The plant-lore & garden-craft of Shakespeare
by Henry Nicholson Ellacombe
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The other is the large Scarlet or Chalcedonian Lily; and this also is one of the very handsomest, though its beauty is of a very different kind to the White Lily. The habit of the plant is equally stately, and is indeed very grand, but the colours are of the brightest and clearest red. These two plants were abundantly grown in Shakespeare's time, but besides these there do not seem to have been more than about half-a-dozen species in cultivation. There are now forty-six recognized species, besides varieties in great number.

The Lily has a very wide geographical range, spreading from Central Europe to the Philippines, and species are found in all quarters of the globe, though the chief homes of the family seem to be in California and Japan. Yet we have no wild Lily in England. Both the Martagon and the Pyrenean Lily have been found, but there is no doubt they are garden escapes.

As a garden plant it may safely be said that no garden can make any pretence to the name that cannot show a good display of Lilies, many or few. Yet the Lily is a most capricious plant; while in one garden almost any sort will grow luxuriantly, in a neighbouring garden it is found difficult to grow any in a satisfactory manner. Within the last few years their culture has been much studied, and by the practical knowledge of such great growers of the family as G. F. Wilson, H. J. Elwes, and other kindred liliophilists, we shall probably in a few years have many difficulties cleared up both in the botanical history and the cultivation of this lovely tribe.

But we cannot dismiss the Lily without a few words of notice of its sacred character. It is the flower specially dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and which is so familiar to us in the old paintings of the Annunciation. But it has, of course, a still higher character as a sacred plant from the high honour placed on it by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. After all that has been written on "the Lilies of the field," critics have not yet decided whether any, and, if so, what particular plant was meant. Each Eastern traveller seems to have selected the flower that he most admired in Palestine, and then to pronounce that that must be the Lily referred to. Thus, at various times it has been decided to be the Rose, the Crown Imperial, the White Lily, the Chalcedonian Lily, the Oleander, the Wild Artichoke, the Sternbergia, the Tulip, and many others, but the most generally received opinion now is, that if a true Lily at all, the evidence runs most strongly in favour of the L. Chalcedonicum; but that Dean Stanley's view is more probably the correct one, that the term "Lily" is generic, alluding to the many beautiful flowers, both of the Lily family and others, which abound in Palestine. The question, though deeply interesting, is not one for which we need to be over-curious as to the true answer. All of us, and gardeners especially, may be thankful for the words which have thrown a never dying charm over our favourites, and have effectually stopped any foolish objections that may be brought against the deepest study of flowers, as a petty study, with no great results. To any such silly objections (and we often hear them) the answer is a very short and simple one—that we have been bidden by the very highest authority to "consider the Lilies."


[140:1] This is a modern reading, the older and more correct reading is "twilled."


"Within the garden's peaceful scene Appeared two lovely foes, Aspiring to the rank of Queen, The Lily and the Rose.

* * * * *

Yours is, she said, the noblest hue, And yours the statelier mien, And till a third surpasses you Let each be deemed a Queen."—COWPER.


(1) Ariel.

All prisoners, sir, In the Line-grove which weather-fends your cell.

Tempest, act v, sc. 1 (9).

(2) Prospero.

Come, hang them on this Line.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 1 (193).

(3) Stephano.

Mistress Line, is not this my jerkin?

Ibid., act iv, sc. 1 (235).

It is only in comparatively modern times that the old name of Line or Linden, or Lind,[146:1] has given place to Lime. The tree is a doubtful native, but has been long introduced, perhaps by the Romans. It is a very handsome tree when allowed room, but it bears clipping well, and so is very often tortured into the most unnatural shapes. It was a very favourite tree with our forefathers to plant in avenues, not only for its rapid growth, but also for the delicious scent of its flowers; but the large secretions of honey-dew which load the leaves, and the fact that it comes late into leaf and sheds its leaves very early, have rather thrown it out of favour of late years. As a useful tree it does not rank very high, except for wood-carvers, who highly prize its light, easily-cut wood, that keeps its shape, and is very little liable to crack or split either in the working or afterwards. Nearly all Grinling Gibbons' delicate carving is in Lime wood. To gardeners the Lime is further useful as furnishing the material for bast or bazen mats,[147:1] which are made from its bark, and interesting as being the origin of the name of Linnaeus.


[146:1] "Be ay of chier as light as lyf on Lynde."—CHAUCER, The Clerkes Tale, l'envoi.

[147:1] "Between the barke and the woode of this tree, there bee thin pellicles or skins lying in many folds together, whereof are made bands and cords called Bazen ropes."—PHILEMON HOLLAND'S Pliny's Nat. Hist. xvi. 14. The chapter is headed "Of the Line or Linden Tree."



Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground, Ling, Heath, brown Furze, anything.

Tempest, act i, sc. 1 (70).

If this be the correct reading (and not Long Heath) the reference is to the Heather or Common Ling (Calluna vulgaris). This is the plant that is generally called Ling in the South of England, but in the North of England the name is given to the Cotton Grass (Eriophorum). It is very probable, however, that no particular plant is intended, but that it means any rough, wild vegetation, especially of open moors and heaths.



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 Locust is the fruit of the Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), a tree that grows naturally in many parts of the South of Europe, the Levant, and Syria, and is largely cultivated for its fruit.[148:1] These are like Beans, full of sweet pulp, and are given in Spain and other southern countries to horses, pigs, and cattle, and they are occasionally imported into England for the same purpose. The Carob was cultivated in England before Shakespeare's time. "They grow not in this countrie," says Lyte, "yet, for all that, they be sometimes in the gardens of some diligent Herboristes, but they be so small shrubbes that they can neither bring forth flowers nor fruite." It was also grown by Gerard, and Shakespeare may have seen it; but it is now very seldom seen in any collection, though the name is preserved among us, as the jeweller's carat weight is said to have derived its name from the Carob Beans, which were used for weighing small objects.

The origin of the tree being called Locust is a little curious. Readers of the New Testament, ignorant of Eastern customs, could not understand that St. John could feed on the insect locust, which, however, is now known to be a common and acceptable article of food, so they looked about for some solution of their difficulty, and decided that the Locusts were the tender shoots of the Carob tree, and that the wild honey was the luscious juice of the Carob fruit. Having got so far it was easy to go farther, and so the Carob soon got the names of St. John's Bread and St. John's Beans, and the monks of the desert showed the very trees by which St. John's life was supported. But though the Carob tree did not produce the locusts on which St. John fed, there is little or no doubt that "the husks which the swine did eat," and which the Prodigal Son longed for, were the produce of the Carob tree.


[148:1] Pods of the Carob tree were found in a house at Pompeii. For an account of the use of the Locust as an article of food, both in ancient and modern times, see Hogg's "Classical Plants of Sicily," p. 114.



There with fantastic garlands did she come Of Crow-flowers, Nettles, Daisies, and Long Purples, That liberal shepherds give a grosser name, But our cold maids do Dead Men's Fingers call them.

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

In "Flowers from Stratford-on-Avon" (a pretty book published a few years ago with plates of twelve of Shakespeare's flowers) it is said that "there can be no doubt that the Wild Arum is the plant alluded to by Shakespeare as forming part of the nosegay of the crazed Ophelia;" but the authoress gives no authority for this statement, and I believe that there can be no reasonable doubt that the Long Purples and Dead Men's Fingers are the common purple Orchises of the woods and meadows (Orchis morio, O. mascula, and O. maculata). The name of Dead Men's Fingers was given to them from the pale palmate roots of some of the species (O. latifolia, O. maculata, and Gymnadenia conopsea), and this seems to have been its more common name.

"Then round the meddowes did she walke, Catching each flower by the stalke, Such as within the meddowes grew, As Dead Man's Thumb and Harebell blew; And as she pluckt them, still cried she, Alas! there's none 'ere loved like me."

Roxburghe Ballads.

As to the other names to which the Queen alludes, we need not inquire too curiously; they are given in all their "liberality" and "grossness" in the old Herbals, but as common names they are, fortunately, extinct. The name of Dead Men's Fingers still lingers in a few places, but Long Purples has been transferred to a very different plant. It is named by Clare and Tennyson—

"Gay Long-purples with its tufty spike; She'd wade o'er shoes to reach it in the dyke."

CLARE'S Village Minstrel, ii, 90.

"Round thee blow, self-pleached deep, Bramble Roses, faint and pale, And Long Purples of the dale."


But in both these passages the plant intended is the Lythrum salicaria, or Purple Loosestrife.

The meadow Orchis, though so common, is thus without any common English name; for though I have often asked country people for its name, I have never obtained one; and so it is another of those curious instances which are so hard to explain, where an old and common English word has been replaced by a Greek or Latin word, which must be entirely without meaning to nine-tenths of those who use it.[150:1] There are similar instances in Crocus, Cyclamen, Hyacinth, Narcissus, Anemone, Beet, Lichen, Polyanthus, Polypody, Asparagus, and others.

The Orchid family is certainly the most curious in the vegetable kingdom, as it is almost the most extensive, except the Grasses. Growing all over the world, in any climate, and in all kinds of situations, it numbers 3000 species, of which we have thirty-seven native species in England; and with their curious irregular flowers, often of very beautiful colours, and of wonderful quaintness and variety of shape, they are everywhere so distinct that the merest tyro in botany can separate them from any other flower, and the deepest student can find endless puzzles in them, and increasing interest.

Though the most beautiful are exotics, and are the chief ornaments of our stoves and hothouses, yet our native species are full of interest and beauty. Of their botanical interest we have a most convincing proof in Darwin's "Fertilization of Orchids," a book that is almost entirely confined to the British Orchids, and which, in its wonderfully clear statements, and its laborious collection of many little facts all leading up to his scientific conclusions, is certainly not the least to be admired among his other learned and careful books. And as to their horticultural interest, it is most surprising that so few gardeners make the use of them that they might. They were not so despised in Shakespeare's time, for Gerard grew a large number in his garden. It is true that some of them are very impatient of garden cultivation, especially those of the Ophrys section (such as the Bee, Fly, and Spider Orchises), and the rare O. hircina, which will seldom remain in the garden above two or three years, except under very careful and peculiar cultivation. But, on the other hand, there are many that rejoice in being transferred to a garden, especially O. maculata, O. mascula, O. pyramidalis, and the Butterfly Orchis of both kinds (Habenaria bifolia and chlorantha). These, if left undisturbed, increase in size and beauty every year, their flowers become larger, and their leaves (in O. maculata and O. mascula) become most beautifully spotted. They may be placed anywhere, but their best place seems to be among low shrubs, or on the rockwork. Nor must the hardy Orchid grower omit the beautiful American species, especially the Cypripedia (C. spectabile, C. pubescens, C. acaule, and others). They are among the most beautiful of low hardy plants, and they succeed perfectly in any peat border that is not too much exposed to the sun. The only caution required is to leave them undisturbed; they resent removal and broken roots; and though I hold it to be one of the first rules of good gardening to give away to others as much as possible, yet I would caution any one against dividing his good clumps of Cypripedia. The probability is that both giver and receiver will lose the plants. If, however, a plant must be divided, the whole plant should be carefully lifted, and most gently pulled to pieces with the help of water.


