern way of spelling it. In the first folio it is "Gillyvor." "Chaucer writes it Gylofre, but by associating it with the the Nutmeg and other spices, appears to mean the Clove Tree, which is, in fact, the proper signification."—Flora Domestica. In the "Digby Mysteries" (Mary Magdalene, l. 1363) the Virgin Mary is addressed as "the Jentyll Jelopher."

[48:2] Picotee is from the French word picote marked with little pricks round the edge, like the "picots," on lace, picot being the technical term in France for the small twirls which in England are called "purl" or "pearl."

[48:3] Wine thus flavoured was evidently a very favourite beverage. "Bartholemeus Peytevyn tenet duas Caracutas terrae in Stony-Aston in Com. Somerset de Domino Rege in capite per servitium unius[48:a] Sextarii vini Gariophilati reddendi Domino Regi per annum ad Natale Domini. Et valet dicta terra per ann. xl."

[48:a] "A Sextary of July-flower wine, and a Sextary contained about a pint and a half, sometimes more."—BLOUNT'S Antient Tenures.



Nay, you shall see my orchard, where, in an arbour we will eat a last year's Pippin of my own graffing, with a dish of Caraways and so forth.

2nd Henry IV, act v, sc. 3 (1).

Carraways are the fruit of Carum carui, an umbelliferous plant of a large geographical range, cultivated in the eastern counties, and apparently wild in other parts of England, but not considered a true native. In Shakespeare's time the seed was very popular, and was much more freely used than in our day. "The seed," says Parkinson, "is much used to be put among baked fruit, or into bread, cakes, &c., to give them a rellish. It is also made into comfits and put into Trageas or (as we call them in English) Dredges, that are taken for cold or wind in the body, as also are served to the table with fruit."

Carraways are frequently mentioned in the old writers as an accompaniment to Apples. In a very interesting bill of fare of 1626, extracted from the account book of Sir Edward Dering, is the following—

"Carowaye and comfites, 6d.

A Warden py that the cooke Made—we fining y{e} Wardens. 2s. 4d.

Second Course.

A cold Warden pie.

Complement. Apples and Carrawayes."—Notes and Queries, i, 99.

So in Russell's "Book of Nurture:" "After mete . . . pepyns Careaway in comfyte," line 78, and the same in line 714; and in Wynkyn de Worde's "Boke of Kervynge" ("Babee's Book," p. 266 and 271), and in F. Seager's "Schoole of Vertue" ("Babee's Book," p. 343)—

"Then cheese with fruite On the table set, With Bisketes or Carowayes As you may get."

The custom of serving roast Apples with a little saucerful of Carraway is still kept up at Trinity College, Cambridge, and, I believe, at some of the London Livery dinners.



Remember, William, focative is caret,


And that's a good root.

Merry Wives, act iv, sc. 1 (55).

Dame Quickly's pun gives us our Carrot, a plant which, originally derived from our wild Carrot (Daucus Carota), was introduced as a useful vegetable by the Flemings in the time of Elizabeth, and has probably been very little altered or improved since the time of its introduction. In Shakespeare's time the name was applied to the "Yellow Carrot" or Parsnep, as well as to the Red one. The name of Carrot comes directly from its Latin or rather Greek name, Daucus Carota, but it once had a prettier name. The Anglo-Saxons called it "bird's-nest," and Gerard gives us the reason, and it is a reason that shows they were more observant of the habits of plants than we generally give them credit for: "The whole tuft (of flowers) is drawn together when the seed is ripe, resembling a bird's nest; whereupon it hath been named of some Bird's-nest."


(1) Prospero.

And by the spurs pluck'd up The Pine and Cedar.

Tempest, act v, sc. 1 (47).

(2) Dumain.

As upright as the Cedar.

Love's Labour's Lost, act iv, sc. 3 (89).

(3) Warwick.

As on a mountain top the Cedar shows, That keeps his leaves in spite of any storm.

2nd Henry VI, act v, sc. 1 (205).

(4) Warwick.

Thus yields the Cedar to the axe's edge, Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle, Under whose shade the ramping lion slept, Whose top-branch o'erpeered Jove's spreading tree, And kept low shrubs from winter's powerful wind.

3rd Henry VI, act v, sc. 2 (11).

(5) Cranmer.

He shall flourish, And, like a mountain Cedar, reach his branches To all the plains about him.

Henry VIII, act v, sc. 5 (215).

(6) Posthumus.

When from a stately Cedar shall be lopped branches, which, being dead many years, shall after revive.

Cymbeline, act v, sc. 4 (140); and act v, sc. 5 (457).

(7) Soothsayer.

The lofty Cedar, royal Cymbeline, Personates thee. Thy lopp'd branches . . . . . are now revived, To the majestic Cedar join'd.

Ibid., act v, sc. 5 (453).

(8) Gloucester.

But I was born so high, Our aery buildeth in the Cedar's top, And dallies with the wind and scorns the sun.

Richard III, act i, sc. 3 (263).

(9) Coriolanus.

Let the mutinous winds Strike the proud Cedars 'gainst the fiery sun.

Coriolanus, act v, sc. 3 (59).

(10) Titus.

Marcus, we are but shrubs, no Cedars we.

Titus Andronicus, act iv, sc. 3 (45).

(11) Daughter.

I have sent him where a Cedar, Higher than all the rest, spreads like a Plane Fast by a brook.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act ii, sc. 6 (4).


The sun ariseth in his majesty; Who doth the world so gloriously behold That Cedar-tops and hills seem burnished gold.

Venus and Adonis (856).


The Cedar stoops not to the base shrub's foot, But low shrubs wither at the Cedar's root.

Lucrece (664).

The Cedar is the classical type of majesty and grandeur, and superiority to everything that is petty and mean. So Shakespeare uses it, and only in this way; for it is very certain he never saw a living specimen of the Cedar of Lebanon. But many travellers in the East had seen it and minutely described it, and from their descriptions he derived his knowledge of the tree; but not only, and probably not chiefly from travellers, for he was well acquainted with his Bible, and there he would meet with many a passage that dwelt on the glories of the Cedar, and told how it was the king of trees, so that "the Fir trees were not like his boughs, and the Chestnut trees were not like his branches, nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty, fair by the multitude of his branches, so that all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God envied him" (Ezekiel xxxi. 8, 9). It was such descriptions as these that supplied Shakespeare with his imagery, and which made our ancestors try to introduce the tree into England. But there seems to have been much difficulty in establishing it. Evelyn tried to introduce it, but did not succeed at first, and the tree is not mentioned in his "Sylva" of 1664. It was, however, certainly introduced in 1676, when it appears, from the gardeners' accounts, to have been planted at Bretby Park, Derbyshire ("Gardener's Chronicle," January, 1877). I believe this is the oldest certain record of the planting of the Cedar in England, the next oldest being the trees in Chelsea Botanic Gardens, which were certainly planted in 1683. Since that time the tree has proved so suitable to the English soil that it is grown everywhere, and everywhere asserts itself as the king of evergreen trees, whether grown as a single tree on a lawn, or mixed in large numbers with other trees, as at Highclere Park, in Hampshire (Lord Carnarvon's). Among English Cedar trees there are probably none that surpass the fine specimens at Warwick Castle, which owe, however, much of their beauty to their position on the narrow strip of land between the Castle and the river. I mention these to call attention to the pleasant coincidence (for it is nothing more) that the most striking descriptions of the Cedar are given by Shakespeare to the then owner of the princely Castle of Warwick (Nos. 3 and 4).

The mediaeval belief about the Cedar was that its wood was imperishable. "Haec Cedrus, A{e} sydyretre, et est talis nature quod nunquam putrescet in aqua nec in terra" (English Vocabulary—15th cent.); but as a timber tree the English-grown Cedar has not answered to its old reputation, so that Dr. Lindley called it "the worthless though magnificent Cedar of Lebanon."


(1) Helena.

So we grew together, Like to a double Cherry, seeming parted, But yet a union in partition; Two lovely berries moulded on one stem.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii, sc. 2 (208).

(2) Demetrius.

O, how ripe in show Thy lips, those kissing Cherries, tempting grow!

Ibid., act iii, sc. 2 (139).

(3) Constance.

And it' grandam will Give it a Plum, a Cherry, and a Fig.

King John, act ii, sc. 1 (161).

(4) Lady.

'Tis as like you As Cherry is to Cherry.

Henry VIII, act v, sc. 1 (170).

(5) Gower.

She with her neeld composes Nature's own shape of bud, bird, branch, or berry; That even her art sisters the natural Roses, Her inkle, silk, twin with the rubied Cherry.

Pericles, act v, chorus (5).

(6) Dromio of Syracuse.

Some devils ask but the paring of one's nail, A Rush, a hair, a drop of blood, a pin, A Nut, a Cherry-stone.

Comedy of Errors, act iv, sc. 3 (72).

(7) Queen.

Oh, when The twyning Cherries shall their sweetness fall Upon thy tasteful lips.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act i, sc. 1 (198).


When he was by, the birds such pleasure took, That some would sing, some other in their bills Would bring him Mulberries and ripe-red Cherries. He fed them with his sight, they him with berries.

Venus and Adonis (1101).

Besides these, there is mention of "cherry lips"[54:1] and "cherry-nose,"[54:2] and the game of "cherry-pit."[54:3] We have the authority of Pliny that the Cherry (Prunus Cerasus) was introduced into Italy from Pontus, and by the Romans was introduced into Britain. It is not, then, a true native, but it has now become completely naturalized in our woods and hedgerows, while the cultivated trees are everywhere favourites for the beauty of their flowers, and their rich and handsome fruit. In Shakespeare's time there were almost as many, and probably as good varieties, as there are now.


[54:1] Midsummer Night's Dream, act v, sc. 1; Richard III, act i, sc. 1; Two Noble Kinsmen, act iv, sc. 1.

[54:2] Midsummer Night's Dream, act v, sc. 1.

[54:3] Twelfth Night, act iii, sc. 4.