[150:1] Though country people generally have no common name for the Orchis morio, yet it is called in works on English Botany the Fool Orchis; and it has the local names of "Crake-feet" in Yorkshire; of "giddy-gander" in Dorset; and "Keatlegs and Neatlegs" in Kent. Dr. Prior also gives the names "Goose and goslings" and "Gander-gooses" for Orchis morio, and "Standerwort" for Orchis mascula. This last is the Anglo-Saxon name for the flower, but it is now, I believe, quite extinct.




I must have Saffron to colour the warden-pies—Mace—Dates? none.

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

The Mace is the pretty inner rind that surrounds the Nutmeg, when ripe. It was no doubt imported with the Nutmeg in Shakespeare's time. (See NUTMEG.)



He'ld sow't with Nettle seed.


Or Docks, or Mallows.

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

The Mallow is the common roadside weed (Malva sylvestris), which is not altogether useless in medicine, though the Marsh Mallow far surpasses it in this respect. Ben Jonson speaks of it as an article of food—

"The thresher . . . feeds on Mallows and such bitter herbs."

The Fox, act i, sc. 1.

It is not easy to believe that our common Wild Mallow was so used, and Jonson probably took the idea from Horace—

"Me pascant olivae, Me chichorea, levesque malvae."

But the common Mallow is a dear favourite with children, who have ever loved to collect, and string, and even eat its "cheeses:" and these cheeses are a delight to others besides children. Dr. Lindley, certainly one of the most scientific of botanists, can scarcely find words to express his admiration of them. "Only compare a vegetable cheese," he says, "with all that is exquisite in marking and beautiful in arrangement in the works of man, and how poor and contemptible do the latter appear. . . . Nor is it alone externally that this inimitable beauty is to be discovered; cut the cheese across, and every slice brings to view cells and partitions, and seeds and embryos, arranged with an unvarying regularity, which would be past belief if we did not know from experience, how far beyond all that the mind can conceive, is the symmetry with which the works of Nature are constructed."

As a garden plant of course the Wild Mallow has no place, though the fine-cut leaves and faint scent of the Musk Mallow (M. moschata) might demand a place for it in those parts where it is not wild, and especially the white variety, which is of the purest white, and very ornamental. But our common Mallow is closely allied to some of the handsomest plants known. The Hollyhock is one very near relation, the beautiful Hibiscus is another, and the very handsome Fremontia Californica is a third that has only been added to our gardens during the last few years. Nor is it only allied to beauty, for it also claims as a very near relation a plant which to many would be considered the most commercially useful plant in the world, the Cotton-plant.


(1) Cleopatra.

Give me to drink Mandragora.


Why, madam?


That I might sleep out this great gap of time, My Antony is away.

Antony and Cleopatra, act i, sc. 5 (4).

(2) Iago.

Not Poppy, nor Mandragora, Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep Which thou owedst yesterday.

Othello, act iii, sc. 3 (330).

(3) Falstaff.

Thou Mandrake.

2nd Henry IV, act i, sc. 2 (16).

(4) Ditto.

They called him Mandrake.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 2 (338).

(5) Suffolk.

Would curses kill, as doth the Mandrake's groan.

2nd Henry VI, act iii, sc. 2 (310).

(6) Juliet.

And shrieks like Mandrakes' torn out of the earth That living mortals, hearing them, run mad.

Romeo and Juliet, act iv, sc. 3 (47).

There is, perhaps, no plant on which so many books and treatises (containing for the most part much sad nonsense) have been written as the Mandrake, and there is certainly no plant round which so much superstition has gathered, all of which is more or less silly and foolish, and a great deal that is worse than silly. This, no doubt, arose from its first mention in connection with Leah and Rachel, and then in the Canticles, which, perhaps, shows that even in those days some strange qualities were attributed to the plant; but how from that beginning such, and such wide-spread, superstitions could have arisen, it is hard to say. I can scarcely tell these superstitious fables in better words than Gerard described them: "There hath been many ridiculous tales brought up of this plant, whether of old wives or some runagate surgeons or physicke-mongers I know not. . . . They adde that it is never or very seldome to be found growing naturally but under a gallowes, where the matter that has fallen from a dead body hath given it the shape of a man, and the matter of a woman the substance of a female plant, with many other such doltish dreams. They fable further and affirme that he who would take up a plant thereof must tie a dog thereunto to pull it up, which will give a great shreeke at the digging up, otherwise, if a man should do it, he should surely die in a short space after." This, with the addition that the plant is decidedly narcotic, will sufficiently explain all Shakespeare's references. Gerard, however, omits to notice one thing which, in justice to our forefathers, should not be omitted. These fables on the Mandrake are by no means English mediaeval fables, but they were of foreign extraction, and of very ancient date. Josephus tells the same story as held by the Jews in his time and before his time. Columella even spoke of the plant as "semi-homo;" and Pythagoras called it "Anthropomorphus;" and Dr. Daubeny has published in his "Roman Husbandry" a most curious drawing from the Vienna MS. of Dioscorides in the fifth century, "representing the Goddess of Discovery presenting to Dioscorides the root of this Mandrake" (of thoroughly human shape) "which she had just pulled up, while the unfortunate dog which had been employed for that purpose is depicted in the agonies of death."[154:1] All these beliefs have long, I should hope, been extinct among us; yet even now artists who draw the plant are tempted to fancy a resemblance to the human figure, and in the "Flora Graeca," where, for the most part, the figures of the plants are most beautifully accurate, the figure of the Mandrake is painfully human.[154:2]

As a garden plant, the Mandrake is often grown, but more for its curiosity than its beauty; the leaves appear early in the spring, followed very soon by its dull and almost inconspicuous flowers, and then by its Apple-like fruit. This is the Spring Mandrake (Mandragora vernalis), but the Autumn Mandrake (M. autumnalis or microcarpa) may be grown as an ornamental plant. The leaves appear in the autumn, and are succeeded by a multitude of pale-blue flowers about the size of and very much resembling the Anemone pulsatilla (see Sweet's "Flower Garden," vol. vii. No. 325). These remain in flower a long time. In my own garden they have been in flower from the beginning of November till May. I need only add that the Mandrake is a native of the South of Europe and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean, but it was very early introduced into England. It is named in Archbishop AElfric's "Vocabulary" in the tenth century with the very expressive name of "Earth-apple;" it is again named in an Anglo-Saxon Vocabulary of the eleventh century (in the British Museum), but without any English equivalent; and Gerard cultivated both sorts in his garden.


[154:1] In the "Bestiary of Philip de Thaun" (12 cent.), published in Wright's Popular Treatises on Science written during the Middle Ages, the male and female Mandrake are actually reckoned among living beasts (p. 101).

[154:2] For some curious early English notices of the Mandrake, see "Promptorium Parvulorum," p. 324, note. See also Brown's "Vulgar Errors," book ii. c. 6, and Dr. M. C. Cooke's "Freaks of Plant Life."


(1) Perdita.

The Marigold that goes to bed wi' the sun, And with him rises weeping; these are flowers Of middle summer.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (105).

(2) Marina.

The purple Violets and Marigolds Shall, as a carpet, hang upon thy grave While summer-days do last.

Pericles, act iv, sc. 1 (16).

(3) Song.

And winking Mary-buds begin To ope their golden eyes.

Cymbeline, act ii, sc. 3 (25).


Marigolds on death-beds blowing.

Two Noble Kinsmen, Introd. song.


Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread But as the Marigolds at the sun's eye.

Sonnet xxv.


Her eyes, like Marigolds, had sheathed their light, And canopied in darkness sweetly lay, Till they might open to adorn the day.

Lucrece (397).

There are at least three plants which claim to be the old Marigold. 1. The Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). This is a well-known golden flower—

"The wild Marsh Marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray."


And there is this in favour of its being the flower meant, that the name signifies the golden blossom of the marish or marsh; but, on the other hand, the Caltha does not fulfil the conditions of Shakespeare's Marigold—it does not open and close its flowers with the sun. 2. The Corn Marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum), a very handsome but mischievous weed in Corn-fields, not very common in England and said not to be a true native, but more common in Scotland, where it is called Goulands. I do not think this is the flower, because there is no proof, as far as I know, that it was called Marigold in Shakespeare's time. 3. The Garden Marigold or Ruddes (Calendula officinalis). I have little doubt this is the flower meant; it was always a great favourite in our forefathers' gardens, and it is hard to give any reason why it should not be so in ours. Yet it has been almost completely banished, and is now seldom found but in the gardens of cottages and old farmhouses, where it is still prized for its bright and almost everlasting flowers (looking very like a Gazania) and evergreen tuft of leaves, while the careful housewife still picks and carefully stores the petals of the flowers, and uses them in broths and soups, believing them to be of great efficacy, as Gerard said they were, "to strengthen and comfort the heart;" though scarcely perhaps rating them as high as Fuller: "we all know the many and sovereign vertues . . . in your leaves, the Herb Generall in all pottage" ("Antheologie," 1655, p. 52).

The two properties of the Marigold—that it was always in flower, and that it turned its flowers to the sun and followed his guidance in their opening and shutting—made it a very favourite flower with the poets and emblem writers. T. Forster, in the "Circle of the Seasons," 1828, says that "this plant received the name of Calendula, because it was in flower on the calends of nearly every month. It has been called Marigold for a similar reason, being more or less in blow at the times of all the festivals of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the word gold having reference to its golden rays, likened to the rays of light around the head of the Blessed Virgin." This is ingenious, and, as he adds, "thus say the old writers," it is worth quoting, though he does not say what old writer gave this derivation, which I am very sure is not the true one. The old name is simply goldes. Gower, describing the burning of Leucothoe, says—

"She sprong up out of the molde Into a flour, was named Golde, Which stant governed of the Sonne."

Conf. Aman., lib. quint.

Chaucer spoke of the "yellow Goldes;"[157:1] in the "Promptorium Parvulorum" we have "Goolde, herbe, solsequium, quia sequitur solem, elitropium, calendula;" and Spenser says—

"And if I her like ought on earth might read I would her liken to a crowne of Lillies, Upon a virgin brydes adorned head, With Roses dight and Goolds and Daffodillies."

Colin Clout.

But it was its other quality of opening or shutting its flowers at the sun's bidding that made the Marigold such a favourite with the old writers, especially those who wrote on religious emblems. It was to them the emblem of constancy in affection,[157:2] and sympathy in joy and sorrow, though it was also the emblem of the fawning courtier, who can only shine when everything is bright. As the emblem of constancy, it was to the old writers what the Sunflower was to Moore—

"The Sunflower turns on her god when he sets The same look which she did when he rose."

It was the Heliotrope or Solsequium or Turnesol of our forefathers, and is the flower often alluded to under that name.[158:1] "All yellow flowers," says St. Francis de Sales, "and, above all, those that the Greeks call Heliotrope, and we call Sunflower, not only rejoice at the sight of the sun, but follow with loving fidelity the attraction of its rays, gazing at the sun, and turning towards it from its rising to its setting" ("Divine Love," Mulholland's translation).

Of this higher and more religious use of the emblematic flower there are frequent examples. I will only give one from G. Withers, a contemporary of Shakespeare's later life—

"When with a serious musing I behold The grateful and obsequious Marigold, How duly every morning she displays Her open breast when Phoebus spreads his rays; How she observes him in his daily walk, Still bending towards him her small slender stalk; How when he down declines she droops and mourns, Bedewed, as 'twere, with tears till he returns; And how she veils her flowers when he is gone. When this I meditate, methinks the flowers Have spirits far more generous than ours, And give us fair examples to despise The servile fawnings and idolatries Wherewith we court these earthly things below, Which merit not the service we bestow."

From the time of Withers the poets treated the Marigold very much as the gardeners did—they passed it by altogether as beneath their notice.



"That werud of yolo Guldes a garland."

The Knightes Tale.


"You the Sun to her must play, She to you the Marigold, To none but you her leaves unfold."


See also Thynne's "Emblems," No. 18; and Cutwode's "Caltha Poetarum," 1599, st. 18, 19.

[158:1] "Solsequium vel heliotropium; Solsece vel sigel-hwerfe" (i.e., sun-seeker or sun-turner).—AELFRIC'S Vocabulary.

"Marigolde; solsequium, sponsa solis."—Catholicon Anglicum.

In a note Mr. Herttage says, "the oldest name for the plant was ymbglidegold, that which moves round with the sun."


(1) Perdita.

Here's flowers for you; Hot Lavender, Mints, Savory, Marjoram.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (103).

(2) Lear.

Give the word.


Sweet Marjoram.

Lear. Pass.

King Lear, act iv, sc. 6 (93).


The Lily I condemned for thy hand, And buds of Marjoram had stolen thy hair.

Sonnet xcix.

(4) Clown.

Indeed, sir, she was the sweet Marjoram of the Salad, or rather the Herb-of-grace.

All's Well that Ends Well, act iv, sc. 5 (17).

In Shakespeare's time several species of Marjoram were grown, especially the Common Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), a British plant, the Sweet Marjoram (O. Marjorana), a plant of the South of Europe, from which the English name comes,[159:1] and the Winter Marjoram (O. Horacleoticum). They were all favourite pot herbs, so that Lyte calls the common one "a delicate and tender herb," "a noble and odoriferous plant;" but, like so many of the old herbs, they have now fallen into disrepute. The comparison of a man's hair to the buds of Marjoram is not very intelligible, but probably it was a way of saying that the hair was golden.


[159:1] See "Catholicon Anglicum," s.v. Marioron and note.




The Oaks bear Mast, the Briers scarlet hips.

Timon of Athens, act iv, sc. 3 (174).

We still call the fruit of beech, beech-masts, but do not apply the name to the acorn. It originally meant food used for fatting, especially for fatting swine. See note in "Promptorium Parvulorum," p. 329, giving several instances of this use, and Strattmann, s.v. Maest.


(1) Apemantus.

There's a Medlar for thee, eat it.


On what I hate I feed not.


Dost hate a Medlar?


Ay, though it looks like thee.


An thou hadst hated Meddlers sooner, thou shouldst have loved thyself better now.

Timon of Athens, act iv, sc. 3 (305).

(2) Lucio.

They would have married me to the rotten Medlar.

Measure for Measure, act iv, sc. 3 (183).

(3) Touchstone.

Truly the tree yields bad fruit.


I'll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a Medlar; then it will be the earliest fruit in the country, for you'll be rotten ere you be half ripe, and that's the right virtue of the Medlar.

As You Like It, act iii, sc. 2 (122).

(4) Mercutio.

Now will he sit under a Medlar tree. And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit As maids call Medlars when they laugh alone.

Romeo and Juliet, act ii, sc. 1 (80).[160:1]

The Medlar is an European tree, but not a native of England; it has, however, been so long introduced as to be now completely naturalized, and is admitted into the English flora. It is mentioned in the early vocabularies, and Chaucer gives it a very prominent place in his description of a beautiful garden—

"I was aware of the fairest Medler tree That ever yet in alle my life I sie, As ful of blossomes as it might be; Therein a goldfinch leaping pretile Fro' bough to bough, and as him list, he eet Here and there of buddes and floweres sweet."

The Flower and the Leaf (240).

And certainly a fine Medlar tree "ful of blossomes" is a handsome ornament on any lawn. There are few deciduous trees that make better lawn trees. There is nothing stiff about the growth even from its early youth; it forms a low, irregular, picturesque tree, excellent for shade, with very handsome white flowers, followed by the curious fruit; it will not, however, do well in the North of England or Scotland.

It does not seem to have been a favourite fruit with our forefathers. Bullein says "the fruite called the Medler is used for a medicine and not for meate;" and Shakespeare only used the common language of his time when he described the Medlar as only fit to be eaten when rotten. Chaucer said just the same—

"That ilke fruyt is ever lenger the wers Till it be rote in mullok or in stree— We olde men, I drede, so fare we, Till we be roten, can we not be rype."

The Reeves Tale.

And many others writers to the same effect. But, in fact, the Medlar when fit to be eaten is no more rotten than a ripe Peach, Pear, or Strawberry, or any other fruit which we do not eat till it has reached a certain stage of softness. There is a vast difference between a ripe and a rotten Medlar, though it would puzzle many of us to say when a fruit (not a Medlar only) is ripe, that is, fit to be eaten. These things are matters of taste and fashion, and it is rather surprising to find that we are accused, and by good judges, of eating Peaches when rotten rather than ripe. "The Japanese always eat their Peaches in an unripe state. In the 'Gartenflora' Dr. Regel says, in some remarks on Japanese fruit trees, that the Japanese regard a ripe Peach as rotten."

There are a few varieties of the Medlar, differing in the size and flavour of the fruits, which were also cultivated in Shakespeare's time.


[160:1] So Chester speaks of it as "the Young Man's Medlar" ("Love's Martyr," p. 96, New Sh. Soc.).


(1) Perdita.

Here's flowers for you; Hot Lavender, Mints, Savory, Marjoram.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (103).

(2) Armado.

I am that flower,


That Mint.


That Columbine.

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

The Mints are a large family of highly-perfumed, strong-flavoured plants, of which there are many British species, but too well known to call for any further description.



The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean, O'ercome with Moss and baleful Mistletoe.

Titus Andronicus, act ii, sc. 3 (94).

The Mistletoe was a sore puzzle to our ancestors, almost as great a mystery as the Fern. While they admired its fresh, evergreen branches, and pretty transparent fruit, and used it largely in the decoration of their houses at Christmas, they looked on the plant with a certain awe. Something of this, no doubt, arose from its traditional connection with the Druids, which invested the plant with a semi-sacred character, as a plant that could drive away evil spirits; yet it was also looked upon with some suspicion, perhaps also arising from its use by our heathen ancestors, so that, though admitted into houses, it was not (or very seldom) admitted into churches. And this character so far still attaches to the Mistletoe, that it is never allowed with the Holly and Ivy and Box to decorate the churches, and Gay's lines were certainly written in error—

"Now with bright Holly all the temples strow, With Laurel green and sacred Mistletoe."

The mystery attaching to the Mistletoe arose from the ignorance as to its production. It was supposed not to grow from its seeds, and how it was produced was a fit subject for speculation and fable. Virgil tells the story thus—

"Quale solet sylvis brumali frigore viscum Fronde virere nova, quod non sua seminat arbos, Et croceo foetu teretes circumdare truncos."

AEneid, vi, 205.

In this way Virgil elegantly veils his ignorance, but his commentator in the eighteenth century (Delphic Classics) tells the tale without any doubts as to its truth. "Non nascitur e semine proprio arboris, at neque ex insidentum volucrum fimo, ut putavere veteres, sed ex ipso arborum vitali excremento." This was the opinion of the great Lord Bacon; he ridiculed the idea that the Mistletoe was propagated by the operation of a bird as an idle tradition, saying that the sap which produces the plant is such as "the tree doth excerne and cannot assimilate," and Browne ("Vulgar Errors") was of the same opinion. But the opposite opinion was perpetuated in the very name ("Mistel: fimus, muck," Cockayne),[163:1] and was held without any doubt by most of the writers in Shakespeare's time—

"Upon the oak, the plumb-tree and the holme, The stock-dove and the blackbird should not come, Whose mooting on the trees does make to grow Rots-curing hyphear, and the Mistletoe."

BROWNE, Brit. Past. i, 1.

So that we need not blame Gerard when he boldly said that "this excrescence hath not any roote, neither doth encrease himselfe of his seed, as some have supposed, but it rather commethe of a certaine moisture gathered together upon the boughes and joints of the trees, through the barke whereof this vaporous moisture proceeding bringeth forth the Misseltoe." We now know that it is produced exclusively from the seeds probably lodged by the birds, and that it is easily grown and cultivated. It will grow and has been found on almost any deciduous tree, preferring those with soft bark, and growing very seldom on the Oak.[163:2] Those who wish for full information upon the proportionate distribution of the Mistletoe on different British trees will find a good summary in "Notes and Queries," vol. iii. p. 226.


[163:1] "Mistel est a mist stercus, quod ex stercore avium pronascitur, nec aliter pronasci potest."—WACHTER, Glossary (quoted in "Notes and Queries," 3rd series, vii. 157. In the same volume are several papers on the origin of the word). Dr. Prior derives it from mistl (different), and tan (twig), being so unlike the tree it grows upon.