(1) Witch.

A sailor's wife had Chestnuts in her lap, And munch'd, and munch'd, and munch'd.

Macbeth, act i, sc. 3 (4).

(2) Petruchio.

And do you tell me of a woman's tongue That gives not half so great a blow to hear As will a Chestnut in farmer's fire?

Taming of the Shrew, act i, sc. 2 (208).

(3) Rosalind.

I' faith, his hair is of a good colour.


An excellent colour; your Chestnut was ever the only colour.

As You Like It, act iii, sc. 4 (11).

This is the Spanish or Sweet Chestnut, a fruit which seems to have been held in high esteem in Shakespeare's time, for Lyte, in 1578, says of it, "Amongst all kindes of wilde fruites the Chestnut is best and meetest for to be eaten." The tree cannot be regarded as a true native, but it has been so long introduced, probably by the Romans, that grand specimens are to be found in all parts of England; the oldest known specimen being at Tortworth, in Gloucestershire, which was spoken of as an old tree in the time of King Stephen; while the tree that is said to be the oldest and the largest in Europe is the Spanish Chestnut tree on Mount Etna, the famous Castagni du Centu Cavalli, which measures near the root 160 feet in circumference. It is one of our handsomest trees, and very useful for timber, and at one time it was supposed that many of our oldest buildings were roofed with Chestnut. This was the current report of the grand roof at Westminster Hall, but it is now discovered to be of Oak, and it is very doubtful whether the Chestnut timber is as lasting as it has long been supposed to be.

The Horse Chestnut was probably unknown to Shakespeare. It is an Eastern tree, and in no way related to the true Chestnut, and though the name has probably no connection with horses or their food, yet it is curious that the petiole has (especially when dry) a marked resemblance to a horse's leg and foot, and that both on the parent stem and the petiole may be found a very correct representation of a horseshoe with its nails.[55:1]


[55:1] For an excellent description of the great differences between the Spanish and Horse Chestnut, see "Gardener's Chronicle," Oct. 29, 1881.


(1) Burgundy.

The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth The freckled Cowslip, Burnet, and green Clover.

Henry V, act v, sc. 2 (48).

(2) Tamora.

I will enchant the old Andronicus With words more sweet, and yet more dangerous, Than baits to fish, or Honey-stalks to sheep, When, as the one is wounded with the bait, The other rotted with delicious food.

Titus Andronicus, act iv, sc. 4 (89).

"Honey-stalks" are supposed to be the flower of the Clover. This seems very probable, but I believe the name is no longer applied. Of the Clover there are two points of interest that are worth notice. The Clover is one of the plants that claim to be the Shamrock of St. Patrick. This is not a settled point, and at the present day the Woodsorrel is supposed to have the better claim to the honour. But it is certain that the Clover is the "clubs" of the pack of cards. "Clover" is a corruption of "Clava," a club. In England we paint the Clover on our cards and call it "clubs," while in France they have the same figure, but call it "trefle."



A Lemon.


Stuck with Cloves.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (633).[56:1]

As a mention of a vegetable product, I could not omit this passage, but the reference is only to the imported spice and not to the tree from which then, as now, the Clove was gathered. The Clove of commerce is the unexpanded flower of the Caryophyllus aromaticus, and the history of its discovery and cultivation by the Dutch in Amboyna, with the vain attempts they made to keep the monopoly of the profitable spice, is perhaps the saddest chapter in all the history of commerce. See a full account with description and plate of the plant in "Bot. Mag.," vol. 54, No. 2749.


[56:1] "But then 'tis as full of drollery as ever it can hold; 'tis like an orange stuck with Cloves as for conceipt."—The Rehearsal, 1671, act iii, sc. 1.


(1) Biron.

Allons! allons! sowed Cockle reap'd no Corn.

Love's Labour's Lost, act iv, sc. 3 (383).

(2) Coriolanus.

We nourish 'gainst our senate The Cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition, Which we ourselves have plough'd for, sow'd, and scatter'd, By mingling them with us.

Coriolanus, act iii, sc. 1 (69).

In Shakespeare's time the word "Cockle" was becoming restricted to the Corn-cockle (Lychnis githago), but both in his time, and certainly in that of the writers before him, it was used generally for any noxious weed that grew in corn-fields, and was usually connected with the Darnel and Tares.[57:1] So Gower—

"To sowe Cockel with the Corn So that the tilthe is nigh forlorn, Which Crist sew first his owne hond— Now stant the Cockel in the lond Where stood whilom the gode greine, For the prelats now, as men sain, For slouthen that they shoulden tille."

Confessio Amantis, lib. quintus (2-190, Paulli).

Latimer has exactly the same idea: "Oh, that our prelates would bee as diligent to sowe the corne of goode doctrine as Sathan is to sow Cockel and Darnel." . . . "There was never such a preacher in England as he (the devil) is. Who is able to tel his dylygent preaching? which every daye and every houre laboreth to sowe Cockel and Darnel" (Latimer's Fourth Sermon). And to the same effect Spenser—

"And thus of all my harvest-hope I have Nought reaped but a weedie crop of care, Which when I thought have thresht in swelling sheave, Cockle for corn, and chaff for barley bare."

The Cockle or Campion is said to do mischief among the Wheat, not only, as the Poppy and other weeds, by occupying room meant for the better plant, but because the seed gets mixed with the corn, and then "what hurt it doth among corne, the spoyle unto bread, as well in colour, taste, and unwholsomness is better known than desired." So says Gerard, but I do not know how far modern experience confirms him. It is a pity the plant has so bad a character, for it is a very handsome weed, with a fine blue flower, and the seeds are very curious objects under the microscope, being described as exactly like a hedgehog rolled up.[58:1]


[57:1] "Cokylle—quaedam aborigo, zazannia."—Catholicon Anglicum.

[58:1] In Dorsetshire the Cockle is the bur of the Burdock. Barnes' Glossary of Dorset.



The food that to him now is as luscious as Locusts, shall be to him shortly as bitter as Coloquintida.

Othello, act i, sc. 3 (354).

The Coloquintida, or Colocynth, is the dried fleshy part of the fruit of the Cucumis or Citrullus colocynthis. As a drug it was imported in Shakespeare's time and long before, but he may also have known the plant. Gerard seems to have grown it, though from his describing it as a native of the sandy shores of the Mediterranean, he perhaps confused it with the Squirting Cucumber (Momordica elaterium). It is a native of Turkey, but has been found also in Japan. It is also found in the East, and we read of it in the history of Elisha: "One went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild Vine, and gathered thereof wild Gourds, his lap full."[59:1] It is not quite certain what species of Gourd is here meant, but all the old commentators considered it to be the Colocynth,[59:2] the word "vine" meaning any climbing plant, a meaning that is still in common use in America.

All the tribe of Cucumbers are handsome foliaged plants, but they require room. On the Continent they are much more frequently grown in gardens than in England, but the hardy perennial Cucumber (Cucumis perennis) makes a very handsome carpet where the space can be spared, and the Squirting Cucumber (also hardy and perennial) is worth growing for its curious fruit. (See also PUMPION.)


[59:1] 2 Kings iv. 39.

[59:2] "Invenitque quasi vitem sylvestrem, et collegit ex ea Colocynthidas agri."—Vulgate.


(1) Armado.

I am that flower,


That Mint.


That Columbine.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (661).

(2) Ophelia.

There's Fennel for you and Columbines.

Hamlet, act iv, sc. 5 (189).

This brings us to one of the most favourite of our old-fashioned English flowers. It is very doubtful whether it is a true native, but from early times it has been "carefully nursed up in our gardens for the delight both of its forme and colours" (Parkinson); yet it had a bad character, as we see from two passages quoted by Steevens—

"What's that—a Columbine? No! that thankless flower grows not in my garden."

All Fools, by CHAPMAN, 1605.

and again in the 15th Song of Drayton's "Polyolbion"—

"The Columbine amongst they sparingly do set."

Spenser gave it a better character. Among his "gardyn of sweet floures, that dainty odours from them threw around," he places—

"Her neck lyke to a bounch of Cullambynes."

And, still earlier, Skelton (1463-1529) spoke of it with high praise—

"She is the Vyolet, The Daysy delectable, The Columbine commendable, The Ielofer amyable."—Phyllip Sparrow.

Both the English and the Latin names are descriptive of the plant. Columbine, or the Dove-plant, calls our attention to the "resemblance of its nectaries to the heads of pigeons in a ring round a dish, a favourite device of ancient artists" (Dr. Prior); or to "the figure of a hovering dove with expanded wings, which we obtain by pulling off a single petal with its attached sepals" (Lady Wilkinson); though it may also have had some reference to the colour, as the word is used by Chaucer—

"Come forth now with thin eyghen Columbine."

The Marchaundes Tale (190).

The Latin name, Aquilegia, is generally supposed to come from aquilegus, a water-collector, alluding to the water-holding powers of the flower; it may, however, be derived from aquila, an eagle, but this seems more doubtful.

As a favourite garden flower, the Columbine found its way into heraldic blazonry. "It occurs in the crest of the old Barons Grey of Vitten, as may be seen in the garter coat of William Grey of Vitten" (Camden Society 1847), and is thus described in the Painter's bill for the ceremonial of the funeral of William Lord Grey of Vitten (MS. Coll. of Arms, i, 13, fol. 35a): "Item, his creste with the favron, or, sette on a leftehande glove, argent, out thereof issuyinge, caste over threade, a braunch of Collobyns, blue, the stalk vert." Old Gwillim also enumerates the Columbine among his "Coronary Herbs," as follows: "He beareth argent, a chevron sable between three Columbines slipped proper, by the name of Hall of Coventry. The Columbine is pleasing to the eye, as well in respect of the seemly (and not vulgar) shape as in regard of the azury colour thereof, and is holden to be very medicinable for the dissolving of imposthumations or swellings in the throat."