[163:2] Mistletoe growing on an oak had a special legendary value. Its rarity probably gave it value in the eyes of the Druids, and much later it had its mystic lore. "By sitting upon a hill late in a evening, near a Wood, in a few nights a fire drake will appeare, mark where it lighteth, and then you shall find an oake with Mistletoe thereon, at the Root whereof there is a Misle-childe, whereof many strange things are conceived. Beati qui non crediderunt."—PLAT., Garden of Eden, 1659, No. 68.


(1) Adriana.

If ought possess thee from me, it is dross, Usurping Ivy, Brier, or idle Moss.

Comedy of Errors, act ii, sc. 2 (179).

(2) Tamora.

The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean, O'ercome with Moss and baleful Mistletoe.

Titus Andronicus, act ii, sc. 3 (94).

(3) Apemantus.

These Moss'd trees That have outlived the eagle.

Timon of Athens, act iv, sc. 3 (223).

(4) Hotspur.

Steeples and Moss-grown towers.

1st Henry IV, act iii, sc. 1 (33).

(5) Oliver.

Under an Oak whose boughs were Moss'd with age, And high top bald with dry antiquity.

As You Like It, act iv, sc. 3 (105).

(6) Arviragus.

The ruddock would, With charitable bill,

* * * * *

bring thee all this; Yea, and furr'd Moss besides, when flowers are none, To winter-ground thy corse.

Cymbeline, act iv, sc. 2 (224).[164:1]

If it were not for the pretty notice of Moss in the last passage (6), we should be inclined to say that Shakespeare had as little regard for "idle Moss" as for the "baleful Mistletoe." In his day Moss included all the low-growing and apparently flowerless carpet plants which are now divided into the many families of Mosses, Lichens, Club Mosses, Hepaticae, Jungermanniae, &c., &c. And these plants, though holding no rank in the eyes of a florist, are yet deeply interesting, perhaps no family of plants more so, to those who have time and patience to study them. The Club Mosses, indeed, may claim a place in the garden if they can only be induced to grow, but that is a difficult task, and the tenderer Lycopodiums are always favourites when well grown among greenhouse Ferns; but for the most part, the Mosses must be studied in their native haunts, and when so studied, they are found to be full of beauty and of wonderful construction. Nor are they without use, and it is rather strange that Shakespeare should have so markedly called them "idle," or useless, considering that in his day many medical virtues were attributed to them. This reputation for medical virtues they have now all lost, except the Iceland Moss, which is still in use for invalids; but the Mosses have other uses. The Reindeer Moss (Cladonia rangiferina) and Roch-hair (Alectoria jubata) are indispensable to the Laplander as food for his reindeer, and Usnea florida is used in North America as food for cattle; the Iceland Moss (Cetraria Islandica) is equally indispensable as an article of food to all the inhabitants of the extreme North; and the Tripe de la Roche (Gyrophora cylindrica) has furnished food to the Arctic explorers when no other food could be obtained; while many dyes are produced from the Lichens, especially the Cudbear (a most discordant corruption of the name of the discoverer, Mr. Cuthbert), which is the produce of the Rock Moss (Lecanora tartarea). So that even to us the Mosses have their uses, even if they do not reach the uses that they have in North Sweden, where, according to Miss Bremer, "the forest, which is the countryman's workshop, is his storehouse, too. With the various Lichens that grow upon the trees and rocks, he cures the virulent diseases with which he is sometimes afflicted, dyes the articles of clothes which he wears, and poisons the noxious and dangerous animals which annoy him."

As to the beauty of Mosses and Lichens we have only to ask any artist or go into any exhibition of pictures. Their great beauty has been so lovingly described by Ruskin ("Modern Painters"), that no one can venture to do more than quote his description. It is well known to many, but none will regret having it called to their remembrance—"placuit semel—decies repetita placebit"—space, however, will oblige me somewhat to curtail it. "Meek creatures! the first mercy of the earth, veiling with hushed softness its dentless rocks: creatures full of pity, covering with strange and tender honour the sacred disgrace of ruin, laying quiet fingers on the trembling stones to teach them rest. No words that I know of will say what these Mosses are; none are delicate enough, none perfect enough, none rich enough.. . . . They will not be gathered like the flowers for chaplet or love token; but of these the wild bird will make its nest and the wearied child its pillow, and as the earth's first mercy so they are its last gift to us. When all other service is vain from plant and tree, the soft Mosses and grey Lichens take up their watch by the headstone. The woods, the blossoms, the gift-bearing Grasses have done their parts for a time, but these do service for ever. Trees for the builder's yard, flowers for the bride's chamber, Corn for the granary, Moss for the grave."


[164:1] There may be special appropriateness in the selection of the "furr'd Moss" to "winter-ground thy corse." "The final duty of Mosses is to die; the main work of other leaves is in their life, but these have to form the earth, out of which other leaves are to grow."—RUSKIN, Proserpina, p. 20.


(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) Volumnia.

Thy stout heart, Now humble as the ripest Mulberry That will not bear the handling.

Coriolanus, act iii, sc. 2 (78).

(3) Prologue.

Thisby tarrying in Mulberry shade.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act v, sc. 1 (149).

(4) Wooer.

Palamon is gone Is gone to the wood to gather Mulberries.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act iv, sc. 1 (87).


The birds would bring him Mulberries and ripe-red Cherries.

Venus and Adonis (1103). (See CHERRIES.)

We do not know when the Mulberry, which is an Eastern tree, was introduced into England, but probably very early. We find in Archbishop AElfric's "Vocabulary," "morus vel rubus, mor-beam," but it is doubtful whether that applies to the Mulberry or Blackberry, as in the same catalogue Blackberries are mentioned as "flavi vel mori, blace-berian." There is no doubt that Morum was a Blackberry as well as a Mulberry in classical times. Our Mulberry is probably the fruit mentioned by Horace—

"Ille salubres AEstates peraget, qui nigris prandia Moris Finiet ante gravem quae legerit arbore solem."

Sat. ii, 4, 24.

And it certainly is the fruit mentioned by Ovid—

"In duris haerentia mora rubetis."

Metam., i, 105.

In the Dictionarius of John de Garlande (thirteenth century)[167:1] we find, "Hec sunt nomina silvestrium arborum, qui sunt in luco magistri Johannis; quercus cum fago, pinus cum lauro, celsus gerens celsa;" and Mr. Wright translates "celsa" by "Mulberries," without, however, giving his authority for this translation.[167:2] But whenever introduced, it had been long established in England in Shakespeare's time.

It must have been a common tree even in Anglo-Saxon times, for the favourite drink, Morat, was a compound of honey flavoured with Mulberries (Turner's "Anglo-Saxons").[167:3] Spenser spoke of it—

"With love juice stained the Mulberie, The fruit that dewes the poet's braine."

Elegy, 18.

Gerard describes it as "high and full of boughes," and growing in sundry gardens in England, and he grew in his own London garden both the Black and the White Mulberry. Lyte also, before Gerard, describes it and says: "It is called in the fayning of Poetes the wisest of all other trees, for this tree only among all others bringeth forth his leaves after the cold frostes be past;" and the Mulberry Garden, often mentioned by the old dramatists, "occupied the site of the present Buckingham Palace and Gardens, and derived its name from a garden of Mulberry trees planted by King James I. in 1609, in which year 935l. was expended by the king in the planting of Mulberry trees near the Palace of Westminster."[168:1]

As an ornamental tree for any garden, the Mulberry needs no recommendation, being equally handsome in shape, in foliage, and in fruit. It is a much prized ornament in all old gardens, so that it has been well said that an old Mulberry tree on the lawn is a patent of nobility to any garden; and it is most easy of cultivation; it will bear removal when of a considerable size, and so easily can it be propagated from cuttings that a story is told of Mr. Payne Knight that he cut large branches from a Mulberry tree to make standards for his clothes-lines, and that each standard took root, and became a flourishing Mulberry tree.

Though most of us only know of the common White or Black Mulberry, yet, where it is grown for silk culture (as it is now proposed to grow it in England, with a promised profit of from L70 to L100 per acre for the silk, and an additional profit of from L100 to L500 per acre from the grain (eggs)!!), great attention is paid to the different varieties; so that M. de Quatrefuges briefly describes six kinds cultivated in one valley in France, and Royle remarks, "so many varieties have been produced by cultivation that it is difficult to ascertain whether they all belong to one species; they are," as he adds, "nearly as numerous as those of the silkworm" (Darwin).

We have good proof of Shakespeare's admiration of the Mulberry in the celebrated Shakespeare Mulberry growing in his garden at New Place at Stratford-on-Avon. "That Shakespeare planted this tree is as well authenticated as anything of that nature can be, . . . and till this was planted there was no Mulberry tree in the neighbourhood. The tree was celebrated in many a poem, one especially by Dibdin, but about 1752, the then owner of New Place, the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, bought and pulled down the house, and wishing, as it should seem, to be 'damned to everlasting fame,' he had some time before cut down Shakespeare's celebrated Mulberry tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to those whose admiration of our great poet led them to visit the poetick ground on which it stood."—MALONE. The pieces were made into many snuff-boxes[169:1] and other mementoes of the tree.

"The Mulberry tree was hung with blooming wreaths; The Mulberry tree stood centre of the dance; The Mulberry tree was hymn'd with dulcet strains; And from his touchwood trunk the Mulberry tree Supplied such relics as devotion holds Still sacred, and preserves with pious care."

COWPER, Task, book vi.


[167:1] The Dictionarius of John de Garlande is published in Wright's "Vocabularies." His garden was probably in the neighbourhood of Paris, but he was a thorough Englishman, and there is little doubt that his description of a garden was drawn as much from his English as from his French experience.

[167:2] The authority may be in the "Promptorium Parvulorum:" "Mulberry, Morum (selsus)."

[167:3] "Moratum potionis genus, f. ex vino et moris dilutis confectae."—Glossarium Adelung.

[168:1] Cunningham's "Handbook of London," p. 346, with many quotations from the old dramatists.

[169:1] Some of these snuff-boxes were inscribed with the punning motto "Memento Mori."


(1) Prospero.

You demi-puppets, that By moonshine do the greensour ringlets make, Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime Is to make midnight Mushrooms.

Tempest, act v, sc. 1 (36).

(2) Fairy.

I do wander everywhere. Swifter than the moon's sphere; And I serve the fairy queen, To dew her orbs upon the green.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (6).

(3) Quickly.

And nightly, meadow-fairies, look you sing, Like to the Garter's compass, in a ring: The expressure that it bears, green let it be, More fertile-fresh than all the field to see.

Merry Wives, act v, sc. 5 (69).

(4) Ajax.

Toadstool, learn me the proclamation.

Troilus and Cressida, act ii, sc. 1 (22).

The three first passages, besides the notice of the Mushroom, contain also the notice of the fairy-rings, which are formed by fungi, though probably Shakespeare knew little of this. No. 4 names the Toadstool, and the four passages together contain the whole of Shakespeare's fungology, and it is little to be wondered at that he has not more to say on these curious plants. In his time "Mushrumes or Toadstooles" (they were all classed together) were looked on with very suspicious eyes, though they were so much eaten that we frequently find in the old herbals certain remedies against "a surfeit of Mushrooms." Why they should have been connected with toads has never been explained, but it was always so—

"The grieslie Todestoole growne there mought I see, And loathed paddocks lording on the same."—SPENSER.

They were associated with other loathsome objects besides toads, for "Poisonous Mushrooms groweth where old rusty iron lieth, or rotten clouts, or neere to serpent's dens or rootes of trees that bring forth venomous fruit.[170:1]. . . Few of them are good to be eaten, and most of them do suffocate and strangle the eater. Therefore, I give my advice unto those that love such strange and new-fangled meates to beware of licking honey among thornes, lest the sweetnesse of one do not counteracte the sharpnesse and pricking of the other." This was Gerard's prudent advice on the eating of "Mushrumes and Toadstooles," but nowadays we know better. The fungologists tell us that those who refuse to eat any fungus but the Mushroom (Agaricus campestris) are not only foolish in rejecting most delicate luxuries, but also very wrong in wasting most excellent and nutritious food. Fungologists are great enthusiasts, and it may be well to take their prescription cum grano salis; but we may qualify Gerard's advice by the well-known enthusiastic description of Dr. Badham, who certainly knew much more of fungology than Gerard, and did not recommend to others what he had not personally tried himself. After praising the beauty of an English autumn, even in comparison with Italy, he thus concludes his pleasant and useful book, "The Esculent Funguses of England": "I have myself witnessed whole hundredweights of rich, wholesome diet rotting under trees, woods teeming with food, and not one hand to gather it. . . . I have, indeed, grieved when I reflected on the straitened conditions of the lower orders to see pounds innumerable of extempore beefsteaks growing on our Oaks in the shape of Fistula hepatica; Ag. fusipes, to pickle in clusters under them; Puffballs, which some of our friends have not inaptly compared to sweet-bread for the rich delicacy of their unassisted flavour; Hydna, as good as oysters, which they very much resemble in taste; Agaricus deliciosus, reminding us of tender lamb's kidneys: the beautiful yellow Chantarelle, that kalon kagathon of diet, growing by the bushel, and no basket but our own to pick up a few specimens in our way; the sweet nutty-flavoured Boletus, in vain calling himself edulis when there was none to believe him; the dainty Orcella; the Ag. hetherophyllus, which tastes like the crawfish when grilled; the Ag. ruber and Ag. virescens, to cook in any way, and equally good in all."

As to the fairy rings (Nos. 1, 2, and 3) a great amount of legendary lore was connected with them. Browne notices them—

"A pleasant mead Where fairies often did their measures tread, Which in the meadows makes such circles green As if with garlands it had crowned been."

Britannia's Pastorals.

Cowley said—

"Where once such fairies dance, No grass does ever grow;"

and in Shakespeare's time the sheep refused to eat the grass on the fairy rings (1); I believe they now feed on it, but I have not been able to ascertain this with certainty. Others, besides the sheep, avoided them. "When the damsels of old gathered may-dew on the grass, which they made use of to improve their complexions, they left undisturbed such of it as they perceived on the fairy rings, apprehensive that the fairies should in revenge destroy their beauty, nor was it reckoned safe to put the foot within the rings, lest they should be liable to fairies' power."—DOUCE'S Illustrations, p. 180.


[170:1] Herrick calls them "brownest Toadstones."



(1) Doll.

They say Poins has a good wit.


He a good wit? hang him, baboon! his wit's as thick as Tewksbury Mustard; there is no more conceit in him than in a mallet.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (260).

(2) Titania.

Pease-blossom! Cobweb! Moth! and Mustardseed!

* * * * *


Your name, I beseech you, sir?




Good Master Mustardseed, I know your patience well; that same cowardly giant-like ox-beef hath devoured many a gentleman of your house: I promise you your kindred hath made my eyes water ere now. I desire your more acquaintance, good Master Mustardseed.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii, sc. 1 (165, 194).

(3) Bottom.

Where's the Mounsieur Mustardseed?




Give me your neaf, Mounsieur Mustardseed. Pray you, leave your courtesy, good mounsieur.


What's your will?


Nothing, good mounsieur, but to help Cavalery Cobweb to scratch.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 1 (18).

(4) Grumio.

What say you to a piece of beef and Mustard?


A dish that I do love to feed upon.


Ay, but the Mustard is too hot a little.


Why then, the beef, and let the Mustard rest.


Nay, then, I will not; you shall have the Mustard, Or else you get no beef of Grumio.


Then both, or one, or anything thou wilt.


Why then, the Mustard without the beef.

Taming of the Shrew, act iv, sc. 3 (23).

(5) Rosalind.

Where learned you that oath, fool?


Of a certain knight that swore by his honour they were good pancakes, and swore by his honour the mustard was naught; now I'll stand to it, the pancakes were naught, and the Mustard was good, yet was the knight not forsworn. . . . . You are not forsworn; no more was this knight swearing by his honour, for he never had any; or if he had, he had sworn it away before he ever saw those cakes or that Mustard.

As You Like It, act i, sc. 2 (65).

The following passage from Coles, in 1657, will illustrate No. 1: "In Gloucestershire about Teuxbury they grind Mustard and make it into balls which are brought to London and other remote places as being the best that the world affords." These Mustard balls were the form in which Mustard was usually sold, until Mrs. Clements, of Durham, in the last century, invented the method of dressing mustard-flour, like wheat-flour, and made her fortune with Durham Mustard; and it has been supposed that this was the only form in which Mustard was sold in Shakespeare's time, and that it was eaten dry as we eat pepper. But the following from an Anglo-Saxon Leech-book seems to speak of it as used exactly in the modern fashion. After mentioning several ingredients in a recipe for want of appetite for meat, it says: "Triturate all together—eke out with vinegar as may seem fit to thee, so that it may be wrought into the form in which Mustard is tempered for flavouring, put it then into a glass vessel, and then with bread, or with whatever meat thou choose, lap it with a spoon, that will help" ("Leech Book," ii. 5, Cockayne's translation). And Parkinson's account is to the same effect: "The seeds hereof, ground between two stones, fitted for the purpose, and called a quern, with some good vinegar added to it to make it liquid and running, is that kind of Mustard that is usually made of all sorts to serve as sauce both for fish and flesh." And to the same effect the "Boke of Nurture"—

"Yet make moche of Mustard, and put it not away, For with every dische he is dewest who so lust to assay."

(L. 853).


(1) Euphronius.

I was of late as petty to his ends As is the morn-dew on the Myrtle-leaf To his grand sea.

Antony and Cleopatra, act iii, sc. 12 (8).

(2) Isabella.

Merciful Heaven, Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled Oak Than the soft Myrtle.

Measure for Measure, act ii, sc. 2 (114).


Venus, with young Adonis sitting by her, Under a Myrtle shade began to woo him.

Passionate Pilgrim (143).


Then sad she hasteth to a Myrtle grove.

Venus and Adonis (865).

Myrtle is of course the English form of myrtus; but the older English name was Gale, a name which is still applied to the bog-myrtle.[174:1] Though a most abundant shrub in the South of Europe, and probably introduced into England before the time of Shakespeare, the myrtle was only grown in a very few places, and was kept alive with difficulty, so that it was looked upon not only as a delicate and an elegant rarity, but as the established emblem of refined beauty. In the Bible it is always associated with visions and representations of peacefulness and plenty, and Milton most fitly uses it in the description of our first parents' "blissful bower"—

"The roofe Of thickest covert was inwoven shade, Laurel and Mirtle, and what higher grew Of firm and fragrant leaf."

Paradise Lost, iv.

In heathen times the Myrtle was dedicated to Venus, and from this arose the custom in mediaeval times of using the flowers for bridal garlands, which thus took the place of Orange blossoms in our time.

"The lover with the Myrtle sprays Adorns his crisped cresses."

DRAYTON, Muse's Elysium.

"And I will make thee beds of Roses, And a thousand fragrant posies, A cap of flowers, and a kirtle Embroidered o'er with leaves of Myrtle."

Roxburghe Ballads.

As a garden shrub every one will grow the Myrtle that can induce it to grow. There is no difficulty in its cultivation, provided only that the climate suits it, and the climate that suits it best is the neighbourhood of the sea. Virgil describes the Myrtles as "amantes littora myrtos," and those who have seen the Myrtle as it grows on the Devonshire and Cornish coasts will recognise the truth of his description.


[174:1] "Gayle; mirtus."—Catholicon Anglicum, p. 147, with note.



This garden has a world of pleasures in't, What flowre is this?


'Tis called Narcissus, madam.


That was a faire boy certaine, but a foole, To love himselfe; were there not maides enough?

Two Noble Kinsmen, act ii, sc. 2 (130).

See DAFFODILS, p. 73.


(1) Cordelia.

Crown'd with rank Fumiter and Furrow-weeds, With Burdocks, Hemlock, Nettles, Cuckoo-flowers.

King Lear, act iv, sc. 4. (3).

(2) Queen.

Crow-flowers, Nettles, Daisies, and Long Purples.

Hamlet, act iv, sc. 7 (170). (See CROW-FLOWERS.)

(3) Antonio.

He'd sow't with Nettle-seed.

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

(4) Saturninus.

Look for thy reward Among the Nettles at the Elder Tree.

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

(5) Sir Toby.

How now, my Nettle of India?

Twelfth Night, act ii, sc. 5 (17).[176:1]

(6) King Richard.

Yield stinging Nettles to my enemies.

Richard II, act iii, sc. 2 (18).

(7) Hotspur.

I tell you, my lord fool, out of this Nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 3 (8).

(8) Ely.

The Strawberry grows underneath the Nettle.

Henry V, act i, sc. 1 (60).

(9) Cressida.

I'll spring up in his tears, an 'twere a Nettle against May.

Troilus and Cressida, act i, sc. 2 (190).

(10) Menenius.

We call a Nettle but a Nettle, and The fault of fools but folly.

Coriolanus, act ii, sc. 1 (207).

(11) Laertes.

Goads, Thorns, Nettles, tails of wasps.

Winter's Tale, act i, sc. 2 (329).

(12) Iago.

If we will plant Nettles or sow Lettuce.

Othello, act i, sc. 3 (324). (See HYSSOP.)

(13) Palamon.

Who do bear thy yoke As 'twer a wreath of roses, yet is heavier Than lead itselfe, stings more than Nettles.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act v, sc. 1 (101).

The Nettle needs no introduction; we are all too well acquainted with it, yet it is not altogether a weed to be despised. We have two native species (Urtica urens and U. dioica) with sufficiently strong qualities, but we have a third (U. pilulifera) very curious in its manner of bearing its female flowers in clusters of compact little balls, which is far more virulent than either of our native species, and is said by Camden to have been introduced by the Romans to chafe their bodies when frozen by the cold of Britain. The story is probably quite apocryphal, but the plant is an alien, and only grows in a few places.

Both the Latin and English names of the plant record its qualities. Urtica is from uro, to burn; and Nettle is (etymologically) the same word as needle, and the plant is so named, not for its stinging qualities, but because at one time the Nettle supplied the chief instrument of sewing; not the instrument which holds the thread, and to which we now confine the word needle, but the thread itself, and very good thread it made. The poet Campbell says in one of his letters—"I have slept in Nettle sheets, and dined off a Nettle table-cloth, and I have heard my mother say that she thought Nettle cloth more durable than any other linen." It has also been used for making paper, and for both these purposes, as well as for rope-making, the Rhea fibre of the Himalaya, which is simply a gigantic Nettle (Urtica or Boehmeria nivea), is very largely cultivated. Nor is the Nettle to be despised as an article of food.[177:1] In many parts of England the young shoots are boiled and much relished. In 1596 Coghan wrote of it: "I will speak somewhat of the Nettle that Gardeners may understand what wrong they do in plucking it for the weede, seeing it is so profitable to many purposes. . . . Cunning cookes at the spring of the yeare, when Nettles first bud forth, can make good pottage with them, especially with red Nettles" ("Haven of Health," p. 86). In February, 1661, Pepys made the entry in his diary—"We did eat some Nettle porridge, which was made on purpose to-day for some of their coming, and was very good." Andrew Fairservice said of himself—"Nae doubt I should understand my trade of horticulture, seeing I was bred in the Parish of Dreepdaily, where they raise lang Kale under glass, and force the early Nettles for their spring Kale" ("Rob Roy," c. 7). Gipsies are said to cook it as an excellent vegetable, and M. Soyer tried hard, but almost in vain, to recommend it as a most dainty dish. Having so many uses, we are not surprised to find that it has at times been regularly cultivated as a garden crop, so that I have somewhere seen an account of tithe of Nettles being taken; and in the old churchwardens' account of St. Michael's, Bath, is the entry in the year 1400, "Pro Urticis venditis ad Lawrencium Bebbe, 2d."

Nettles are much used in the neighbourhood of London to pack plums and other fruit with bloom on them, so that in some market gardens they are not only not destroyed, but encouraged, and even cultivated. And this is an old practice; Lawson's advice in 1683 was—"For the gathering of all other stone-fruit, as Nectarines, Apricots, Peaches, Pear-plums, Damsons, Bullas, and such like, . . . in the bottom of your large sives where you put them, you shall lay Nettles, and likewise in the top, for that will ripen those that are most unready" ("New Orchard," p. 96).

The "Nettle of India" (No. 5) has puzzled the commentators. It is probably not the true reading; if the true reading, it may only mean a Nettle of extra-stinging quality; but it may also mean an Eastern plant that was used to produce cowage, or cow-itch. "The hairs of the pods of Mucuna pruriens, &c., constitute the substance called cow-itch, a mechanical Anthelmintic."—LINDLEY. This plant is said to have been called the Nettle of India, but I do not find it so named in Shakespeare's time.

In other points the Nettle is a most interesting plant. Microscopists find in it most beautiful objects for the microscope; entomologists value it, for it is such a favourite of butterflies and other insects, that in Britain alone upwards of thirty insects feed solely on the Nettle plant, and it is one of those curious plants which mark the progress of civilization by following man wherever he goes.[178:1]

But as a garden plant the only advice to be given is to keep it out of the garden by every means. In good cultivated ground it becomes a sad weed if once allowed a settlement. The Himalayan Boehmerias, however, are handsome, but only for their foliage; and though we cannot, perhaps, admit our roadside Dead Nettles, which however are much handsomer than many foreign flowers which we carefully tend and prize, yet the Austrian Dead Nettle (Lamium orvala, "Bot. Mag.," v. 172) may be well admitted as a handsome garden plant.


[176:1] This a modern reading; the correct reading is "metal."


"Si forte in medio positorum abstemius herbis Vivis et Urtica."—HORACE, Ep. i, 10, 8.

"Mihi festa luce coquatar Urtica."—PERSIUS vi, 68.

[178:1] "L'ortie s'etablit partout dans les contrees temperees a la suite de l'homme pour disparaitre bientot si le lieu on elle s'est ainsi implantee cesse d'etre habite."—M. LAVAILLEE, Sur les Arbres, &c., 1878.



(1) Dauphin.

He's [the horse] of the colour of the Nutmeg.

Henry V, act iii, sc. 7 (20).

(2) Clown.

I must have . . . Nutmegs Seven.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (50).

(3) Armado.

The omnipotent Mars, of lances the almighty, Gave Hector a gift—


A gilt Nutmeg.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (650).

Gerard gives a very fair description of the Nutmeg tree under the names of Nux moschata or Myristica; but it is certain that he had not any personal knowledge of the tree, which was not introduced into England or Europe for nearly 200 years after. Shakespeare could only have known the imported Nut and the Mace which covers the Nut inside the shell, and they were imported long before his time. Chaucer speaks of it as—

"Notemygge to put in ale Whether it be moist or stale, Or for to lay in cofre."—Sir Thopas.

And in another poem we have—

"And trees ther were gret foisoun, That beren notes in her sesoun. Such as men Notemygges calle That swote of savour ben withalle."

Romaunt of the Rose.

The Nutmeg tree (Myrista officinalis) "is a native of the Molucca or Spice Islands, principally confined to that group denominated the Islands of Banda, lying in lat. 4 deg. 30' south; and there it bears both blossom and fruit at all seasons of the year" ("Bot. Mag.," 2756, with a full history of the spice, and plates of the tree and fruit).


(1) Prospero.

If thou more murmur'st, I will rend an Oak, And peg thee in his knotty entrails,

Tempest, act i, sc. 2 (294).

(2) Prospero.

To the dread rattling thunder Have I given fire, and rifted Jove's stout Oak With his own bolt.

Ibid., act v, sc. 1 (44).

(3) Quince.

At the Duke's Oak we meet.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act i, sc. 2 (113).

(4) Benedick.

An Oak with but one green leaf on it would have answered her.

Much Ado About Nothing, act ii, sc. 1 (247).

(5) Isabella.

Thou split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled Oak.

Measure for Measure, act ii, sc. 2 (114). (See MYRTLE.)

(6) 1st Lord.

He lay along Under an Oak, whose antique root peeps out Upon the brook that brawls along this wood.

As You Like It, act ii, sc. 1 (30).

(7) Oliver.

Under an Oak, whose boughs were Mossed with age, And high top bald with dry antiquity.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 3 (156).

(8) Paulina.

As ever Oak or stone was sound.

Winter's Tale, act ii, sc. 3 (89).

(9) Messenger.

And many strokes, though with a little axe, Hew down and fell the hardest-timber'd Oak.

3rd Henry VI, act ii, sc. 1 (54).

(10) Mrs. Page.

There is an old tale goes that Herne the Hunter, Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest, Doth all the winter time at still midnight Walk round about an Oak, with great ragg'd horns.

* * * * *


Why yet there want not many that do fear In deep of night to walk by this Herne's Oak.

* * * * *

Mrs. Ford.

That Falstaff at that Oak shall meet with us.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act iv, sc. 4 (28).


To night at Herne's Oak.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act iv, sc. 6 (19).


Be you in the park about midnight at Herne's Oak, and you shall see wonders.

Ibid., act v, sc. 1 (11).

Mrs. Page.

They are all couched in a pit hard by Herne's Oak.

* * * * *

Mrs. Ford.

The hour draws on. To the Oak, to the Oak!

Ibid., act v, sc. 3 (14).


Till 'tis one o'clock Our dance of custom round about the Oak Of Herne the Hunter, let us not forget.

Ibid., act v, sc. 5 (78).

(11) Timon.

That numberless upon me stuck as leaves Do on the Oak, have with one winter's brush Fell from their boughs, and left me open, bare For every storm that blows.

Timon of Athens, act iv, sc. 3 (263).

(12) Timon.

The Oaks bear mast, the Briers scarlet hips.

Ibid. (422).

(13) Montano.

What ribs of Oak, when mountains melt on them, Can hold the mortise?

Othello, act ii, sc. 1 (7).

(14) Iago.

She that so young could give out such a seeming To seel her father's eyes up close as Oak.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 3 (209).

(15) Marcius.

He that depends Upon your favours swims with fins of lead And hews down Oaks with rushes.

Coriolanus, act i, sc. 1 (183).

(16) Arviragus.

To thee the Reed is as the Oak.

Cymbeline, act iv, sc. 2 (267).

(17) Lear.

Oak-cleaving thunderbolts.

King Lear, act iii, sc. 2 (5).

(18) Nathaniel.

Though to myself forsworn, to thee I'll faithful prove; Those thoughts to me were Oaks, to thee like Osiers bow'd.

Love's Labour's Lost, act iv, sc. 2 (111).

[The same lines in the "Passionate Pilgrim."]

(19) Nestor.

When the splitting wind Makes flexible the knees of knotted Oaks.

Troilus and Cressida, act i, sc. 3 (49).

(20) Volumnia.

To a cruel war I sent him, from whence he returned, his brows bound with Oak.

Coriolanus, act i, sc. 3 (14).


He comes the third time home with the Oaken garland.

Ibid., act ii, sc. 1 (137).


He proved best man i' the field, and for his meed Was brow-bound with the Oak.

Ibid., act ii, sc. 2 (101).

2nd Senator.

The worthy fellow is our general; he's the rock, the Oak, not to be wind-shaken.

Ibid., act v, sc. 2 (116).


To charge thy sulphur with a bolt That should but rive an Oak.

Ibid., act v, sc. 3 (152).

(21) Casca.

I have seen tempests when the scolding winds Have rived the knotty Oaks.

Julius Caesar, act i, sc. 3 (5).

(22) Celia.

I found him under a tree like a dropped Acorn.


It may well be called Jove's tree, when it drops forth such fruit.

As You Like It, act iii, sc. 2 (248).

(23) Prospero.

Thy food shall be The fresh-brook muscles, wither'd roots, and husks Wherein the Acorn cradled.

Tempest, act i, sc. 2 (462).

(24) Puck.

All their elves for fear Creep into Acorn-cups, and hide them there.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (30).

(25) Lysander.

Get you gone, you dwarf—you beed—you Acorn!

Ibid., act iii, sc. 2 (328).

(26) Posthumus.

Like a full-Acorned boar—a German one.

Cymbeline, act ii, sc. 5 (16).

(27) Messenger.

About his head he weares the winner's Oke.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act iv, sc. 2 (154).


Time's glory is . . . . To dry the old Oak's sap.

Lucrece (950).

Here are several very pleasant pictures, and there is so much of historical and legendary lore gathered round the Oaks of England that it is very tempting to dwell upon them. There are the historical Oaks connected with the names of William Rufus, Queen Elizabeth, and Charles II.; there are the wonderful Oaks of Wistman's Wood (certainly the most weird and most curious wood in England, if not in Europe); there are the many passages in which our old English writers have loved to descant on the Oaks of England as the very emblems of unbroken strength and unflinching constancy; there is all the national interest which has linked the glories of the British navy with the steady and enduring growth of her Oaks; there is the wonderful picturesqueness of the great Oak plantations of the New Forest, the Forest of Dean, and other royal forests; and the equally, if not greater, picturesqueness of the English Oak as the chief ornament of our great English parks; there is the scientific interest which suggested the growth of the Oak for the plan of our lighthouses, and many other interesting points. It is very tempting to stop on each and all of these, but the space is too limited, and they can all be found ably treated of and at full length in any of the books that have been written on the English forest trees.


(1) Iris.

Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas Of Wheat, Rye, Barley, Vetches, Oats, and Pease.

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

(2) Spring Song.

When shepherds pipe on Oaten straws.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (913).

(3) Bottom.

Truly a peck of provender; I could munch your good dry Oats.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iv, sc. 1 (35).

(4) Grumio.

Ay, sir, they be ready; the Oats have eaten the horses.

Taming of the Shrew, act iii, sc. 2 (207).

(5) First Carrier.

Poor fellow, never joyed since the price of Oats rose—it was the death of him.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 1 (13).

(6) Captain.

I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried Oats, If it be man's work, I'll do it.

King Lear, act v, sc. 3 (38).

Shakespeare's Oats need no comment, except to note that the older English name for Oats was Haver (see "Promptorium Parvulorum," p. 372; and "Catholicon Anglicum," p. 178, with the notes). The word was in use in Shakespeare's time, and still survives in the northern parts of England.


(1) Clarence.

To whom the heavens in thy nativity Adjudged an Olive branch.

3rd Henry VI, act iv, sc. 6 (33). (See LAUREL.)

(2) Alcibiades.

Bring me into your city, And I will use the Olive with my sword.

Timon of Athens, act v, sc. 4 (81).

(3) Caesar.

Prove this a prosperous day, the three-nook'd world Shall bear the Olive freely.

Antony and Cleopatra, act iv, sc. 6 (5).

(4) Rosalind.

If you will know my house 'Tis at the tuft of Olives here hard by.

As You Like It, act iii, sc. 5 (74).

(5) Oliver.

Where, in the purlieus of this forest stands A sheepcote fenced about with Olive trees?

Ibid., act iv, sc. 3 (77).

(6) Viola.

I bring no overture of war, no taxation of homage; I hold the Olive in my hand; my words are as full of peace as matter.

Twelfth Night, act i, sc. 5 (224).

(7) Westmoreland.

There is not now a rebel's sword unsheath'd, But peace puts forth her Olive everywhere.

2nd Henry IV, act iv, sc. 4 (86).


And peace proclaims Olives of endless age.

Sonnet cvii.

There is no certain record by which we can determine when the Olive tree was first introduced into England. Miller gives 1648 as the earliest date he could discover, at which time it was grown in the Oxford Botanic Garden. But I have no doubt it was cultivated long before that. Parkinson knew it as an English tree in 1640, for he says: "It flowereth in the beginning of summer in the warmer countries, but very late with us; the fruite ripeneth in autumne in Spain, &c., but seldome with us" ("Herball," 1640). Gerard had an Oleaster in his garden in 1596, which Mr. Jackson considers to have been the Olea Europea, and with good reason, as in his account of the Olive in the "Herbal" he gives Oleaster as one of the synonyms of Olea sylvestris, the wild Olive tree. But I think its introduction is of a still earlier date. In the Anglo-Saxon "Leech Book," of the tenth century, published under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, I find this prescription: "Pound Lovage and Elder rind and Oleaster, that is, wild Olive tree, mix them with some clear ale and give to drink" (book i. c. 37, Cockayne's translation). As I have never heard that the bark of the Olive tree was imported, it is only reasonable to suppose that the leeches of the day had access to the living tree. If this be so, the tree was probably imported by the Romans, which they are very likely to have done. But it seems very certain that it was in cultivation in England in Shakespeare's time and he may have seen it growing.

But in most of the eight passages in which he names the Olive, the reference to it is mainly as the recognized emblem of peace; and it is in that aspect, and with thoughts of its touching Biblical associations that we must always think of the Olive. It is the special plant of honour in the Bible, by "whose fatness they honour God and man," linked with the rescue of the one family in the ark, and with the rescue of the whole family of man in the Mount of Olives. Every passage in which it is named in the Bible tells the uniform tale of its usefulness, and the emblematical lessons it was employed to teach; but I must not dwell on them. Nor need I say how it was equally honoured by Greeks and Romans. As a plant which produced an abundant and necessary crop of fruit with little or no labour (phyteum' acheiroton autopoion, Sophocles; "non ulla est oleis cultura," Virgil), it was looked upon with special pride, as one of the most blessed gifts of the gods, and under the constant protection of Minerva, to whom it was thankfully dedicated.[186:1]

We seldom see the Olive in English gardens, yet it is a good evergreen tree to cover a south wall, and having grown it for many years, I can say that there is no plant—except, perhaps, the Christ's Thorn—which gives such universal interest to all who see it. It is quite hardy, though the winter will often destroy the young shoots; but not even the winter of 1860 did any serious mischief, and fine old trees may occasionally be seen which attest its hardiness. There is one at Hanham Hall, near Bristol, which must be of great age. It is at least 30ft. high, against a south wall, and has a trunk of large girth; but I never saw it fruit or flower in England until this year (1877), when the Olive in my own garden flowered, but did not bear fruit. Miller records trees at Campden House, Kensington, which, in 1719, produced a good number of fruit large enough for pickling, and other instances have been recorded lately. Perhaps if more attention were paid to the grafting, fruit would follow. The Olive has the curious property that it seems to be a matter of indifference whether, as with other fruit, the cultivated sort is grafted on the wild one, or the wild on the cultivated one; the latter plan was certainly sometimes the custom among the Greeks and Romans, as we know from St. Paul (Romans xi. 16-25) and other writers, and it is sometimes the custom now. There are a great number of varieties of the cultivated Olive, as of other cultivated fruit.

One reason why the Olive is not more grown as a garden tree is that it is a tree very little admired by most travellers. Yet this is entirely a matter of taste, and some of the greatest authorities are loud in its praises as a picturesque tree. One short extract from Ruskin's account of the tree will suffice, though the whole description is well worth reading. "The Olive," he says, "is one of the most characteristic and beautiful features of all southern scenery. . . . What the Elm and the Oak are to England, the Olive is to Italy. . . . It had been well for painters to have felt and seen the Olive tree, to have loved it for Christ's sake; . . . to have loved it even to the hoary dimness of its delicate foliage, subdued and faint of hue, as if the ashes of the Gethsemane agony had been cast upon it for ever; and to have traced line by line the gnarled writhing of its intricate branches, and the pointed fretwork of its light and narrow leaves, inlaid on the blue field of the sky, and the small, rosy-white stars of its spring blossoming, and the heads of sable fruit scattered by autumn along its topmost boughs—the right, in Israel, of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow—and, more than all, the softness of the mantle, silver-grey, and tender, like the down on a bird's breast, with which far away it veils the undulation of the mountains."—Stones of Venice, vol. iii. p. 176.


[186:1] See Spenser's account of the first introduction of the Olive in "Muiopotmos."


(1) Bottom.

And, most dear actors, eat no Onions nor Garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iv, sc. 2 (42).

(2) Lafeu.

Mine eyes smell Onions, I shall weep anon: Good Tom Drum, lend me a handkercher.

All's Well that Ends Well, act v, sc. 3 (321).

(3) Enobarbus.

Indeed the tears live in Onion that should water this Sorrow.

Antony and Cleopatra, act i, sc. 2 (176).

(4) Enobarbus.

Look, they weep, And I, an ass, am Onion-eyed.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 2 (34).

(5) Lord.

And if the boy have not a woman's gift To rain a shower of commanded tears, An Onion will do well for such a shift, Which in a napkin being close conveyed Shall in despite enforce a watery eye.

Taming of the Shrew, Induction, sc. 1 (124).

There is no need to say much of the Onion in addition to what I have already said on the Garlick and Leek, except to note that Onions seem always to have been considered more refined food than Leek and Garlick. Homer makes Onions an important part of the elegant little repast which Hecamede set before Nestor and Machaon—

"Before them first a table fair she spread, Well polished and with feet of solid bronze; On this a brazen canister she placed, And Onions as a relish to the wine, And pale clear honey and pure Barley meal."

Iliad, book xi. (Lord Derby's translation).

But in the time of Shakespeare they were not held in such esteem. Coghan, writing in 1596, says of them: "Being eaten raw, they engender all humourous and corruptible putrifactions in the stomacke, and cause fearful dreames, and if they be much used they snarre the memory and trouble the understanding" ("Haven of Health," p. 58).

The name comes directly from the French oignon, a bulb, being the bulb par excellence, the French name coming from the Latin unio, which was the name given to some species of Onion, probably from the bulb growing singly. It may be noted, however, that the older English name for the Onion was Ine, of which we may perhaps still have the remembrance in the common "Inions." The use of the Onion to promote artificial crying is of very old date, Columella speaking of "lacrymosa caepe," and Pliny of "caepis odor lacrymosus." There are frequent references to the same use in the old English writers.

The Onion has been for so many centuries in cultivation that its native home has been much disputed, but it has now "according to Dr. Regel ('Gartenflora,' 1877, p. 264) been definitely determined to be the mountains of Central Asia. It has also been found in a wild state in the Himalaya Mountains."—Gardener's Chronicle.


(1) Beatrice.

The count is neither sad nor sick, nor merry nor well; but civil count, civil as an Orange, and something of that jealous complexion.

Much Ado About Nothing, act ii, sc. 1 (303).

(2) Claudio.

Give not this rotten Orange to your friend.

Much Ado About Nothing, act iv, sc. 1 (33).

(3) Bottom.

I will discharge it either in your straw-coloured beard, your Orange-tawny beard.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act i, sc. 2 (95).

(4) Bottom.

The ousel cock so black of hue With Orange-tawny bill.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 1 (128).

(5) Menenius.

You wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a cause between an Orange-wife and a fosset-seller.

Coriolanus, act ii, sc. 1 (77).

I should think it very probable that Shakespeare may have seen both Orange and Lemon trees growing in England. The Orange is a native of the East Indies, and no certain date can be given for its introduction into Europe. Under the name of the Median Apple a tree is described first by Theophrastus, and then by Virgil and Palladius, which is supposed by some to be the Orange; but as they all describe it as unfit for food, it is with good reason supposed that the tree referred to is either the Lemon or Citron. Virgil describes it very exactly—

"Ipsa ingens arbor, faciemque simillima lauro Et si non alium late jactaret odorem Laurus erat; folia hand ullis labentia ventis Flos ad prima tenax."—Georgic ii, 131.

Dr. Daubeny, who very carefully studied the plants of classical writers, decides that the fruit here named is the Lemon, and says that it "is noticed only as a foreign fruit, nor does it appear that it was cultivated at that time in Italy, for Pliny says it will only grow in Media and Assyria, though Palladius in the fourth century seems to have been familiar with it, and it was known in Greece at the time of Theophrastus." But if Oranges were grown in Italy or Greece in the time of Pliny and Palladius, they did not continue in cultivation. Europe owes the introduction or reintroduction to the Portuguese, who brought them from the East, and they were grown in Spain in the eleventh century. The first notice of them in Italy was in the year 1200, when a tree was planted by St. Dominic at Rome. The first grown in France is said to have been the old tree which lived at the Orangery at Versailles till November, 1876, and was called the Grand Bourbon. "In 1421 the Queen of Navarre gave the gardener the seed from Pampeluna; hence sprang the plant, which was subsequently transported to Chantilly. In 1532 the Orange tree was sent to Fontainebleau, whence, in 1684, Louis XIV. transferred it to Versailles, where it remained the largest, finest, and most fertile member of the Orangery, its head being 17yds. round." It is not likely that a tree of such beauty should be growing so near England without the English gardeners doing their utmost to establish it here. But the first certain record is generally said to be in 1595, when (on the authority of Bishop Gibson) Orange trees were planted at Beddington, in Surrey, the plants being raised from seeds brought into England by Sir Walter Raleigh. The date, however, may be placed earlier, for in Lyte's "Herbal" (1578) it is stated that "In this countrie the Herboristes do set and plant the Orange trees in there gardens, but they beare no fruite without they be wel kept and defended from cold, and yet for all that they beare very seldome." There are no Oranges in Gerard's catalogue of 1596, and though he describes the trees in his "Herbal," he does not say that he then grew them or had seen them growing. But by 1599 he had obtained them, for they occur in his catalogue of that date under the name of "Malus orantia, the Arange or Orange tree," so that it is certainly very probable that Shakespeare may have seen the Orange as a living tree.

As to the beauty of the Orange tree, there is but one opinion. Andrew Marvel described it as—

"The Orange bright, Like golden lamps in a green night."


George Herbert drew a lesson from its power of constant fruiting—

"Oh that I were an Orenge tree, That busie plant; Then should I ever laden be, And never want Some fruit for him that dressed me."


And its handsome evergreen foliage, its deliciously scented flowers, and its golden fruit—

"A fruit of pure Hesperian gold That smelled ambrosially"—


at once demand the admiration of all. It only fails in one point to make it a plant for every garden: it is not fully hardy in England. It is very surprising to read of those first trees at Beddington, that "they were planted in the open ground, under a movable covert during the winter months; that they always bore fruit in great plenty and perfection; that they grew on the south side of a wall, not nailed against it, but at full liberty to spread; that they were 14ft. high, the girth of the stem 29in., and the spreading of the branches one way 9ft., and 12ft. another; and that they so lived till they were entirely killed by the great frost in 1739-40."—MILLER.[191:1] These trees must have been of a hardy variety, for certainly Orange trees, even with such protection, do not now so grow in England, except in a few favoured places on the south coast. There is one species which is fairly hardy, the Citrus trifoliata, from Japan,[191:2] forming a pretty bush with sweet flowers, and small but useless fruit (seldom, I believe, produced out-of-doors); it is often used as a stock on which to graft the better kinds, but perhaps it might be useful for crossing, so as to give its hardiness to a variety with better flower and fruit.

Commercially the Orange holds a high place, more than 20,000 good fruit having been picked from one tree, and England alone importing about 2,000,000 bushels annually. These are almost entirely used as a dessert fruit and for marmalade, but it is curious that they do not seem to have been so used when first imported. Parkinson makes no mention of their being eaten raw, but says they "are used as sauce for many sorts of meats, in respect of the sweet sourness giving a relish and delight whereinsoever they are used;" and he mentions another curious use, no longer in fashion, I believe, but which might be worth a trial: "The seeds being cast into the grounde in the spring time will quickly grow up, and when they are a finger's length high, being pluckt up and put among Sallats, will give them a marvellous fine aromatick or spicy tast, very acceptable."[192:1]


[191:1] In an "Account of Gardens Round London in 1691," published in the "Archaeologia," vol. xii., these Orange trees are described as if always under glass.

[191:2] "Bot. Mag.," 6513.

[192:1] For an account of the early importation of the fruit see "Promptorium Parvulorum," p. 371, note.



(1) Perdita.

Bold Oxlips, and The Crown Imperial.

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

(2) Oberon.

I know a bank where the wild Thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.

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


Oxlips in their cradles growing.

Two Noble Kinsmen, Intro. song.

The true Oxlip (Primula eliator) is so like both the Primrose and Cowslip that it has been by many supposed to be a hybrid between the two. Sir Joseph Hooker, however, considers it a true species. It is a handsome plant, but it is probably not the "bold Oxlip" of Shakespeare, or the plant which is such a favourite in cottage gardens. The true Oxlip (P. elatior of Jacquin) is an eastern counties' plant; while the common forms of the Oxlip are hybrids between the Cowslip and Primrose. (See COWSLIP and PRIMROSE.)


(1) Rosalind.

Look here what I found on a Palm tree.

As You Like It, act iii, sc. 2 (185).

(2) Hamlet.

As love between them like the Palm might flourish.

Hamlet, act v, sc. 2 (40).

(3) Volumnia.

And bear the Palm for having bravely shed Thy wife and children's blood.

Coriolanus, act v, sc. 3 (117).

(4) Cassius.

And bear the Palm alone.

Julius Caesar, act i, sc. 2 (131).

(5) Painter.

You shall see him a Palm in Athens again, and flourish with the highest.

Timon of Athens, act v, sc. 1 (12).


The Vision.—Enter, solemnly tripping one after another, six personages, clad in white robes, wearing on their heads garlands of Bays, and golden vizards on their faces, branches of Bays or Palm in their hands.

Henry VIII, act iv, sc. 2.

To these passages may be added the following, in which the Palm tree is certainly alluded to though it is not mentioned by name—


That in Arabia There is one tree, the Phoenix' throne; one Phoenix At this hour reigning there.

Tempest, act iii, sc. 3 (22).[193:1]

And from the poem by Shakespeare, published in Chester's "Love's Martyr," 1601.

"Let the bird of loudest lay On the sole Arabian tree Herald sad and Trumpet be, To whose sound chaste wings obey."

Two very distinct trees are named in these passages. In the last five the reference is to the true Palm of Biblical and classical fame, as the emblem of victory, and the typical representation of life and beauty in the midst of barren waste and deserts. And we are not surprised at the veneration in which the tree was held, when we consider either the wonderful grace of the tree, or its many uses in its native countries, so many, that Pliny says that the Orientals reckoned 360 uses to which the Palm tree could be applied. Turner, in 1548, said: "I never saw any perfit Date tree yet, but onely a little one that never came to perfection;"[194:1] and whether Shakespeare ever saw a living Palm tree is doubtful, but he may have done so. (See DATE.) Now there are a great number grown in the large houses of botanic and other gardens, the Palm-house at Kew showing more and better specimens than can be seen in any other collection in Europe: even the open garden can now boast of a few species that will endure our winters without protection. Chamaerops humilis and Fortunei seem to be perfectly hardy, and good specimens may be seen in several gardens; Corypha australis is also said to be quite hardy, and there is little doubt but that the Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera), which has long been naturalized in the South of Europe, would live in Devonshire and Cornwall, and that of the thousand species of Palms growing in so many different parts of the world, some will yet be found that may grow well in the open air in England.

But the Palm tree in No. 1 is a totally different tree, and much as Shakespeare has been laughed at for placing a Palm tree in the Forest of Arden, the laugh is easily turned against those who raise such an objection. The Palm tree of the Forest of Arden is the

"Satin-shining Palm On Sallows in the windy gleams of March"—

Idylls of the King—Vivien.

that is, the Early Willow (Salix caprea) and I believe it is so called all over England, as it is in Northern Germany, and probably in other northern countries. There is little doubt that the name arose from the custom of using the Willow branches with the pretty golden catkins on Palm Sunday as a substitute for Palm branches.

"In Rome upon Palm Sunday they bear true Palms, The Cardinals bow reverently and sing old Psalms; Elsewhere those Psalms are sung 'mid Olive branches, The Holly branch supplies the place among the avalanches; More northern climes must be content with the sad Willow."

GOETHE (quoted by Seeman).

But besides Willow branches, Yew branches are sometimes used for the same purpose, and so we find Yews called Palms. Evelyn says they were so called in Kent; they are still so called in Ireland, and in the churchwarden's accounts of Woodbury, Devonshire, is the following entry: "Memorandum, 1775. That a Yew or Palm tree was planted in the churchyard, ye south side of the church, in the same place where one was blown down by the wind a few days ago, this 25th of November."[195:1]

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