As a garden plant the Columbine still holds a favourite place. Hardy, handsome, and easy of cultivation, it commends itself to the most ornamental as well as to the cottage garden, and there are so many different sorts (both species and varieties) that all tastes may be suited. Of the common species (A. vulgaris) there are double and single, blue, white, and red; there is the beautiful dwarf A. Pyrenaica, never exceeding six inches in height, but of a very rich deep blue; there are the red and yellow ones (A. Skinneri and A. formosa) from North America; and, to mention no more, there are the lovely A. coerulea and the grand A. chrysantha from the Rocky Mountains, certainly two of the most desirable acquisitions to our hardy flowers that we have had in late years.


(1) Rosalind.

I prythee take the Cork out of thy mouth, that I may hear thy tidings.

As You Like It, act iii, sc. 2 (213).

(2) Clown.

As you'ld thrust a Cork into a hogshead.

Winter's Tale, act iii, sc. 3 (95).

(3) Cornwall.

Bind fast his Corky arms.

King Lear, act iii, sc. 7 (28).

It is most probable that Shakespeare had no further acquaintance with the Cork tree than his use of Corks. The living tree was not introduced into England till the latter part of the seventeenth century, yet is very fairly described both by Gerard and Parkinson. The Cork, however, was largely imported, and was especially used for shoes. Not only did "shoemakers put it in shoes and pantofles for warmness sake," but for its lightness it was used for the high-heeled shoes of the fashionable ladies. I suppose from the following lines that these shoes were a distinguishing part of a bride's trousseau—

"Strip off my bride's array, My Cork-shoes from my feet, And, gentle mother, be not coy To bring my winding sheet."

The Bride's Burial—Roxburghe Ballads.

The Cork tree is a necessary element in all botanic gardens, but as an ornamental tree it is not sufficiently distinct from the Ilex. Though a native of the South of Europe it is hardy in England.


(1) Gonzalo.

No use of metal, Corn, or wine, or oil.

Tempest, act ii, sc. 1 (154).

(2) Duke.

Our Corn's to reap, for yet our tithe's to sow.

Measure for Measure, act iv, sc. 1 (76).

(3) Titania.

Playing on pipes of Corn, (67)

* * * * *

The green Corn Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (94).

(4) K. Edward.

What valiant foemen, like to autumn's Corn, Have we mowed down in tops of all their pride!

3rd Henry VI, act v, sc. 7 (3).

(5) Pucelle.

Talk like the vulgar sort of market men That come to gather money for their Corn.

1st Henry VI, act iii, sc. 2 (4).

Poor market folks that come to sell their Corn.

Ibid. (14).

Good morrow, gallants! want ye Corn for bread?

Ibid. (41).


I trust, ere long, to choke thee with thine own, And make thee curse the harvest of that Corn.

Ibid. (46).

(6) Duchess.

Why droops my lord like over-ripened Corn Hanging the head at Ceres' plenteous load?

2nd Henry VI, act i, sc. 2. (1).

(7) Warwick.

His well-proportioned beard made rough and ragged Like to the summer's Corn by tempest lodged.

2nd Henry VI, act iii, sc. 2 (175).

(8) Mowbray.

We shall be winnow'd with so rough a wind That even our Corn shall seem as light as chaff.

2nd Henry IV, act iv, sc. 1 (194).

(9) Macbeth.

Though bladed Corn be lodged and trees blown down.

Macbeth, act iv, sc. 1 (55).

(10) Longaville.

He weeds the Corn, and still lets grow the weeding.

Love's Labour's Lost, act i, sc. 1 (96).

(11) Biron.

Allons! allons! sowed Cockle reap'd no Corn.

Ibid., act iv, sc 3 (383).

(12) Edgar.

Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd? Thy sheep be in the Corn.

King Lear, act iii, sc. 6 (43).

(13) Cordelia.

All the idle weeds that grow In our sustaining Corn.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 4 (6).

(14) Demetrius.

First thrash the Corn, then after burn the straw.

Titus Andronicus, act ii, sc. 3 (123).

(15) Marcus.

O, let me teach you how to knit again This scattered Corn into one mutual sheaf.

Ibid., act v, sc. 3 (70).

(16) Pericles.

Our ships are stored with Corn to make your needy bread.

Pericles, act i, sc. 4 (95).

(17) Cleon.

Your grace that fed my country with your Corn.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 3 (18).

(18) Menenius.

For Corn at their own rates.

Coriolanus, act i, sc. 1 (193).


The gods sent not Corn for the rich men only.

Ibid. (211).


The Volsces have much Corn.

Ibid. (253).


We stood up about the Corn.

Ibid., act ii, sc. 3 (16).


Corn was given them gratis.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 1 (43).


Tell me of Corn!

Ibid. (61).

The Corn of the storehouse gratis.

Ibid. (125).

The Corn was not our recompense.

Ibid. (120).

This kind of service Did not deserve Corn gratis.

Coriolanus, act iii, sc. 1 (124).

(19) Cranmer.

I am right glad to catch this good occasion Most thoroughly to be winnow'd, where my chaff And Corn shall fly asunder.

Henry VIII, act v, sc. 1 (110).

(20) Cranmer.

Her foes shake like a field of beaten Corn And hang their heads with sorrow.

Ibid., act v, sc. 4 (32).

(21) K. Richard.

We'll make foul weather with despised tears; Our sighs and they shall lodge the summer Corn.

Richard II, act iii, sc. 3 (161).

(22) Arcite.

And run Swifter then winde upon a field of Corne (Curling the wealthy eares) never flew.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act ii, sc. 3 (91).


As Corn o'ergrown by weeds, so heedful fear Is almost choked by unresisted lust.

Lucrece (281).

I have made these quotations as short as possible. They could not be omitted, but they require no comment.


(1) Burgundy.

The even mead that erst brought sweetly forth The freckled Cowslip, Burnet, and green Clover.

Henry V, act v, sc. 2 (48).

(2) Queen.

The Violets, Cowslips, and the Primroses, Bear to my closet.

Cymbeline, act i, sc. 5 (83).

(3) Iachimo.

On her left breast A mole, cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops I' the bottom of a Cowslip.

Ibid., act ii, sc. 2 (37).

(4) Ariel.

Where the bee sucks there suck I, In a Cowslip's bell I lie.

Tempest, act v, sc. 1 (88).

(5) Thisbe.

Those yellow Cowslip cheeks.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act v, sc. 1 (339).

(6) Fairy.

The Cowslips tall her pensioners be; In their gold coats spots you see; Those be rubies, fairy favours, In those freckles live their savours; I must go seek some dewdrops here, And hang a pearl in every Cowslip's ear.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (10).[65:1]

"Cowslips! how the children love them, and go out into the fields on the sunny April mornings to collect them in their little baskets, and then come home and pick the pips to make sweet unintoxicating wine, preserving at the same time untouched a bunch of the goodliest flowers as a harvest-sheaf of beauty! and then the white soft husks are gathered into balls and tossed from hand to hand till they drop to pieces, to be trodden upon and forgotten. And so at last, when each sense has had its fill of the flower, and they are thoroughly tired of their play, the children rest from their celebration of the Cowslip. Blessed are such flowers that appeal to every sense." So wrote Dr. Forbes Watson in his very pretty and Ruskinesque little work "Flowers and Gardens," and the passage well expresses one of the chief charms of the Cowslip. It is the most favourite wild flower with children. It must have been also a favourite with Shakespeare, for his descriptions show that he had studied it with affection. The minute description in (6) should be noticed. The upright golden Cowslip is compared to one of Queen Elizabeth's Pensioners, who were splendidly dressed, and are frequently noticed in the literature of the day. With Mrs. Quickly they were the ne plus ultra of grandeur—"And yet there has been earls, nay, which is more, pensioners" ("Merry Wives," act ii, sc. 2). Milton, too, sings in its praise—

"Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger, Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her The flowering May, who from her green lap throws The yellow Cowslip and the pale Primrose."

Song on May Morning.

"Whilst from off the waters fleet, Then I set my printless feet O'er the Cowslip's velvet head That bends not as I tread."

Sabrina's Song in Comus.

But in "Lycidas" he associates it with more melancholy ideas—

"With Cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, And every flower that sad embroidery wears."

This association of sadness with the Cowslip is copied by Mrs. Hemans, who speaks of "Pale Cowslips, meet for maiden's early bier;" but these are exceptions. All the other poets who have written of the Cowslip (and they are very numerous) tell of its joyousness, and brightness, and tender beauty, and its "bland, yet luscious, meadow-breathing scent."

The names of the plant are a puzzle; botanically it is a Primrose, but it is never so called. It has many names, but its most common are Paigle and Cowslip. Paigle has never been satisfactorily explained, nor has Cowslip. Our great etymologists, Cockayne and Dr. Prior and Wedgwood, are all at variance on the name; and Dr. Prior assures us that it has nothing to do with either "cows" or "lips," though the derivation, if untrue, is at least as old as Ben Jonson, who speaks of "Bright Dayes-eyes and the lips of Cowes." But we all believe it has, and, without inquiring too closely into the etymology, we connect the flower with the rich pastures and meadows of which it forms so pretty a spring ornament, while its fine scent recalls the sweet breath of the cow—"just such a sweet, healthy odour is what we find in cows; an odour which breathes around them as they sit at rest on the pasture, and is believed by many, perhaps with truth, to be actually curative of disease" (Forbes Watson).

Botanically, the Cowslip is a very interesting plant. In all essential points the Primrose, Cowslip, and Oxlip are identical; the Primrose, however, choosing woods and copses and the shelter of the hedgerows, the Cowslip choosing the open meadows, while the Oxlip is found in either. The garden "Polyanthus of unnumbered dyes" (Thomson's "Seasons:" Spring) is only another form produced by cultivation, and is one of the most favourite plants in cottage gardens. It may, however, well be grown in gardens of more pretension; it is neat in growth, handsome in flower, of endless variety, and easy cultivation. There are also many varieties of the Cowslip, of different colours, double and single, which are very useful in the spring garden.


[65:1] Drayton also allotted the Cowslip as the special Fairies' flower—

"For the queene a fitting bower, (Quoth he) is that tall Cowslip flower."—Nymphidia.





There with fantastic garlands did she come Of Crow-flowers, Nettles, Daisies, and Long Purples.

Hamlet, act iv, sc. 7 (169).

The Crow-flower is now the Buttercup,[67:1] but in Shakespeare's time it was applied to the Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), and I should think that this was the flower that poor Ophelia wove into her garland. Gerard says, "They are not used either in medicine or in nourishment; but they serve for garlands and crowns, and to deck up gardens." We do not now use the Ragged Robin for the decking of our gardens, not that we despise it, for it is a flower that all admire in the hedgerows, but because we have other members of the same family as easy to grow and more handsome, such as the double variety of the wild plant, L. Chalcedonica, L. Lagascae, L. fulgens, L. Haagena, &c. In Shakespeare's time the name was also given to the Wild Hyacinth, which is so named by Turner and Lyte; but this could scarcely have been the flower of Ophelia's garland, which was composed of the flowers of early summer, and not of spring. (See Appendix, p. 388.)


[67:1] In Scotland the Wild Hyacinth is still called the Crow-flower—

"Sweet the Crow-flower's early bell Decks Gleniffer's dewy dell, Blooming like thy bonny sel, My young, my artless dearie, O."

TANNAHILL, Gloomy Winter.



Bold Oxlips, and The Crown Imperial.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (125).

The Crown Imperial is a Fritillary (F. imperialis). It is a native of Persia, Afghanistan, and Cashmere, but it was very early introduced into England from Constantinople, and at once became a favourite. Chapman, in 1595, spoke of it as—

"Fair Crown Imperial, Emperor of Flowers."

OVID'S Banquet of Sense.

Gerard had it plentifully in his garden, and Parkinson gave it the foremost place in his "Paradisus Terrestris." "The Crown Imperial," he says, "for its stately beautifulnesse deserveth the first place in this our garden of delight, to be here entreated of before all other Lillies." George Herbert evidently admired it much—

"Then went I to a garden, and did spy A gallant flower, The Crown Imperial."

Peace (13).

And if not in Shakespeare's time, yet certainly very soon after, there were as many varieties as there are now. The plant, as a florist's flower, has stood still in a very remarkable way. Though it is apparently a plant that invites the attention of the hybridizing gardener, yet we still have but the two colours, the red and the yellow (a pure white would be a great acquisition), with single and double flowers, flowers in tiers, and with variegated leaves. And all these varieties have existed for more than two hundred years.

As a stately garden plant it should be in every garden. It flowers early, and then dies down. But it should be planted rather in the background, as the whole plant has an evil smell, especially in sunshine. Yet it should have a close attention, if only to study and admire the beautiful interior of the flower. I know of no other flower that is similarly formed, and it cannot be better described than in Gerard's words: "In the bottome of each of the bells there is placed six drops of most cleere shining sweet water, in taste like sugar, resembling in shew faire Orient pearles, the which drops if you take away, there do immediately appeare the like; notwithstanding, if they may be suffered to stand still in the floure according to his owne nature, they wil never fall away, no, not if you strike the plant untill it be broken." How these drops are formed, and what service they perform in the economy of the flower, has not been explained, as far as I am aware; but there is a pretty German legend which tells how the flower was originally white and erect, and grew in its full beauty in the garden of Gethsemane, where it was often noticed and admired by our Lord; but in the night of the agony, as our Lord passed through the garden, all the other flowers bowed their head in sorrowful adoration, the Crown Imperial alone remaining with its head unbowed, but not for long—sorrow and shame took the place of pride, she bent her proud[69:1] head, and blushes of shame, and tears of sorrow soon followed, and so she has ever continued, with bent head, blushing colour, and ever-flowing tears. It is a pretty legend, and may be found at full length in "Good Words for the Young," August, 1870.


[69:1] The bent head of the Crown Imperial could not well escape notice—

"The Polyanthus, and with prudent head, The Crown Imperial, ever bent on earth, Favouring her secret rites, and pearly sweets."—FORSTER.


(1) Song of Spring.

When Daisies pied, and Violets blue, And Lady-smocks all silver-white, And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, Do paint the meadows with delight.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (904).

(2) Cordelia.

He was met even now As mad as the vex'd sea; singing aloud; Crown'd with rank Fumiter and Furrow-weeds, With Burdocks, Hemlock, Nettles, Cuckoo-flowers, Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow In our sustaining Corn.

King Lear, act iv, sc. 4 (1).

There is a difficulty in deciding what flower Shakespeare meant by Cuckoo-buds. We now always give the name to the Meadow Cress (Cardamine pratensis), but it cannot be that in either of these passages, because that flower is mentioned under its other name of Lady-smocks in the previous line (No. 1), nor is it "of yellow hue;" nor does it grow among Corn, as described in No. 2. Many plants have been suggested, and the choice seems to me to lie between two. Mr. Swinfen Jervis[70:1] decides without hesitation in favour of Cowslips, and the yellow hue painting the meadows in spring time gives much force to the decision; Schmidt gives the same interpretation; but I think the Buttercup, as suggested by Dr. Prior, will still better meet the requirements.


[70:1] "Dictionary of the Language of Shakespeare," 1868.



(1) Clown.

What am I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast? Three pound of Sugar, five pound of Currants.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (39).

(2) Theseus.

I stamp this kisse upon thy Currant lippe.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act i, sc. 1 (241).

The Currants of (1) are the Currants of commerce, the fruit of the Vitis Corinthiaca, whence the fruit has derived its name of Corans, or Currants.

The English Currants are of an entirely different family; and are closely allied to the Gooseberry. The Currants—black, white, and red—are natives of the northern parts of Europe, and are probably wild in Britain. They do not seem to have been much grown as garden fruit till the early part of the sixteenth century, and are not mentioned by the earlier writers; but that they were known in Shakespeare's time we have the authority of Gerard, who, speaking of Gooseberries, says: "We have also in our London gardens another sort altogether without prickes, whose fruit is very small, lesser by muche than the common kinde, but of a perfect red colour." This "perfect red colour" explains the "currant lip" of No. 2.



(1) Suffolk.

Their sweetest shade, a grove of Cypress trees!

2nd Henry VI, act iii, sc. 2 (322).

(2) Aufidius.

I am attended at the Cypress grove.

Coriolanus, act i, sc. 10 (30).

(3) Gremio.

In ivory coffers I have stuff'd my crowns, In Cypress chests my arras counterpoints.

Taming of the Shrew, act ii, sc. 1 (351).

The Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), originally a native of Mount Taurus, is found abundantly through all the South of Europe, and is said to derive its name from the Island of Cyprus. It was introduced into England many years before Shakespeare's time, but is always associated in the old authors with funerals and churchyards; so that Spenser calls it the "Cypress funereal," which epithet he may have taken from Pliny's description of the Cypress: "Natu morosa, fructu supervacua, baccis torva, foliis amara, odore violenta, ac ne umbra quidem gratiosa—Diti sacra, et ideo funebri signo ad domos posita" ("Nat. Hist.," xvi. 32).

Sir John Mandeville mentions the Cypress in a very curious way: "The Cristene men, that dwellen beyond the See, in Grece, seyn that the tree of the Cros, that we callen Cypresse, was of that tree that Adam ete the Appule of; and that fynde thei writen" ("Voiage," &c., cap. 2). And the old poem of the "Squyr of lowe degre," gives the tree a sacred pre-eminence—

"The tre it was of Cypresse, The fyrst tre that Iesu chese."

RITSON'S Ear. Eng. Met. Romances, viii. (31).

"In the Arundel MS. 42 may be found an alphabet of plants. . . . The author mentions his garden 'by Stebenhythe by syde London,' and relates that he brought a bough of Cypress with its Apples from Bristol 'into Estbritzlond,' fresh in September, to show that it might be propagated by slips."—Promptorium Parvulorum, app. 67.

The Cypress is an ornamental evergreen, but stiff in its growth till it becomes of a good age; and for garden purposes the European plant is becoming replaced by the richer forms from Asia and North America, such as C. Lawsoniana, macrocarpa, Lambertiana, and others.


[71:1] Cypress, or Cyprus (for the word is spelt differently in the different editions), is also mentioned by Shakespeare in the following—

(1) Clown.

In sad Cypress let me be laid.

Twelfth Night, act ii, sc. 4.

(2) Olivia.

To one of your receiving Enough is shown; and Cyprus, not a bosom, Hides my poor heart.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 1.

(3) Autolycus.

Lawn as white as driven snow, Cyprus, black as e'er was crow.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3.

But in all these cases the Cypress is not the name of the plant, but is the fabric which we now call crape, the "sable stole of Cypre's lawn" of Milton's "Penseroso."


(1) Autolycus.

When Daffodils begin to peer, With heigh! the doxy o'er the dale, Why, then comes in the sweet o' the year.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (1).

(2) Perdita.

Daffodils That come before the swallow dares, and take The winds of March with beauty.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 4 (118).

(3) Wooer.

With chaplets on their heads of Daffodillies.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act iv, sc. 1 (94).

See also NARCISSUS, p. 175.

Of all English plants there have been none in such constant favour as the Daffodil, whether known by its classical name of Narcissus, or by its more popular names of Daffodil, or Daffadowndilly, and Jonquil. The name of Narcissus it gets from being supposed to be the same as the plant so named by the Greeks first and the Romans afterwards. It is a question whether the plants are the same, and I believe most authors think they are not; but I have never been able to see very good reasons for their doubts. The name Jonquil comes corrupted through the French, from juncifolius or "rush-leaf," and is properly restricted to those species of the family which have rushy leaves. "Daffodil" is commonly said to be a corruption of Asphodel ("Daffodil is Asphodelon, and has capped itself with a letter which eight hundred years ago did not belong to it."—COCKAYNE, Spoon and Sparrow, 19), with which plant it was confused (as it is in Lyte's "Herbal"), but Lady Wilkinson says very positively that "it is simply the old English word 'affodyle,'[73:2] which signifies 'that which cometh early.'" "Daffadowndilly," again is supposed to be but a playful corruption of "Daffodil," but Dr. Prior argues (and he is a very safe authority) that it is rather a corruption of "Saffron Lily." Daffadowndilly is not used by Shakespeare, but it is used by his contemporaries, as by Spenser frequently, and by H. Constable, who died in 1604—

"Diaphenia, like the Daffadowndilly, White as the sun, fair as the Lilly, Heigh, ho! how I do love thee!"

But however it derived its pretty names, it was the favourite flower of our ancestors as a garden flower, and especially as the flower for making garlands, a custom very much more common then than it is now. It was the favourite of all English poets. Gower describes the Narcissus—

"For in the winter fresh and faire The flowres ben, which is contraire To kind, and so was the folie Which fell of his surquedrie"—i.e., of Narcissus.

Confes. Aman. lib. prim. (1. 121 Paulli).

Shakespeare must have had a special affection for it, for in all his descriptions there is none prettier or more suggestive than Perdita's short but charming description of the Daffodil (No. 2). A small volume might be filled with the many poetical descriptions of this "delectable and sweet-smelling flower," but there are some which are almost classical, and which can never be omitted, and which will bear repetition, however well we know them. Milton says, "The Daffodillies fill their cups with tears."[74:1] There are Herrick's well-known lines—

"Fair Daffodils, we weep to see You haste away so soon, As yet the early-rising sun Has not attained his noon; Stay, stay, Until the hastening day Has run But to the even-song; And having prayed together, we Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay as you, We have as short a spring, As quick a growth to meet decay, As you or anything. We die, As your hours do, and dry Away, Like to the summer's rain, Or as the pearls of morning dew, Ne'er to be found again."

And there are Keats' and Shelley's well-known and beautiful lines which bring down the praises of the Daffodil to our own day. Keats says—

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever, Its loveliness increases, it will never Pass into nothingness. . . . . . . . . . . In spite of all Some shape of beauty moves away the pale From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon For simple sheep; and such are Daffodils With the green world they live in."

Shelley is still warmer in his praise—

"Narcissus, the fairest among them all, Who gaze on their eyes in the stream's recess, Till they die of their own dear loveliness."

The Sensitive Plant, p. 1.

Nor must Wordsworth be left out when speaking of the poetry of Daffodils. His stanzas are well known, while his sister's prose description of them is the most poetical of all: "They grew among the mossy stones; . . . some rested their heads on these stones as on a pillow, the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, they looked so gay and glancing."[76:1]

But it is time to come to prose. The Daffodil of Shakespeare is the Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudo-Narcissus) that is found in abundance in many parts of England. This is the true English Daffodil, and there is only one other species that is truly native—the N. biflorus, chiefly found in Devonshire. But long before Shakespeare's time a vast number had been introduced from different parts of Europe, so that Gerard was able to describe twenty-four different species, and had "them all and every of them in our London gardens in great abundance." The family, as at present arranged by Mr. J. G. Baker, of the Kew Herbarium, consists of twenty-one species, with several sub-species and varieties; all of which should be grown. They are all, with the exception of the Algerian species, which almost defy cultivation in England, most easy of cultivation—"Magna cura non indigent Narcissi." They only require after the first planting to be let alone, and then they will give us their graceful flowers in varied beauty from February to May. The first will usually be the grand N. maximus, which may be called the King of Daffodils, though some authors have given to it a still more illustrious name. The "Rose of Sharon" was the large yellow Narcissus, common in Palestine and the East generally, of which Mahomet said: "He that has two cakes of bread, let him sell one of them for some flower of the Narcissus, for bread is the food of the body, but Narcissus is the food of the soul." From these grand leaders of the tribe we shall be led through the Hoop-petticoats, the many-flowered Tazettas, and the sweet Jonquils, till we end the Narcissus season with the Poets' Narcissus (Ben Jonson's "chequ'd and purple-ringed Daffodilly"), certainly one of the most graceful flowers that grows, and of a peculiar fragrance that no other flower has; so beautiful is it, that even Dr. Forbes Watson's description of it is scarcely too glowing: "In its general expression the Poets' Narcissus seems a type of maiden purity and beauty, yet warmed by a love-breathing fragrance; and yet what innocence in the large soft eye, which few can rival amongst the whole tribe of flowers. The narrow, yet vivid fringe of red, so clearly seen amidst the whiteness, suggests again the idea of purity, gushing passion—purity with a heart which can kindle into fire."


[73:1] This account of the Daffodil, and the accounts of some other flowers, I have taken from a paper by myself on the common English names of plants read to the Bath Field Club in 1870, and published in the "Transactions" of the Club, and afterwards privately printed.—H. N. E.


"Herbe orijam and Thyme and Violette Eke Affodyle and savery thereby sette."

Palladius on Husbandrie, book i, 1014. (E. E. Text Soc.)

[74:1] "The cup in the centre of the flower is supposed to contain the tears of Narcissus, to which Milton alludes; . . . and Virgil in the following—

'Pars intra septa domorum Narcissi lacrymas . . . ponunt.'"—Flora Domestica, 268.

[76:1] The "Quarterly Review," quoting this description, says that "few poets ever lived who could have written a description so simple and original, so vivid and descriptive." Yet it is an unconscious imitation of Homer's account of the Narcissus—

"narkisson th' . . . thaumaston ganoonta; sebas de te pasin idesthai athanatois te theois ede thnetois anthropois; tou kai apo rizes hekaton kara exepephykei; keodei t' odme pas t' ouranos eurys hyperthen, gaia te pas; egelasse, kai almyron oidma thalasses."

Hymn to Demeter, 8-14.


(1) Song of Spring.

When Daisies pied, and Violets, &c.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (904). (See CUCKOO-BUDS.)

(2) Lucius.

Let us Find out the prettiest Daisied plot we can, And make him with our pikes and partizans A grave.

Cymbeline, act iv, sc. 2 (397).

(3) Ophelia.

There's a Daisy.

Hamlet, act iv, sc. 5 (183).

(4) Queen.

There with fantastic garlands did she come Of Crow-flowers, Nettles, Daisies, and Long Purples.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 7 (169).


Without the bed her other faire hand was On the green coverlet; whose perfect white Show'd like an April Daisy on the Grass.

Lucrece (393).


Daisies smel-lesse, yet most quaint.

Two Noble Kinsmen, Introd. song.

See APPENDIX. I., p. 359.



(1) Cordelia.

Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow In our sustaining Corn.

King Lear, act iv, sc. 4 (5). (See CUCKOO-FLOWERS.)

(2) Burgundy.

Her fallow leas, The Darnel, Hemlock, and rank Fumitory Doth root upon.

Henry V, act v, sc. 2 (44).

(3) Pucelle.

Good morrow, Gallants! want ye Corn for bread? I think the Duke of Burgundy will fast, Before he'll buy again at such a rate; 'Twas full of Darnel; do you like the taste?

1st Henry VI, act iii, sc. 2 (41).

Virgil, in his Fifth Eclogue, says—

"Grandia saepe quibus mandavimus hordea solcis Infelix lolium et steriles dominantur avenae."

Thus translated by Thomas Newton, 1587—

"Sometimes there sproutes abundant store Of baggage, noisome weeds, Burres, Brembles, Darnel, Cockle, Dawke, Wild Oates, and choaking seedes."

And the same is repeated in the first Georgic, and in both places lolium is always translated Darnel, and so by common consent Darnel is identified with the Lolium temulentum or wild Rye Grass. But in Shakespeare's time Darnel, like Cockle (which see), was the general name for any hurtful weed. In the old translation of the Bible, the Zizania, which is now translated Tares, was sometime translated Cockle,[78:1] and Newton, writing in Shakespeare's time, says—"Under the name of Cockle and Darnel is comprehended all vicious, noisom and unprofitable graine, encombring and hindring good corne."—Herball to the Bible. The Darnel is not only injurious from choking the corn, but its seeds become mixed with the true Wheat, and so in Dorsetshire—and perhaps in other parts—it has the name of "Cheat" (Barnes' Glossary), from its false likeness to Wheat. It was this false likeness that got for it its bad character. "Darnell or Juray," says Lyte ("Herball," 1578), "is a vitious graine that combereth or anoyeth corne, especially Wheat, and in his knotten straw, blades, or leaves is like unto Wheate." Yet Lindley says that "the noxious qualities of Darnel or Lolium temulentum seem to rest upon no certain proof" ("Vegetable Kingdom," p. 116).


[78:1] "When men were a sleepe, his enemy came and oversowed Cockle among the wheate, and went his way."—Rheims Trans., 1582. For further early references to Cockle or Darnel see note on "Darnelle" in the "Catholicon Anglicum," p. 90, and Britten's "English Plant Names," p. 143.


(1) Clown.

I must have Saffron to colour the Warden pies—Mace—Dates? none; that's out of my note.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (48).

(2) Nurse.

They call for Dates and Quinces in the pastry.

Romeo and Juliet, act iv, sc. 4 (2).

(3) Parolles.

Your Date is better in your pie and your porridge than in your cheek.

All's Well that Ends Well, act i, sc. 1 (172).

(4) Pandarus.

Do you know what a man is? Is not birth, beauty, good shape, discourse, manhood, learning, gentleness, virtue, youth, liberality, and such like, the spice and salt that season a man?


Ay, a minced man; and then to be baked with no Date in the pye; for then the man's date's out.

Troilus and Cressida, act i, sc. 2 (274).

The Date is the well-known fruit of the Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera), the most northern of the Palms. The Date Palm grows over the whole of Southern Europe, North Africa, and South-eastern Asia; but it is not probable that Shakespeare ever saw the tree, though Neckam speaks of it in the twelfth century, and Lyte describes it, and Gerard made many efforts to grow it; he tried to grow plants from the seed, "the which I have planted many times in my garden, and have grown to the height of three foot, but the first frost hath nipped them in such sort that they perished, notwithstanding mine industrie by covering them, or what else I could do for their succour." The fruit, however, was imported into England in very early times, and was called by the Anglo-Saxons Finger-Apples, a curious name, but easily explained as the translation of the Greek name for the fruit, daktyloi which was also the origin of the word date, of which the olden form was dactylle.[80:1]


[80:1] "A dactylle frute dactilis."—Catholicon Anglicum.



Our cold maids do Dead Men's Fingers call them.

Hamlet, act iv, sc. 7 (172).

See LONG PURPLES, p. 148.



Feed him with Apricocks and Dewberries.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii, sc. 1 (169).

The Dewberry (Rubus caesius) is a handsome fruit, very like the Blackberry, but coming earlier. It has a peculiar sub-acid flavour, which is much admired by some, as it must have been by Titania, who joins it with such fruits as Apricots, Grapes, Figs, and Mulberries. It may be readily distinguished from the Blackberry by the fruit being composed of a few larger drupes, and being covered with a glaucous bloom.



Be, as thou wast wont to be (touching her eyes with an herb), See, as thou wast wont to see; Dian's Bud o'er Cupid's flower Hath such force and blessed power.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iv, sc. 1 (76).

The same herb is mentioned in act iii, sc. 2 (366)—

Then crush this herb into Lysander's eye, Whose liquor hath this virtuous property, To take from thence all error, with his might, And make his eyeballs roll with wonted sight.

But except in these two passages I believe the herb is not mentioned by any author. It can be nothing but Shakespeare's translation of Artemisia, the herb of Artemis or Diana, a herb of wonderful virtue according to the writers before Shakespeare's day. (See WORMWOOD.)


(1) Burgundy.

And nothing teems But hateful Docks, rough Thistles, Kecksies, Burs.

Henry V, act v, sc. 2 (51).

(2) Antonio.

He'd sow it with Nettle seed,


Or Docks, or Mallows.

Tempest, act ii, sc. 1 (145).

The Dock may be dismissed with little note or comment, merely remarking that the name is an old one, and is variously spelled as dokke, dokar, doken, &c. An old name for the plant was "Patience;" the "bitter patience" of Spenser, which is supposed by Dr. Prior to be a corruption of Passions.


(Dramatis personae in Much Ado About Nothing.)

The Dogberry is the fruit either of the Cornus sanguinea or of the Euonymus Europaeus. Parkinson limits the name to the Cornus, and says: "We for the most part call it the Dogge berry tree, because the berries are not fit to be eaten, or to be given to a dogge." The plant is only named by Shakespeare as a man's name, but it could scarcely be omitted, as I agree with Mr. Milner that it was "probable that our dramatist had the tree in his mind when he gave a name to that fine fellow for a 'sixth and lastly,' Constable, Dogberry of the Watch" ("Country Pleasures," p. 229).


(1) King.

The Ebon-coloured ink.

Love's Labour's Lost, act i, sc. 1 (245).

(2) King.

By heaven, thy love is black as Ebony.


Is Ebony like her? O wood divine! A wife of such wood were felicity.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 3 (247).

(3) Clown.

The clearstores towards the south north are as lustrous as Ebony.

Twelfth Night, act iv, sc. 2 (41).

(4) Pistol.

Rouse up revenge from Ebon den.

2nd Henry IV, act v, sc. 5 (39).

(5) Death's Ebon dart, to strike him dead.

Venus and Adonis (948).

The Ebony as a tree was unknown in England in the time of Shakespeare. The wood was introduced, and was the typical emblem of darkness. The timber is the produce of more than one species, but comes chiefly from Diospyros Ebenum, Ebenaster, Melanoxylon, Mabola, &c. (Lindley), all natives of the East.


(1) Oberon.

I know a bank where the wild Thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows; Quite over-canopied with luscious Woodbine, With sweet Musk-Roses and with Eglantine.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (249).

(2) Arviragus.

Thou shalt not lack The flower that's like thy face, pale Primrose, nor The azured Harebell, like thy veins, no, nor The leaf of Eglantine, whom not to slander, Out-sweeten'd not thy breath.

Cymbeline, act iv, sc. 2 (220).

If Shakespeare had only written these two passages they would sufficiently have told of his love for simple flowers. None but a dear lover of such flowers could have written these lines. There can be no doubt that the Eglantine in his time was the Sweet Brier—his notice of the sweet leaf makes this certain. Gerard so calls it, but makes some confusion—which it is not easy to explain—by saying that the flowers are white, whereas the flowers of the true Sweet Brier are pink. In the earlier poets the name seems to have been given to any wild Rose, and Milton certainly did not consider the Eglantine and the Sweet Brier to be identical. He says ("L'Allegro")—

"Through the Sweet Briar or the Vine, Or the twisted Eglantine."

But Milton's knowledge of flowers was very limited. Herrick has some pretty lines on the flower, in which it seems most probable that he was referring to the Sweet Brier—

"From this bleeding hand of mine Take this sprig of Eglantine, Which, though sweet unto your smell, Yet the fretful Briar will tell, He who plucks the sweets shall prove Many Thorns to be in love."

It was thus the emblem of pleasure mixed with pain—

"Sweet is the Eglantine, but pricketh nere."

SPENSER, Sonnet xxvi.

And so its names pronounced it to be; it was either the Sweet Brier, or it was Eglantine, the thorny plant (Fr., aiglentier). There was also an older name for the plant, of which I can give no explanation. It was called Bedagar. "Bedagar dicitur gallice aiglentier" (John de Gerlande). "Bedagrage, spina alba, wit-thorn" (Harl. MS., No. 978 in "Reliquiae Antiquae," i, 36).[84:1] The name still exists, though not in common use; but only as the name of a drug made from "the excrescences on the branches of the Rose, and particularly on those of the wild varieties" (Parsons on the Rose).

It is a native of Britain, but not very common, being chiefly confined to the South of England. I have found it on Maidenhead Thicket. As a garden plant it is desirable for the extremely delicate scent of its leaves, but the flower is not equal to others of the family. There is, however, a double-flowered variety, which is handsome. The fruit of the single flowered tree is large, and of a deep red colour, and is said to be sometimes made into a preserve. In modern times this is seldom done, but it may have been common in Shakespeare's time, for Gerard says quaintly: "The fruit when it is ripe maketh most pleasant meats and banqueting dishes, as tarts and such like, the making whereof I commit to the cunning cooke, and teeth to eat them in the rich man's mouth." And Drayton says—

"They'll fetch you conserve from the hip, And lay it softly on your lip."

Nymphal II.

Eglantine has a further interest in being one of the many thorny trees from which the sacred crown of thorns was supposed to be made—"And afterwards he was led into a garden of Cayphas, and there he was crowned with Eglantine" (Sir John Mandeville).


[84:1] "Est et cynosrodos, rosa camina, ung eglantier, folia myrti habens, sed paulo majora; recta assurgens in mediam altitudinem inter arborem et fruticem; fert spongiolas, quibus utuntur medici, ad malefica capitis ulcera, la malle tigne, vocatur antem vulgo in officinis pharmacopolarum, bedegar."—Stephani de re Hortensi Libellus, p. 17, 1536.


(1) Arviragus.

And let the stinking Elder, grief, untwine His perishing root with the increasing Vine!

Cymbeline, act iv, sc. 2 (59).

(2) Host.

What says my AEsculapius? my Galen? my heart of Elder?

Merry Wives, act ii, sc. 3 (29).

(3) Saturninus.

Look for thy reward Among the Nettles at the Elder tree,

* * * * *

This is the pit and this the Elder tree.

Titus Andronicus, act ii, sc. 3 (271).

(4) Williams.

That's a perilous shot out of an Elder gun, that a poor and private displeasure can do against a monarch.

Henry V, act iv, sc. 1 (200).

(5) Holofernes.

Begin, sir, you are my Elder.


Well followed; Judas was hanged on an Elder.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (608).

There is, perhaps, no tree round which so much of contradictory folk-lore has gathered as the Elder tree.[85:1] With many it was simply "the stinking Elder," of which nothing but evil could be spoken. Biron (No. 5) only spoke the common mediaeval notion that "Judas was hanged on an Elder;" and so firm was this belief that Sir John Mandeville was shown the identical tree at Jerusalem, "and faste by is zit, the Tree of Eldre that Judas henge himself upon, for despeyr that he hadde, when he solde and betrayed oure Lord." This was enough to give the tree a bad fame, which other things helped to confirm—the evil smell of its leaves, the heavy narcotic smell of its flowers, its hard and heartless wood,[85:2] and the ugly drooping black fungus that is almost exclusively found on it (though it occurs also on the Elm), which was vulgarly called the Ear of Judas (Hirneola auricula Judae). This was the bad character; but, on the other hand, there were many who could tell of its many virtues, so that in 1644 appeared a book entirely devoted to its praises. This was "The Anatomie of the Elder, translated from the Latin of Dr. Martin Blockwich by C. de Iryngio" (i.e., Christ. Irvine), a book that, in its Latin and English form, went through several editions. And this favourable estimate of the tree is still very common in several parts of the Continent. In the South of Germany it is believed to drive away evil spirits, and the name "'Holderstock' (Elder Stock) is a term of endearment given by a lover to his beloved, and is connected with Hulda, the old goddess of love, to whom the Elder tree was considered sacred." In Denmark and Norway it is held in like esteem, and in the Tyrol an "Elder bush, trained into the form of a cross, is planted on the new-made grave, and if it blossoms the soul of the person lying beneath it is happy." And this use of the Elder for funeral purposes was, perhaps, also an old English custom; for Spenser, speaking of Death, says—

"The Muses that were wont greene Baies to weare, Now bringen bittre Eldre braunches seare."

Shepherd's Calendar—November.

Nor must we pass by the high value that was placed on the wood both by the Jews and Greeks. It was the wood chiefly used for musical instruments, so that the name Sambuke was applied to several very different instruments, from the fact that they were all made of Elder wood. The "sackbut," "dulcimer," and "pipe" of Daniel iii. are all connected together in this manner.

As a garden plant the common Elder is not admissible, though it forms a striking ornament in the wild hedgerows and copses, while its flowers yield the highly perfumed Elder-flower water, and its fruits give the Elder wine; but the tree runs into many varieties, several of which are very ornamental, the leaves being often very finely divided and jagged, and variegated both with golden and silver blotches. There is a handsome species from Canada (Sambucus Canadensis), which is worth growing in shrubberies, as it produces its pure white flowers in autumn.


[85:1] Called also Eldern in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and still earlier, Eller or Ellyr ("Catholicon Anglicum"). "The Ellern is a tree with long bowes, ful sounde and sad wythout, and ful holowe within, and ful of certayne nesshe pyth."—Clanvil de prop.

[85:2] From the facility with which the hard wood can be hollowed out, the tree was from very ancient times called the Bore-tree. See "Catholicon Anglicum," s.v. Bur-tre.


(1) Adriana.

Thou art an Elm, my husband, I a Vine, Whose weakness married to thy stronger state Makes me with thy strength to communicate.

Comedy of Errors, act ii, sc. 2 (176).

(2) Titania.

The female Ivy so Enrings the barky fingers of the Elm.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iv, sc. 1 (48).

(3) Poins.

Answer, thou dead Elm, answer![87:1]

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc, 4 (358).

Though Vineyards were more common in England in the sixteenth century than now, yet I can nowhere find that the Vines were ever trained, in the Italian fashion, to Elms or Poplars. Yet Shakespeare does not stand alone in thus speaking of the Elm in its connection with the Vine. Spenser speaks of "the Vine-prop Elme," and Milton—

"They led the Vine To wed her Elm; she spoused, about him twines Her marriageable arms, and with her brings Her dower, the adopted clusters, to adorn His barren leaves."

And Browne—

"She, whose inclination Bent all her course to him-wards, let him know He was the Elm, whereby her Vine did grow."

Britannia's Pastorals, book i, song 1.

"An Elm embraced by a Vine, Clipping so strictly that they seemed to be One in their growth, one shade, one fruit, one tree; Her boughs his arms; his leaves so mixed with hers, That with no wind he moved, but straight she stirs."

Ibid., ii, 4.

But I should think that neither Shakespeare, nor Browne, nor Milton ever saw an English Vine trained to an Elm; they were simply copying from the classical writers.

The Wych Elm is probably a true native, but the more common Elm of our hedgerows is a tree of Southern Europe and North Africa, and is of such modern introduction into England that in Evelyn's time it was rarely seen north of Stamford. It was probably introduced into Southern England by the Romans.


[87:1] Why Falstaff should be called a dead Elm is not very apparent; but the Elm was associated with death as producing the wood for coffins. Thus Chaucer speaks of it as "the piler Elme, the cofre unto careyne," i.e., carrion ("Parliament of Fowles," 177).



Let the sky rain Potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green Sleeves, hail kissing-comfits, and snow Eringoes.

Merry Wives, act v, sc. 5 (20).

Gerard tells us that Eringoes are the candied roots of the Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum), and he gives the recipe for candying them. I am not aware that the Sea Holly is ever now so used, but it is a very handsome plant as it is seen growing on the sea shore, and its fine foliage makes it an ornamental plant for a garden. But as used by Falstaff I am inclined to think that the vegetable he wished for was the Globe Artichoke, which is a near ally of the Eryngium, was a favourite diet in Shakespeare's time, and was reputed to have certain special virtues which are not attributed to the Sea Holly, but which would more accord with Falstaff's character.[88:1] I cannot, however, anywhere find that the Artichoke was called Eringoes.


[88:1] For these supposed virtues of the Artichoke see Bullein's "Book of Simples."


(1) Ophelia.

There's Fennel for you and Columbines.

Hamlet, act iv, sc 5 (189).

(2) Falstaff.

And a' plays at quoits well, and eats conger and Fennel.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (266).

The Fennel was always a plant of high reputation. The Plain of Marathon was so named from the abundance of Fennel (marathron) growing on it.[89:1] And like all strongly scented plants, it was supposed by the medical writers to abound in "virtues." Gower, describing the star Pleiades, says—

"Eke his herbe in speciall The vertuous Fenel it is."

Conf. Aman., lib. sept. (3, 129. Paulli.)

These virtues cannot be told more pleasantly than by Longfellow—

"Above the lowly plants it towers, The Fennel with its yellow flowers, And in an earlier age than ours Was gifted with the wondrous powers— Lost vision to restore. It gave men strength and fearless mood, And gladiators fierce and rude Mingled it with their daily food: And he who battled and subdued A wreath of Fennel wore."

"Yet the virtues of Fennel, as thus enumerated by Longfellow, do not comprise either of those attributes of the plant which illustrate the two passages from Shakespeare. The first alludes to it as an emblem of flattery, for which ample authority has been found by the commentators.[89:2] Florio is quoted for the phrase 'Dare finocchio,' to give fennel, as meaning to flatter. In the second quotation the allusion is to the reputation of Fennel as an inflammatory herb with much the same virtues as are attributed to Eringoes."—Mr. J. F. MARSH in The Garden.

The English name was directly derived from its Latin name Foeniculum, which may have been given it from its hay-like smell (foenum), but this is not certain. We have another English word derived from the Giant Fennel of the South of Europe (ferula); this is the ferule, an instrument of punishment for small boys, also adopted from the Latin, the Roman schoolmaster using the stalks of the Fennel for the same purpose as the modern schoolmaster uses the cane.

The early poets looked on the Fennel as an emblem of the early summer—

"Hyt befell yn the month of June When the Fenell hangeth yn toun."

Libaeus Diaconus.(1225).

As a useful plant, the chief use is as a garnishing and sauce for fish. Large quantities of the seed are said to be imported to flavour gin, but this can scarcely be called useful. As ornamental plants, the large Fennels (F. Tingitana, F. campestris, F. glauca, &c.) are very desirable where they can have the necessary room.


[89:1] "Fennelle or Fenkelle, feniculum maratrum."—Catholicon Anglicum.



No, my good lord.


Your good lord! O, how this smells of Fennel."

BEN JONSON, The Case Altered, act ii, sc. 2.



We have the receipt of Fern-seed—we walk invisible.


Now, by my faith, I think you are more beholding to the night than to Fern-seed for your walking invisible.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 1 (95).

There is a fashion in plants as in most other things, and in none is this more curiously shown than in the estimation in which Ferns are and have been held. Now-a-days it is the fashion to admire Ferns, and few would be found bold enough to profess an indifference to them. But it was not always so. Theocritus seems to have admired the Fern—

"Like Fern my tresses o'er my temples streamed."

Idyll xx. (Calverley.)

"Come here and trample dainty Fern and Poppy blossom."

Idyll v. (Calverley.)

But Virgil gives it a bad character, speaking of it as "filicem invisam." Horace is still more severe, "neglectis urenda filix innascitur agris." The Anglo-Saxon translation of Boethius spoke contemptuously of the "Thorns, and the Furzes, and the Fern, and all the weeds" (Cockayne). And so it was in Shakespeare's time. Butler spoke of it as the—

"Fern, that vile, unuseful weed, That grows equivocably without seed."

Cowley spoke the opinion of his day as if the plant had neither use nor beauty—

"Nec caulem natura mihi, nec Floris honorem, Nec mihi vel semen dura Noverca dedit— Nec me sole fovet, nec cultis crescere in hortis Concessum, et Foliis gratia nulla meis— Herba invisa Deis poteram coeloque videri, Et spurio Terrae nata puerperio."

Plantarum, lib. i.

And later still Gilpin, who wrote so much on the beauties of country scenery at the close of the last century, has nothing better to say for Ferns than that they are noxious weeds, to be classed with "Thorns and Briers, and other ditch trumpery." The fact, no doubt, is that Ferns were considered something "uncanny and eerie;" our ancestors could not understand a plant which seemed to them to have neither flower nor seed, and so they boldly asserted it had neither. "This kinde of Ferne," says Lyte in 1587, "beareth neither flowers nor sede, except we shall take for sede the black spots growing on the backsides of the leaves, the whiche some do gather thinking to worke wonders, but to say the trueth it is nothing els but trumperie and superstition." A plant so strange must needs have strange qualities, but the peculiar power attributed to it of making persons invisible arose thus:—It was the age in which the doctrine of signatures was fully believed in; according to which doctrine Nature, in giving particular shapes to leaves and flowers, had thereby plainly taught for what diseases they were specially useful.[91:1] Thus a heart-shaped leaf was for heart disease, a liver-shaped for the liver, a bright-eyed flower was for the eyes, a foot-shaped flower or leaf would certainly cure the gout, and so on; and then when they found a plant which certainly grew and increased, but of which the organs of fructification were invisible, it was a clear conclusion that properly used the plant would confer the gift of invisibility. Whether the people really believed this or not we cannot say,[92:1] but they were quite ready to believe any wonder connected with the plant, and so it was a constant advertisement with the quacks. Even in Addison's time "it was impossible to walk the streets without having an advertisement thrust into your hand of a doctor who had arrived at the knowledge of the Green and Red Dragon, and had discovered the female Fern-seed. Nobody ever knew what this meant" ("Tatler," No. 240). But to name all the superstitions connected with the Fern would take too much space.

The name is expressive; it is a contraction of the Anglo-Saxon fepern, and so shows that some of our ancestors marked its feathery form; and its history as a garden plant is worth a few lines. So little has it been esteemed as a garden plant that Mr. J. Smith, the ex-Curator of the Kew Gardens, tells us that in the year 1822 the collection of Ferns at Kew was so extremely poor that "he could not estimate the entire Kew collection of exotic Ferns at that period at more than forty species" (Smith's "Ferns, British and Exotic," introduction). Since that time the steadily increasing admiration of Ferns has caused collectors to send them from all parts of the world, so that in 1866 Mr. Smith was enabled to describe about a thousand species, and now the number must be much larger; and the closer search for Ferns has further brought into notice a very large number of most curious varieties and monstrosities, which it is still more curious to observe are, with very few exceptions, confined to the British species.


[91:1] See Brown's "Religio Medici," p. ii. 2.

[92:1] It probably was the real belief, as we find it so often mentioned as a positive fact; thus Browne—

"Poor silly fool! thou striv'st in vain to know If I enjoy or love where thou lov'st so; Since my affection ever secret tried Blooms like the Fern, and seeds still unespied."

Poems, p. 26 (Sir E. Brydges' edit. 1815).


(1) Titania.

Feed him with Apricocks and Dewberries, With purple Grapes, green Figs, and Mulberries.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii, sc. 1 (169).

(2) Constance.

And its grandam will Give it a Plum, a Cherry, and a Fig.

King John, act ii, sc. 1 (161).

(3) Guard.

Here is a rural fellow That will not be denied your Highness's presence, He brings you Figs.

Antony and Cleopatra, act v, sc. 2 (233).

(4) 1st Guard.

A simple countryman that brought her Figs.

Ibid. (342).


These Fig-leaves Have slime upon them.

Ibid., act v, sc. 2 (354).

(5) Pistol.

When Pistol lies, do this; and Fig me, like The bragging Spaniard.

2nd Henry IV, act v, sc. 3 (123).

(6) Pistol.

Die and be damned, and Figo for thy friendship.


It is well.


The Fig of Spain.

Henry V, act iii, sc. 6 (60).

(7) Pistol.

The Figo for thee, then.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 1 (60).

(8) Iago.

Virtue! a Fig!

Othello, act i, sc. 3 (322).

(9) Iago.

Blessed Fig's end!

Ibid., act ii, sc. 1 (256).

(10) Horner.

I'll pledge you all, and a Fig for Peter.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 3 (66).

(11) Pistol.

"Convey," the wise it call; "steal!" foh! a Fico for the phrase!

Merry Wives, act i, sc. 3 (32).

(12) Charmian.

O excellent! I love long life better than Figs.

Antony and Cleopatra, act i, sc. 2 (32).

In some of these passages (as 5, 6, 7, and perhaps in more) the reference is to a grossly insulting and indecent gesture called "making the fig." It was a most unpleasant custom, which largely prevailed throughout Europe in Shakespeare's time, and on which I need not dwell. It is fully described in Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," i, 492.

In some of the other quotations the reference is simply to the proverbial likeness of a Fig to a matter of the least importance.[94:1] But in the others the dainty fruit, the green Fig, is noticed.

The Fig tree, celebrated from the earliest times for the beauty of its foliage and for its "sweetness and good fruit" (Judges ix. 11), is said to have been introduced into England by the Romans; but the more reliable accounts attribute its introduction to Cardinal Pole, who is said to have planted the Fig tree still living at Lambeth Palace. Botanically, the Fig is of especial interest. The Fig, as we eat it, is neither fruit nor flower, though partaking of both, being really the hollow, fleshy receptacle enclosing a multitude of flowers, which never see the light, yet come to full perfection and ripen their seed. The Fig stands alone in this peculiar arrangement of its flowers, but there are other plants of which we eat the unopened or undeveloped flowers, as the Artichoke, the Cauliflower, the Caper, the Clove, and the Pine Apple.


[94:1] This proverbial worthlessness of the Fig is of ancient date. Theocritus speaks of sykinoi andres, useless men; Horace, "Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum;" and Juvenal, "Sterilis mala robora ficus."



I'll bring thee to clustering Filberds.

Tempest, act ii, sc. 2(174). (See HAZEL.)



This common body Like to a vagabond Flag upon the stream Goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide, To rot itself with motion.

Antony and Cleopatra, act i, sc. 4 (44).

We now commonly call the Iris a Flag, and in Shakespeare's time the Iris pseudoacorus was called the Water Flag, and so this passage might, perhaps, have been placed under Flower-de-luce. But I do not think that the Flower-de-luce proper was ever called a Flag at that time, whereas we know that many plants, especially the Reeds and Bulrushes, were called in a general way Flags. This is the case in the Bible, the language of which is always a safe guide in the interpretation of contemporary literature. The mother of Moses having placed the infant in the ark of Bulrushes, "laid it in the Flags by the river's brink," and the daughter of Pharaoh "saw the ark among the Flags." Job asks, "Can the Flag grow without water?" and Isaiah draws the picture of desolation when "the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up, and the Reeds and the Flags shall wither." But in these passages, not only is the original word very loosely translated, but the original word itself was so loosely used that long ago Jerome had said it might mean any marsh plant, quidquid in palude virens nascitur. And in the same way I conclude that when Shakespeare named the Flag he meant any long-leaved waterside plant that is swayed to and fro by the stream, and that therefore this passage might very properly have been placed under Rushes.


(1) Ford.

What, a hodge-pudding? a bag of Flax?

Merry Wives, act v, sc. 5 (159).

(2) Clifford.

Beauty that the tyrant oft reclaims Shall to my flaming wrath be oil and Flax.

2nd Henry VI, act v, sc. 2 (54).

(3) Sir Toby.

Excellent; it hangs like Flax in a distaff.

Twelfth Night, act i, sc. 3 (108).

(4) 3rd Servant.

Go thou: I'll fetch some Flax and white of eggs To apply to his bleeding face.[95:1]

King Lear, act iii, sc. 7 (106).

(5) Ophelia.

His beard was as white as snow, All Flaxen was his poll.

Hamlet, act iv, sc. 5 (195).

(6) Leontes.

My wife deserves a name As rank as any Flax-wench.

Winter's Tale, act i, sc. 2 (276).

(7) Emilia.

It could No more be hid in him, than fire in Flax.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act v, sc. 3 (113).

The Flax of commerce (Linum usitatissimum) is not a true native, though Turner said: "I have seen flax or lynt growyng wilde in Sommerset shyre" ("Herbal," part ii. p. 39); but it takes kindly to the soil, and soon becomes naturalized in the neighbourhood of any Flax field or mill. We have, however, three native Flaxes in England, of which the smallest, the Fairy Flax (L. catharticum), is one of the most graceful ornaments of our higher downs and hills.[96:1] The Flax of commerce, which is the plant referred to by Shakespeare, is supposed to be a native of Egypt, and we have early notice of it in the Book of Exodus; and the microscope has shown that the cere-cloths of the most ancient Egyptian mummies are made of linen. It was very early introduced into England, and the spinning of Flax was the regular occupation of the women of every household, from the mistress downwards, so that even queens are represented in the old illuminations in the act of spinning, and "the spinning-wheel was a necessary implement in every household, from the palace to the cottage."—WRIGHT, Domestic Manners. The occupation is now almost gone, driven out by machinery, but it has left its mark on our language, at least on our legal language, which acknowledges as the only designation of an unmarried woman that she is "a spinster."

A crop of Flax is one of the most beautiful, from the rich colour of the flowers resting on their dainty stalks. But it is also most useful; from it we get linen, linseed oil, oilcake, and linseed-meal; nor do its virtues end there, for "Sir John Herschel tells us the surprising fact that old linen rags will, when treated with sulphuric acid, yield more than their own weight of sugar. It is something even to have lived in days when our worn-out napkins may possibly reappear on our tables in the form of sugar."—LADY WILKINSON.

As garden plants the Flaxes are all ornamental. There are about eighty species, some herbaceous and some shrubby, and of almost all colours, and in most of the species the colours are remarkably bright and clear. There is no finer blue than in L. usitatissimum, no finer yellow than in L. trigynum, or finer scarlet than in L. grandiflorum.


[95:1] "Juniper. Go get white of egg and a little Flax, and close the breach of the head; it is the most conducible thing that can be."—BEN JONSON, The Case Altered, act ii, sc. 4.

[96:1] "From the abundant harvests of this elegant weed on the upland pastures, prepared and manufactured by supernatural skill, 'the good people' were wont, in the olden time, to procure the necessary supplies of linen!"—JOHNSTON.


(1) Perdita.

Lilies of all kinds, The Flower-de-luce being one.

Winters Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (126).

(2) K. Henry.

What sayest thou, my fair Flower-de-luce?

Henry V, act v, sc. 2 (323).

(3) Messenger.

Cropped are the Flower-de-luces in your arms; Of England's coat one half is cut away.

1st Henry VI, act i, sc. 1 (80).

(4) Pucelle.

I am prepared; here is my keen-edged sword Deck'd with five Flower-de-luces on each side.

Ibid., act i, sc. 2 (98).

(5) York.

A sceptre shall it have, have I a soul, On which I'll toss the Flower-de-luce of France.

2nd Henry VI, act v, sc. 1 (10).

Out of these five passages four relate to the Fleur-de-luce as the cognizance of France, and much learned ink has been spilled in the endeavour to find out what flower, if any, was intended to be represented, so that Mr. Planche says that "next to the origin of heraldry itself, perhaps nothing connected with it has given rise to so much controversy as the origin of this celebrated charge." It has been at various times asserted to be an Iris, a Lily, a sword-hilt, a spearhead, and a toad, or to be simply the Fleur de St. Louis. Adhuc sub judice lis est—and it is never likely to be satisfactorily settled. I need not therefore dwell on it, especially as my present business is to settle not what the Fleur-de-luce meant in the arms of France, but what it meant in Shakespeare's writings. But here the same difficulty at once meets us, some writers affirming stoutly that it is a Lily, others as stoutly that it is an Iris. For the Lily theory there are the facts that Shakespeare calls it one of the Lilies, and that the other way of spelling it is Fleur-de-lys. I find also a strong confirmation of this in the writings of St. Francis de Sales (contemporary with Shakespeare). "Charity," he says, "comprehends the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, and resembles a beautiful Flower-de-luce, which has six leaves whiter than snow, and in the middle the pretty little golden hammers" ("Philo," book xi., Mulholland's translation). This description will in no way fit the Iris, but it may very well be applied to the White Lily. Chaucer, too, seems to connect the Fleur-de-luce with the Lily—

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse