The plant-lore & garden-craft of Shakespeare
by Henry Nicholson Ellacombe
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How Willow or Yew branches could ever have been substituted for such a very different branch as a Palm it is hard to say, but in lack of a better explanation, I think it not unlikely that it might have arisen from the direction for the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus xxiii. 40: "Ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, the branches of Palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and Willows of the brook." But from whatever cause the name and the custom was derived, the Willow was so named in very early times, and in Shakespeare's time the name was very common. Here is one instance among many—

"Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day, The Palms and May make country houses gay, And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay— Cuckoo, jug-jug, pee-we, to-witta-woo."

T. NASH. 1567-1601.


[193:1] I do not include among "Palms" the passage in Hamlet, act i, sc. 1: "In the most high and palmy state of Rome," because I bow to Archdeacon Nares' judgment that "palmy" here means "grown to full height, in allusion to the palms of the stag's horns, when they have attained to their utmost growth." He does not, however, decide this with certainty, and the question may be still an open one.

[194:1] "Names of Herbes," s.v. Palma.

[195:1] In connection with this, Turner's account of the Palm in 1538 is worth quoting: "Palmā arborem in anglia nunq' me vidisse memini. Indie tamen ramis palmarū (ut illi loqūntur) soepius sacerdotē dicentē andivi. Bendic etiā et hos palmarū ramos, quū proeter salignas frondes nihil omnino viderē ego, quid alii viderint nescio. Si nobis palmarum frondes non suppeterent; proestaret me judice mutare lectionem et dicere. Benedic hos salicū ramos q' falso et mendaciter salicum frondes palmarum frondes vocare."—LIBELLUS, De re Herbaria, s.v. Palma.


(1) Ophelia.

And there is Pansies—that's for thoughts.

Hamlet, act iv, sc. 5 (176).

(2) Lucentio.

But see, while idly I stood looking on, I found the effect of Love-in-idleness.

Taming of the Shrew, act i, sc. 1 (155).

(3) Oberon.

Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell: It fell upon a little western flower, Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound, And maidens call it Love-in-idleness. Fetch me that flower; the herb I show'd thee once; The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid Will make or man or woman madly dote Upon the next live creature that it sees.

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

(4) Oberon.

Dian's Bud o'er Cupid's flower Hath such free and blessed power.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 1 (78).

The Pansy is one of the oldest favourites in English gardens, and the affection for it is shown in the many names that were given to it. The Anglo-Saxon name was Banwort or Bonewort, though why such a name was given to it we cannot now say. Nor can we satisfactorily explain its common names of Pansy or Pawnce (from the French, pensees—"that is, for thoughts," says Ophelia), or Heart's-ease,[196:1] which name was originally given to the Wallflower. The name Cupid's flower seems to be peculiar to Shakespeare, but the other name, Love-in-idle, or idleness, is said to be still in use in Warwickshire, and signifies love in vain, or to no purpose, as in Chaucer: "The prophet David saith; If God ne kepe not the citee, in ydel waketh he that keptit it."[196:2] And in Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, "I have prechid to you, if ye holden, if ye hav not bileved ideli" (1 Cor. xv. 2). "Beynge plenteuous in werk of the Lord evermore, witynge that youre traveil is not idel in the Lord" (1 Cor. xv. 58).

But beside these more common names, Dr. Prior mentions the following: "Herb Trinity, Three faces under a hood, Fancy, Flamy,[197:1] Kiss me, Cull me or Cuddle me to you, Tickle my fancy, Kiss me ere I rise, Jump up and kiss me, Kiss me at the garden gate, Pink of my John, and several more of the same amatory character."

Spenser gives the flower a place in his "Royal aray" for Elisa—

"Strowe me the grounde with Daffadowndillies, And Cowslips, and Kingcups, and loved Lillies, The pretie Pawnce, And the Chevisaunce Shall match with the fayre Flower Delice."

And in another place he speaks of the "Paunces trim"—F. Q., iii. 1. Milton places it in Eve's couch—

"Flowers were the couch, Pansies, and Violets, and Asphodel, And Hyacinth, earth's freshest, softest lap."

He names it also as part of the wreath of Sabrina—

"Pansies, Pinks, and gaudy Daffadils;"

and as one of the flowers to strew the hearse of Lycidas—

"The White Pink and the Pansie streaked with jet, The glowing Violet."


[196:1] "The Pansie Heart's ease Maiden's call."—DRAYTON Ed., ix.

[196:2] And again—

"The other heste of hym is this, Take not in ydel my name or amys."

Pardeners Tale.

"Eterne God, that through thy purveance Ledest this world by certein governance, In idel, as men sein, ye nothinge make."

The Frankelynes Tale.

[197:1] "Flamy, because its colours are seen in the flame of wood."—Flora Domestica, 166.



I knew a wench married in an afternoon as she went to the garden for Parsley to stuff a rabbit.

Taming of the Shrew, act iv, sc 4 (99).

Parsley is the abbreviated form of Apium petroselinum, and is a common name to many umbelliferous plants, but the garden Parsley is the one meant here. This well-known little plant has the curious botanic history that no one can tell what is its native country. In 1548 Turner said, "Perseley groweth nowhere that I knowe, but only in gardens."[198:1] It is found in many countries, but is always considered an escape from cultivation. Probably the plant has been so altered by cultivation as to have lost all likeness to its original self.

Our forefathers seem to have eaten the parsley root as well as the leaves—

"Quinces and Peris ciryppe with Parcely rotes Right so bygyn your mele."

RUSSELL'S Boke of Nurture, 826.

"Peres and Quynces in syrupe with Percely rotes."

WYNKYN DE WORDE'S Boke of Kervynge.


[198:1] "Names of Herbes," s.v. Apium.


(1) Prince Henry.

To take note how many pair of silk stockings thou hast, viz., these, and those that were thy Peach-coloured ones!

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 2 (17).

(2) Pompey.

Then there is here one Master Caper, at the suit of Master Threepile the mercer, for some four suits of Peach-coloured satin, which now peaches him a beggar.

Measure for Measure, act iv, sc. 3 (10).

The references here are only to the colour of the Peach blossom, yet the Peach tree was a well-known tree in Shakespeare's time, and the fruit was esteemed a great delicacy, and many different varieties were cultivated. Botanically the Peach is closely allied to the Almond, and still more closely to the Apricot and Nectarine; indeed, many writers consider both the Apricot and Nectarine to be only varieties of the Peach.

The native country of the Peach is now ascertained to be China, and not Persia, as the name would imply. It probably came to the Romans through Persia, and was by them introduced into England. It occurs in Archbishop's AElfric's "Vocabulary" in the tenth century, "Persicarius, Perseoctreow;" and John de Garlande grew it in the thirteenth century, "In virgulto Magistri Johannis, pessicus fert pessica." It is named in the "Promptorium Parvulorum" as "Peche, or Peske, frute—Pesca Pomum Persicum;" and in a note the Editor says: "In a role of purchases for the Palace of Westminster preserved amongst the miscellaneous record of the Queen's remembrance, a payment occurs, Will le Gardener, pro iij koygnere, ij pichere iijs.—pro groseillere iijd, pro j peschere vjd." A.D. 1275, 4 Edw: 1—

We all know and appreciate the fruit of the Peach, but few seem to know how ornamental a tree is the Peach, quite independent of the fruit. In those parts where the soil and climate are suitable, the Peach may be grown as an ornamental spring flowering bush. When so grown preference is generally given to the double varieties, of which there are several, and which are not by any means the new plants that they are generally supposed to be, as they were cultivated both by Gerard and Parkinson.


(1) Falstaff.

I warrant they would whip me with their fine wits till I were as crest-fallen as a dried Pear.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act iv, sc. 5 (101).

(2) Parolles.

Your virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French withered Pears, it looks ill, it eats drily; marry, 'tis a withered Pear; it was formerly better; marry, yet 'tis a withered Pear.

All's Well that Ends Well, act i, sc. 1 (174).

(3) Clown.

I must have Saffron to colour the Warden pies.

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

(4) Mercutio.

O, Romeo . . . thou a Poperin Pear.

Romeo and Juliet, act ii, sc. 1 (37).

If we may judge by these few notices, Shakespeare does not seem to have had much respect for the Pear, all the references to the fruit being more or less absurd or unpleasant. Yet there were good Pears in his day, and so many different kinds that Gerard declined to tell them at length, for "the stocke or kindred of Pears are not to be numbered; every country hath his peculiar fruit, so that to describe them apart were to send an owle to Athens, or to number those things that are without number."

Of these many sorts Shakespeare mentions by name but two, the Warden and the Poperin, and it is not possible to identify these with modern varieties with any certainty. The Warden was probably a general name for large keeping and stewing Pears, and the name was said to come from the Anglo-Saxon wearden, to keep or preserve, in allusion to its lasting qualities. But this is certainly a mistake. In an interesting paper by Mr. Hudson Turner, "On the State of Horticulture in England in early times, chiefly previous to the fifteenth century," printed in the "Archaeological Journal," vol. v. p. 301, it is stated that "the Warden Pear had its origin and its name from the horticultural skill of the Cistercian Monks of Wardon Abbey in Bedfordshire, founded in the twelfth century. Three Warden Pears appeared in the armorial bearings of the Abbey."

It was certainly an early name. In the "Catholicon Anglicum" we find: "A Parmayn, volemum, Anglice, a Warden;" and in Parkinson's time the name was still in use, and he mentions two varieties, "The Warden or Lukewards Pear are of two sorts, both white and red, both great and small." (The name of Lukewards seems to point to St. Luke's Day, October 18, as perhaps the time either for picking the fruit or for its ripening.) "The Spanish Warden is greater than either of both the former, and better also." And he further says: "The Red Warden and the Spanish Warden are reckoned amongst the most excellent of Pears, either to bake or to roast, for the sick or for the sound—and indeed the Quince and the Warden are the only two fruits that are permitted to the sick to eat at any time." The Warden pies of Shakespeare's day, coloured with Saffron, have in our day been replaced by stewed Pears coloured with Cochineal.[200:1]

I can find no guide to the identification of the Poperin Pear, beyond Parkinson's description: "The summer Popperin and the winter Popperin, both of them very good, firm, dry Pears, somewhat spotted and brownish on the outside. The green Popperin is a winter fruit of equal goodnesse with the former." It was probably a Flemish Pear, and may have been introduced by the antiquary Leland, who was made Rector of Popering by Henry VIII. The place is further known to us as mentioned by Chaucer—

"A knyght was fair and gent In batail and in tornament, His name was Sir Thopas. Alone he was in fer contre, In Flaundres, all beyonde the se, At Popering in the place."

As a garden tree the Pear is not only to be grown for its fruit, but as a most ornamental tree. Though the individual flowers are not, perhaps, so handsome as the Apple blossoms, yet the growth of the tree is far more elegant; and an old Pear tree, with its curiously roughened bark, its upright, tall, pyramidal shape, and its sheet of snow-white blossoms, is a lovely ornament in the old gardens and lawns of many of our country houses. It is by some considered a British tree, but it is probably only a naturalized foreigner, originally introduced by the Romans.


[200:1] The Warden was sometimes spoken of as different from Pears. Sir Hugh Platt speaks of "Wardens or Pears."


(1) Iris.

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

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

(2) Carrier.

Peas and Beans are as dank here as a dog.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 1 (9). (See BEANS.)

(3) Biron.

This fellow picks up wit, as pigeons Pease.

Love's Labour's Lost, act v, sc. 2 (315).

(4) Bottom.

I had rather have a handful or two of dried Peas.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act iv, sc. 1 (41).

(5) Fool.

That a shealed Peascod?

King Lear, act i, sc. 4 (219).

(6) Touchstone.

I remember the wooing of a Peascod instead of her.

As You Like It, act ii, sc. 4 (51).

(7) Malvolio.

Not yet old enough to be a man, nor young enough for a boy; as a Squash is before 'tis a Peascod, or a Codling when 'tis almost an Apple.

Twelfth Night, act i, sc. 5 (165).

(8) Hostess.

Well, fare thee well! I have known thee these twenty-nine years come Peascod time.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (412).

(9) Leontes.

How like, methought, I then was to this kernel, This Squash, this gentleman.

Winter's Tale, act i, sc. 2 (159).


Peascod, Pease-Blossom, and Squash—Dramatis personae in Midsummer Night's Dream.

There is no need to say much of Peas, but it may be worth a note in passing that in old English we seldom meet with the word Pea. Peas or Pease (the Anglicised form of Pisum) is the singular, of which the plural is Peason. "Pisum is called in Englishe a Pease;" says Turner—

"Alle that for me thei doo pray, Helpeth me not to the uttermost day The value of a Pese."

The Child of Bristowe, p. 570.

And the word was so used in and after Shakespeare's time, as by Ben Jonson—

"A pill as small as a pease."—Magnetic Lady.

The Squash is the young Pea, before the Peas are formed in it, and the Peascod is the ripe shell of the Pea before it is shelled.[202:1] The garden Pea (Pisum sativum) is the cultivated form of a plant found in the South of Europe, but very much altered by cultivation. It was probably not introduced into England as a garden vegetable long before Shakespeare's time. It is not mentioned in the old lists of plants before the sixteenth century, and Fuller tells us that in Queen Elizabeth's time they were brought from Holland, and were "fit dainties for ladies, they came so far and cost so dear."

The beautiful ornamental Peas (Sweet Peas, Everlasting Peas, &c.) are of different family (Lathyrus, not Pisum), but very closely allied. There is a curious amount of folklore connected with Peas, and in every case the Peas and Peascods are connected with wooing the lasses. This explains Touchstone's speech (No. 6). Brand gives several instances of this, from which one stanza from Browne's "Pastorals" may be quoted—

"The Peascod greene, oft with no little toyle, He'd seek for in the fattest, fertil'st soile, And rend it from the stalke to bring it to her, And in her bosom for acceptance wooe her."

Book ii, song 3.


[202:1] The original meaning of Peascod is a bag of peas. Cod is bag as Matt. x. 10—"ne codd, ne hlaf, ne feo on heora gyrdlum—'not a bag, not a loaf, not (fee) money in their girdles.'"—COCKAYNE, Spoon and Sparrow, p. 518.



(1) Hotspur.

Such protest of Pepper-gingerbread.

1st Henry IV, act iii, sc. 1 (260). (See GINGER, 9.)

(2) Falstaff.

An I have not forgotten what the inside of a church is made of, I am a Pepper-corn, a brewer's horse.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 3 (8).

(3) Poins.

Pray God, you have not murdered some of them.


Nay, that's past praying for, for I have Peppered two of them.

Ibid., act ii, sc. 4 (210).

(4) Falstaff.

I have led my ragamuffins, where they are Peppered.

Ibid., act v, sc. 3 (36).

(5) Mercutio.

I am Peppered, I warrant, for this world.

Romeo and Juliet, act iii, sc. 1 (102).

(6) Ford.

He cannot 'scape me, 'tis impossible he should; he cannot creep into a halfpenny purse or into a Pepper-box.

Merry Wives, act iii, sc. 5 (147).

(7) Sir Andrew.

Here's the challenge, read it; I warrant there's vinegar and Pepper in't.

Twelfth Night, act iii, sc. 4 (157).

Pepper is the seed of Piper nigrum, "whose drupes form the black Pepper of the shops when dried with the skin upon them, and white Pepper when that flesh is removed by washing."—LINDLEY. It is, like all the pepperworts, a native of the Tropics, but was well known both to the Greeks and Romans. By the Greeks it was probably not much used, but in Rome it seems to have been very common, if we may judge by Horace's lines—

"Deferar in vicum, vendentem thus et odores, Et piper, et quidquid chartis amicitur ineptis."

Epistolae ii, 1-270.

And in another place he mentions "Pipere albo" as an ingredient in cooking. Juvenal mentions it as an article of commerce, "piperis coemti" (Sat. xiv. 293). Persius speaks of it in more than one passage, and Pliny describes it so minutely that he evidently not only knew the imported spice, but also had seen the living plant. By the Romans it was probably introduced into England, being frequently met with in the Anglo-Saxon Leech-books. It is mentioned by Chaucer—

"And in an erthen pot how put is al, And salt y-put in and also Paupere."

Prologue of the Chanoune's Yeman.

It was apparently, like Ginger, a very common condiment in Shakespeare's time, and its early introduction into England as an article of commerce is shown by passages in our old law writers, who speak of the reservation of rent, not only in money, but in "pepper, cummim, and wheat;" whence arose the familiar reservation of a single peppercorn as a rent so nominal as to have no appreciable pecuniary value.[204:1]

The red or Cayenne Pepper is made from the ground seeds of the Capsicum, but I do not find that it was used to known in the sixteenth century.


[204:1] Littleton does not mention Pepper when speaking of rents reserved otherwise than in money, but specifies as instances, "un chival, ou un esperon dor, ou un clovegylofer"—a horse, a golden spur, or a clove gilliflower.



I prythee let me bring thee where Crabs grow; And I with my long nails will dig thee Pig-nuts.

Tempest, act ii, sc. 2 (171).

Pig-nuts or Earth-nuts are the tuberous roots of Conopodium denudatum (Bunium flexuosum), a common weed in old upland pastures; it is found also in woods. This root is really of a pleasant flavour when first eaten, but leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It is said to be much improved by roasting, and to be then quite equal to Chestnuts. Yet it is not much prized in England except by pigs and children, who do not mind the trouble of digging for it. But the root lies deep, and the stalk above it is very brittle, and "when the little 'howker' breaks the white shank he at once desists from his attempt to reach the root, for he believes that it will elude his search by sinking deeper and deeper into the ground" (Johnston). I have never heard of its being cultivated in England, but it is cultivated in some European countries, and much prized as a wholesome and palatable root.


(1) Prospero.

She did confine thee,

* * * * *

Into a cloven Pine;

* * * * *

It was mine art, When I arrived and heard thee, that made gape The Pine and let thee out.

Tempest, act i, sc. 2 (273).

(2) Suffolk.

Thus droops this lofty Pine and hangs his sprays.

2nd Henry VI, act ii, sc. 3 (45).

(3) Prospero.

And by the spurs plucked up The Pine and Cedar.

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

(4) Agamemnon.

As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap, Infect the sound Pine and divert his grain Tortive and errant from his course of growth.

Troilus and Cressida, act i, sc. 3 (7).

(5) Antony.

Where yonder Pine does stand I shall discover all.

* * * * *

This Pine is bark'd That overtopped them all.

Antony and Cleopatra, act iv, sc. 12 (23).

(6) Belarius.

As the rudest wind That by the top doth take the mountain Pine, And make him stoop to the vale.

Cymbeline, act iv, sc. 2 (174).

(7) 1st Lord.

Behind the tuft of Pines I met them.

Winter's Tale, act ii, sc. 1 (33).

(8) Richard.

But when from under this terrestrial ball He fires the proud top of the eastern Pines.

Richard II, act iii, sc. 2 (41).

(9) Antonio.

You may as well forbid the mountain Pines To wag their high tops and to make no noise, When they are fretten with the gusts of heaven.

Merchant of Venice, act iv, sc. 1 (75).


Ay me! the bark peel'd from the lofty Pine, His leaves will wither, and his sap decay; So must my soul, her bark being peel'd away.

Lucrece (1167).

In No. 8 is one of those delicate touches which show Shakespeare's keen observation of nature, in the effect of the rising sun upon a group of Pine trees. Mr. Ruskin says that with the one exception of Wordsworth no other English poet has noticed this. Wordsworth's lines occur in one of his minor poems on leaving Italy—

"My thoughts become bright like yon edging of Pines On the steep's lofty verge—how it blackened the air! But touched from behind by the sun, it now shines With threads that seem part of its own silver hair."

While Mr. Ruskin's account of it is this: "When the sun rises behind a ridge of Pines, and those Pines are seen from a distance of a mile or two against his light, the whole form of the tree, trunk, branches and all, becomes one frost-work of intensely brilliant silver, which is relieved against the clear sky like a burning fringe, for some distance on either side of the sun."—Stones of Venice, i. 240.

The Pine is the established emblem of everything that is "high and lifted up," but always with a suggestion of dreariness and solitude. So it is used by Shakespeare and by Milton, who always associated the Pine with mountains; and so it has always been used by the poets, even down to our own day. Thus Tennyson—

"They came, they cut away my tallest Pines— My dark tall Pines, that plumed the craggy ledge— High o'er the blue gorge, and all between The snowy peak and snow-white cataract Fostered the callow eaglet; from beneath Whose thick mysterious boughs in the dark morn The panther's roar came muffled while I sat Down in the valley."

Complaint of AEnone.

Sir Walter Scott similarly describes the tree in the pretty and well-known lines—

"Aloft the Ash and warrior Oak Cast anchor in the rifted rock; And higher yet the Pine tree hung His shattered trunk, and frequent flung, Where seemed the cliffs to meet on high, His boughs athwart the narrow sky."

Yet the Pine which was best known to Shakespeare, and perhaps the only Pine he knew, was the Pinus sylvestris, or Scotch fir, and this, though flourishing on the highest hills where nothing else will flourish, certainly attains its fullest beauty in sheltered lowland districts. There are probably much finer Scotch firs in Devonshire than can be found in Scotland. This is the only indigenous Fir, though the Pinus pinaster claims to be a native of Ireland, some cones having been supposed to be found in the bogs, but the claim is not generally allowed (there is no proof of the discovery of the cones); and yet it has become so completely naturalized on the coast of Dorsetshire, especially about Bournemouth, that it has been admitted into the last edition of Sowerby's "English Botany."

But though the Scotch Fir is a true native, and was probably much more abundant in England formerly than it is now, the tree has no genuine English name, and apparently never had. Pine comes directly and without change from the Latin, Pinus, as one of the chief products, pitch, comes directly from the Latin, pix. In the early vocabularies it is called "Pin-treow," and the cones are "Pin-nuttes." They were also called "Pine apples," and the tree was called the Pine-Apple Tree.[208:1] This name was transferred to the rich West Indian fruit[208:2] from its similarity to a fir-cone, and so was lost to the fruit of the fir-tree, which had to borrow a new name from the Greek; but it was still in use in Shakespeare's day—

"Sweete smelling Firre that frankensence provokes, And Pine Apples from whence sweet juyce doth come."

CHESTER'S Love's Martyr.

And Gerard describing the fruit of the Pine Tree, says: "This Apple is called in . . . Low Dutch, Pyn Appel, and in English, Pine-apple, clog, and cones." We also find "Fyre-tree," which is a true English word meaning the "fire-tree;" but I believe that "Fir" was originally confined to the timber, from its large use for torches, and was not till later years applied to the living tree.

The sweetness of the Pine seeds, joined to the difficulty of extracting them, and the length of time necessary for their ripening, did not escape the notice of the emblem-writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With them it was the favourite emblem of the happy results of persevering labour. Camerarius, a contemporary of Shakespeare and a great botanist, gives a pretty plate of a man holding a Fir-cone, with this moral: "Sic ad virtutem et honestatem et laudabiles actiones non nisi per labores ac varias difficultates perveniri potest, at postea sequuntur suavissimi fructus." He acknowledges his obligation for this moral to the proverb of Plautus: "Qui e nuce nucleum esse vult, frangat nucem" ("Symbolorum," &c., 1590).

In Shakespeare's time a few of the European Conifers were grown in England, including the Larch, but only as curiosities. The very large number of species which now ornament our gardens and Pineta from America and Japan were quite unknown. The many uses of the Pine—for its timber, production of pitch, tar, resin, and turpentine—were well known and valued. Shakespeare mentions both pitch and tar.


[208:1] For many examples see "Catholicon Anglicum," s.v. Pyne-Tree, with note.

[208:2] The West Indian Pine Apple is described by Gerard as "Ananas, the Pinea, or Pine Thistle."


(1) Romeo.

A most courteous exposition.


Nay, I am the very Pink of courtesy.


Pink for flower.




Why, then is my pump well flowered.

Romeo and Juliet, act ii, sc. 4 (60).

(2) Maiden.

Pinks of odour faint.

Two Noble Kinsmen, Introd. song.

To these may perhaps be added the following, from the second verse sung by Mariana in "Measure for Measure," act iv, sc. 1 (337)—

Hide, oh hide, those hills of snow Which thy frozen bosom bears! On whose tops the Pinks that grow Are of those that April wears.

The authority is doubtful, but it is attributed to Shakespeare in some editions of his poems.

The Pink or Pincke was, as now, the name of the smaller sorts of Carnations, and was generally applied to the single sorts. It must have been a very favourite flower, as we may gather from the phrase "Pink of courtesy," which means courtesy carried to its highest point; and from Spenser's pretty comparison—

"Her lovely eyes like Pincks but newly spred."

Amoretti, Sonnet 64.

The name has a curious history. It is not, as most of us would suppose, derived from the colour, but the colour gets its name from the plant. The name (according to Dr. Prior) comes through Pinksten (German), from Pentecost, and so was originally applied to one species—the Whitsuntide Gilliflower. From this it was applied to other species of the same family. It is certainly "a curious accident," as Dr. Prior observes, "that a word that originally meant 'fiftieth' should come to be successively the name of a festival of the Church, of a flower, of an ornament in muslin called pinking, of a colour, and of a sword stab." Shakespeare uses the word in three of its senses. First, as applied to a colour—

Come, thou monarch of the Vine, Plumpy Bacchus with Pink eyne.

Antony and Cleopatra, act ii, sc. 7.[210:1]

Second, as applied to an ornament of dress in Romeo's person—

Then is my pump well flowered;

Romeo and Juliet, act ii, sc. 4.

i.e., well pinked. And in Grumio's excuses to Petruchio for the non-attendance of the servants—

Nathaniel's coat, Sir, was not fully made, And Gabriel's pumps were all unpinked I' the heel.

Taming of the Shrew, act iv, sc. 1.

And thirdly, as the pinked ornament in muslin—

There's a haberdasher's wife of small wit near him, that railed upon me till her Pink'd porringer fell off her head.

Henry VIII, act v, sc. 3.

And as applied to the flower in the passage quoted above. He also uses it in another sense—

This Pink is one of Cupid's carriers; Clap on more sail—pursue!

Merry Wives of Windsor, act ii, sc. 7.

where pink means a small country vessel often mentioned under that name by writers of the sixteenth century.


[210:1] It is very probable that this does not refer to the colour—"Pink = winking, half-shut."—SCHMIDT. And see Nares, s.v. Pinke eyne.



Thy banks with Pioned and twilled brims, Which spongy April at thy best betrims, To make cold nymphs chaste crowns.

Tempest, act iv, sc. 1 (65).

There is much dispute about this passage, the dispute turning on the question whether "Pioned" has reference to the Peony flower or not. The word by some is supposed to mean only "digged," and it doubtless often had this meaning,[211:1] though the word is now obsolete, and only survives with us in "pioneer," which, in Shakespeare's time, meant "digger" only, and not as now, "one who goes before to prepare the way"—thus Hamlet—

Well said, old mole! cans't work i' the earth so fast? A worthy pioner?

Hamlet, act i, sc. 5 (161).

and again—

There might you see the labouring pioner Begrim'd with sweat, and smeared all with dust.

Lucrece (1380).

But this reading seems very tame, tame in itself, and doubly tame when taken in connection with the context, and "Certainly savours more of the commentators' prose than of Shakespeare's poetry" ("Edinburgh Review," 1872, p. 363). I shall assume, therefore, that the flower is meant, spelt in the form of "Piony," instead of Peony or Paeony.[211:2]

The Paeony (P. corallina) is sometimes allowed a place in the British flora, having been found apparently wild at the Steep Holmes in the Bristol Channel and a few other places, but it is now considered certain that in all these places it is a garden escape. Gerard gave one such habitat: "The male Peionie groweth wilde upon a Coneyberry in Betsome, being in the parish of Southfleet, in Kent, two miles from Gravesend, and in the ground sometimes belonging to a farmer there, called John Bradley;" but on this his editor adds the damaging note: "I have been told that our author himselfe planted that Peionee there, and afterwards seemed to find it there by accident; and I do believe it was so, because none before or since have ever seen or heard of it growing wild since in any part of this kingdome."

But though not a native plant, it had been cultivated in England long before Shakespeare's and Gerard's time. It occurs in most of the old vocabularies from the tenth century downwards, and in Shakespeare's time the English gardens had most of the European species that are now grown, including also the handsome double-red and white varieties. Since his time the number of species and varieties has been largely increased by the addition of the Chinese and Japanese species, and by the labours of the French nurserymen, who have paid more attention to the flower than the English.

In the hardy flower garden there is no more showy family than the Paeony. They have flowers of many colours, from almost pure white and pale yellow to the richest crimson; and they vary very much in their foliage, most of them having large fleshy leaves, "not much unlike the leaves of the Walnut tree," but some of them having their leaves finely cut and divided almost like the leaves of Fennel (P. tenuifolia). They further vary in that some are herbaceous, disappearing entirely in winter, while others, Moutan or Tree Paeonies, are shrubs; and in favourable seasons, when the shrub is not injured by spring frosts, there is no grander shrub than an old Tree Paeony in full flower.

Of the many different species the best are the Moutans, which, according to Chinese tradition, have been grown in China for 1500 years, and which are now produced in great variety of colour; P. corallina, for the beauty of its coral-like seeds; P. Cretica, for its earliness in flowering; P. tenuifolia, single and double, for its elegant foliage; P. Whitmaniana, for its pale yellow but very fleeting flowers, which, before they are fully expanded, have all the appearance of immense Globe-flowers (trollius); P. lobata, for the wonderful richness of its bright crimson flowers; and P. Whitleji, a very old and very double form of P. edulis, of great size, and most delicate pink and white colour.



"Which to outbarre, with painful pyonings, From sea to sea, he heapt a mighty mound!"

SPENSER, F. Q., ii, 10, 46.

[211:2] The name was variously spelt, e.g.

"And other trees there was mane one The Pyany, the Poplar, and the Plane."

The Squyr of Lowe Degre, 39.

"The pretie Pinke and purple Pianet."

CUTWODE, Caltha Poetarum, 1599, st. 24.

"A Pyon (Pyion A.) dionia, herba est."—Catholicon Anglicum.




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

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

There is no certain record how long the Plane has been introduced into England; it is certainly not a native tree, nor even an European tree, but came from the East, and was largely planted and much admired both by the Greeks and Romans. We know from Pliny that it was growing in France in his day on the part opposite Britain, and the name occurs in the old vocabularies. But from Turner's evidence in 1548 it must have been a very scarce tree in the sixteenth century. He says: "I never saw any Plaine tree in Englande, saving once in Northumberlande besyde Morpeth, and an other at Barnwell Abbey besyde Cambryge." And more than a hundred years later Evelyn records a special visit to Lee to inspect one as a great curiosity. The Plane is not only a very handsome tree, and a fast grower, but from the fact that it yearly sheds its bark it has become one of the most useful trees for growing in towns. The wood is of very little value. To the emblem writers the Plane was an example of something good to the eye, but of no real use. Camerarius so moralizes it (Pl. xix.), and, quoting Virgil's "steriles platanos," he says of it, "umbram non fructum platanus dat."


(1) Costard.

O sir, Plantain, a plain Plantain! no l'envoy, no l'envoy; no salve, sir, but a Plantain.

* * * * *


By saying that a costard was broken in a shin. Then call'd you for the l'envoy.


True! and I for a Plantain.

Loves Labour's Lost, act iii, sc. 1 (76).

(2) Romeo.

Your Plantain leaf is excellent for that.


For what, I pray thee?


For your broken shin.

Romeo and Juliet, act i, sc. 2 (52).

(3) Troilus.

As true as steel, as Plantage to the moon.

Troilus and Cressida, act iii, sc. 2 (184).

(4) Palamon.

These poore slight sores Neede not a Plantin.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act i, sc. 2 (65).

The most common old names for the Plantain were Waybroad (corrupted to Weybread, Wayborn, and Wayforn) and Ribwort. It was also called Lamb's-tongue and Kemps, while the flower spike with the stalk was called Cocks and Cockfighters (still so called by children).[214:1] The old name of Ribwort was derived from the ribbed leaves, while Waybroad marked its universal appearance, scattered by all roadsides and pathways, and literally bred by the wayside. It has a similar name in German, Wegetritt, that is Waytread; and on this account the Swedes name the plant Wagbredblad, and the Indians of North America Whiteman's Foot, for it springs up near every new settlement, having sprung up after the English settlers, not only in America, but also in Australia and New Zealand—

"Whereso'er they move, before them Swarms the stinging fly, the Ahmo, Swarms the bee, the honey-maker: Wheresoe'er they tread, beneath them Springs a flower unknown among us, Springs the 'White man's foot' in blossom."


And "so it is a mistake to say that Plantain is derived from the likeness of the plant to the sole of the foot, as in Richardson's Dictionary. Rather say, because the herb grows under the sole of the foot."—JOHNSTON. How, or when, or why the plant lost its old English names to take the Latin name of Plantain, it is hard to say. It occurs in a vocabulary of the names of plants of the middle of the thirteenth century—"Plantago, Planteine, Weibrode," and apparently came to us from the French, "Cy est assets de Planteyne, Weybrede."—WALTER DE BIBLESWORTH (13th cent.) But with the exception of Chaucer[215:1] I believe Shakespeare is almost the only early writer that uses the name, though it is very certain that he did not invent it; but "Plantage" (No 3), which is doubtless the same plant, is peculiar to him.[215:2]

It was as a medical herb that our forefathers chiefly valued the Plantain, and for medical purposes its reputation was of the very highest. In a book of recipes (Lacnunga) of the eleventh century, by AElfric, is an address to the Waybroad, which is worth extracting at length—

"And thou, Waybroad! Mother of worts, Open from eastward, Mighty within; Over thee carts creaked, Over thee Queens rode, Over thee brides bridalled, Over thee bulls breathed, All these thou withstood'st Venom and vile things And all the loathly ones That through the land rove."

COCKAYNE'S Translation.

In another earlier recipe book the Waybroad is prescribed for twenty-two diseases, one after another; and in another of the same date we are taught how to apply it: "If a man ache in half his head . . . delve up Waybroad without iron ere the rising of the sun, bind the roots about the head with Crosswort by a red fillet, soon he will be well." But the Plantain did not long sustain its high reputation, which even in Shakespeare's time had become much diminished. "I find," says Gerard, "in ancient writers many good-morrowes, which I think not meet to bring into your memorie againe; as that three roots will cure one griefe, four another disease, six hanged about the neck are good for another maladie, &c., all which are but ridiculous toys." Yet the bruised leaves still have some reputation as a styptic and healing plaster among country herbalists, and perhaps the alleged virtues are not altogether fanciful.

As a garden plant the Plantain can only be regarded as a weed and nuisance, especially on lawns, where it is very difficult to destroy them. Yet there are some curious varieties which may claim a corner where botanical curiosities are grown. The Plantain seems to have a peculiar tendency to run into abnormal forms, many of which will be found described and figured in Dr. Masters' "Vegetable Teratology," and among these forms are two which are exactly like a double green Rose, and have been cultivated as the Rose Plantain for many years. They were grown by Gerard, who speaks of "the beauty which is in the plant," and compared it to "a fine double Rose of a hoary or rusty greene colour." Parkinson also grew it and valued it highly.


[214:1] Of these names Plantain properly belongs to Plantago major; Lamb's-tongue to P. media; and Kemps, Cocks, and Ribwort to P. lanceolata.


"His forehead dropped as a stillatorie Were ful of Plantayn and peritorie."

Prologue of the Chanoune's Yeman.

[215:2] Nares, and Schmidt from him, consider Plantage = anything planted.


(1) Constance.

Give grandam kingdom, and it grandam will Give it a Plum, a Cherry, and a Fig.

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

(2) Hamlet.

The satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and Plum-tree gum.

Hamlet, act ii, sc. 2 (198).

(3) Simpcox.

A fall off a tree.


A Plum-tree, master.

* * * * *


Mass, thou lovedst Plums well that wouldst venture so.


Alas! good master, my wife desired some Damsons, And made me climb with danger of my life.

2nd Henry VI, act ii, sc. 1 (196).

(4) Evans.

I will dance and eat Plums at your wedding.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act v, sc. 5.[217:1]


The mellow Plum doth fall, the green sticks fast, Or, being early pluck'd, is sour to taste.

Venus and Adonis (527).


Like a green Plum that hangs upon a tree, And falls, through wind, before the fall should be.

Passionate Pilgrim (135).

(7) Slender.

Three veneys for a dish of stewed Prunes.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act i, sc. 1 (295).

(8) Falstaff.

There's no more faith in thee than in a stewed Prune.

1st Henry IV, act iii, sc. 3 (127).

(9) Pompey.

Longing (saving your honour's presence) for stewed Prunes.

* * * * *

And longing, as I said, for Prunes.

* * * * *

You being then, if you he remembered, cracking the stones of the foresaid Prunes.

Measure for Measure, act ii, sc. 1 (92).

(10) Clown.

Four pounds of Prunes, and as many of Raisins of the sun.

Winters Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (51).

(11) Falstaff.

Hang him, rogue; he lives upon mouldy stewed Prunes and dried cakes.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (158).

Plums, Damsons, and Prunes may conveniently be joined together, Plums and Damsons being often used synonymously (as in No. 3), and Prunes being the dried Plums. The Damsons were originally, no doubt, a good variety from the East, and nominally from Damascus.[217:2] They seem to have been considered great delicacies, as in a curious allegorical drama of the fifteenth century, called "La Nef de Sante," of which an account is given by Mr. Wright: "Bonne-Compagnie, to begin the day, orders a collation, at which, among other things, are served Damsons (Prunes de Damas), which appear at this time to have been considered as delicacies. There is here a marginal direction to the purport that if the morality should be performed in the season when real Damsons could not be had, the performers must have some made of wax to look like real ones" ("History of Domestic Manners," &c.).

The garden Plums are a good cultivated variety of our own wild Sloe, but a variety that did not originate in England, and may very probably have been introduced by the Romans. The Sloe and Bullace are, speaking botanically, two sub-species of Prunus communis, while the Plum is a third sub-species (P. communis domestica). The garden Plum is occasionally found wild in England, but is certainly not indigenous. It is somewhat strange that our wild plant is not mentioned by Shakespeare under any of its well-known names of Sloe, Bullace, and Blackthorn. Not only is it a shrub of very marked appearance in our hedgerows in early spring, when it is covered with its pure white blossoms, but Blackthorn staves were indispensable in the rough game of quarterstaff, and the Sloe gave point to more than one English proverb: "as black as a Sloe," was a very common comparison, and "as useless as a Sloe," or "not worth a Sloe," was as common.

"Sir Amys answered, 'Tho' I give thee thereof not one Sloe! Do right all that thou may!"

Amys and Amylion—ELLIS'S Romances.

"The offecial seyde, Thys ys nowth Be God, that me der bowthe, Het ys not worthe a Sclo."

The Frere and His Boy—RITSON'S Ancient Popular Poetry.

Though even as a fruit the Sloe had its value, and was not altogether despised by our ancestors, for thus Tusser advises—

"By thend of October go gather up Sloes, Have thou in readines plentie of thoes, And keepe them in bed-straw, or still on the bow, To staie both the flix of thyselfe and thy cow."

As soon as the garden Plum was introduced, great attention seems to have been paid to it, and the gardeners of Shakespeare's time could probably show as good Plums as we can now. "To write of Plums particularly," said Gerard, "would require a peculiar volume. . . . Every clymate hath his owne fruite, far different from that of other countries; my selfe have threescore sorts in my garden, and all strange and rare; there be in other places many more common, and yet yearly commeth to our hands others not before knowne."


[217:1] Omitted in the Globe edition.

[217:2] Bullein, in his "Government of Health," 1588, calls them "Damaske Prunes."


(1) Lafeu.

Go to, sir, you were beaten in Italy for picking a kernel out of a Pomegranate.

All's Well that Ends Well, act ii, sc. 3 (275).

(2) Juliet.

It was the nightingale and not the lark, That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yon Pomegranate tree.[219:1]

Romeo and Juliet, act iii, sc. 5 (2).

(3) Francis.

Anon, anon, sir, Look down into the Pomegarnet, Ralph.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (41).

There are few trees that surpass the Pomegranate in interest and beauty combined. "Whoever has seen the Pomegranate in a favourable soil and climate, whether as a single shrub or grouped many together, has seen one of the most beautiful of green trees; its spiry shape and thick-tufted foliage of vigorous green, each growing shoot shaded into tenderer verdure and bordered with crimson and adorned with the loveliest flowers; filmy petals of scarlet lustre are put forth from the solid crimson cup, and the ripe fruit of richest hue and most admirable shape."—LADY CALCOTT'S Scripture Herbal. A simpler but more valued testimony to the beauty of the Pomegranate is borne in its selection for the choicest ornaments on the ark of the Tabernacle, on the priest's vestments, and on the rich capitals of the pillars in the Temple of Solomon.

The native home of the Pomegranate is not very certainly known, but the evidence chiefly points to the North of Africa. It was very early cultivated in Egypt, and was one of the Egyptian delicacies so fondly remembered by the Israelites in their desert wanderings, and is frequently met with in Egyptian sculpture. It was abundant in Palestine, and is often mentioned in the Bible, and always as an object of beauty and desire. It was highly appreciated by the Greeks and Romans, but it was probably not introduced into Italy in very early times, as Pliny is the first author that certainly mentions it, though some critics have supposed that the aurea mala and aurea poma of Virgil and Ovid were Pomegranates. From Italy the tree soon spread into other parts of Europe, taking with it its Roman name of Punica malus or Pomum granatum. Punica showed the country from which the Romans derived it, while granatum (full of grains) marked the special characteristic of the fruit that distinguished it from all other so-called Apples. Gerard says: "Pomegranates grow in hot countries, towards the south in Italy, Spaine, and chiefly in the kingdom of Granada, which is thought to be so named of the great multitude of Pomegranates, which be commonly called Granata."[220:1] This derivation is very doubtful, but was commonly accepted in Gerard's day.[220:2] The Pomegranate lives and flowers well in England, but when it was first introduced is not recorded. I do not find it in the old vocabularies, but a prominent place is given to it in "that Gardeyn, wele wrought," "the garden that so lyked me;"—

"There were, and that I wote fulle well, Of Pomgarnettys a fulle gret delle, That is a fruit fulle welle to lyke, Namely to folk whaune they ben sike."

Romaunt of the Rose.

Turner describes it in 1548: "Pomegranat trees growe plentuously in Italy and in Spayne, and there are certayne in my Lorde's gardene at Syon, but their fruite cometh never with perfection."[221:1]

Gerard had it in 1596, but from his description it seems that it was a recent acquisition. "I have recovered," he says, "divers young trees hereof, by sowing of the seed or grains of the height of three or four cubits, attending God's leisure for floures and fruit." Three years later, in 1599, it is noticed for its flowers in Buttes's "Dyet's Dry Dinner" (as quoted by Brand), where it is asserted that "if one eate three small Pomegranate flowers (they say) for a whole yeare he shall be safe from all manner of eyesore;" and Gerard speaks of the "wine which is pressed forth of the Pomegranate berries named Rhoitas or wine of Pomegranates," but this may have been imported. But, when introduced, it at once took kindly to its new home, so that Parkinson was able to describe its flowers and fruits from personal observation. In all the southern parts of England it grows very well, and is one of the very best trees we have to cover a south wall; it also grows well in towns, as may be seen at Bath, where a great many very fine specimens have been planted in the areas in front of the houses, and have grown to a considerable height. When thus planted and properly pruned, the tree will bear its beautiful flowers from May all through the summer; but generally the tree is so pruned that it cannot flower. It should be pruned like a Banksian Rose, and other plants that bear their flowers on last year's shoots, i.e., simply thinned, but not cut back or spurred. With this treatment the branches may be allowed to grow in their natural way without being nailed in, and if the single-blossomed species be grown, the flowers in good summers will bear fruit. In 1876 I counted on a tree in Bath more than sixty fruit; the fruits will perhaps seldom be worth eating, but they are curious and handsome. The sorts usually grown are the pure scarlet (double and single), and a very double variety with the flowers somewhat variegated. These are the most desirable, but there are a few other species and varieties, including a very beautiful dwarf one from the East Indies that is too tender for our climate out-of-doors, but is largely grown on the Continent as a window plant.


[219:1] In illustration of Juliet's speech Mr. Knight very aptly quotes a similar remark from Russell's "History of Aleppo," adding that a "friend whose observations as a traveller are as accurate as his descriptions are graphic and forcible, informs us that throughout his journeys in the East he never heard such a choir of nightingales as in a row of Pomegranate trees that skirt the road from Smyrna to Bondjia."

[220:1] In a Bill of Medicines furnished for the use of Edward I. 1306-7, is—

"Item pro malis granatis vi. lx s. Item pro vino malorum granatorun xx lb., lx s."

Archaeological Journal, xiv, 27.

[220:2] See Prescott's "Ferdinand and Isabella," vol. iii. p. 346, note (Ed. 1849)—the arms of the city are a split Pomegranate.

[221:1] "Names of Herbes," s.v. Malus Punica.





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

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

The Poppy had of old a few other names, such as Corn-rose and Cheese-bowls (a very old name for the flower), and being "of great beautie, although of evil smell, our gentlewomen doe call it Jone Silverpin." This name is difficult of explanation, even with Parkinson's help, who says it meanes "faire without and foule within," but it probably alludes to its gaudy colour and worthlessness. But these names are scarcely the common names of the plant, but rather nicknames; the usual name is, and always has been, Poppy, which is an easily traced corruption from the Latin papaver, the Saxon and Early English names being variously spelt, popig and papig, popi and papy; so that the Poppy is another instance of a very common and conspicuous English plant known only or chiefly by its Latin name Anglicised.

Our common English Poppy, "being of a beautiful and gallant red colour," is certainly one of the handsomest of our wild flowers, and a Wheat field with a rich undergrowth of scarlet Poppies is a sight very dear to the artist,[223:1] while the weed is not supposed to do much harm to the farmer. But this is not the Poppy mentioned by Iago, for its narcotic qualities are very small; the Poppy that he alludes to is the Opium Poppy (P. somniferum). This Poppy was well known and cultivated in England long before Shakespeare's day, but only as a garden ornament; the Opium was then, as now, imported from the East. Its deadly qualities were well known. Gower describes it—

"There is growend upon the ground Popy that bereth the sede of slepe."

Conf. Aman., lib. quint. (2, 102 Paulli).

Spenser speaks of the plant as the "dull Poppy," and describing the Garden of Proserpina, he says—

"There mournful Cypress grew in greatest store, And trees of bitter gall, and Heben sad, Dead-sleeping Poppy, and black Hellebore, Cold Coloquintida."

F. Q., ii, 7, 52.

And Drayton similarly describes it—

"Here Henbane, Poppy, Hemlock here, Procuring deadly sleeping."

Nymphal v.

The name of opium does not seem to have been in general use, except among the apothecaries. Chaucer, however, uses it—

"A claire made of a certayn wyn, With necotykes, and opye of Thebes fyn."

The Knightes Tale.

And so does Milton—

"Which no cooling herb Or medicinal liquor can asswage, Nor breath of vernal air from Snowy Alp; Sleep hath forsook and given me o'er To death's benumming opium as my only cure."

Samson Agonistes.

Many of the Poppies are very ornamental garden plants. The pretty yellow Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis Cambrica), abundant at Cheddar Cliffs, is an excellent plant for the rockwork where, when once established, it will grow freely and sow itself; and for the same place the little Papaver Alpinum, with its varieties, is equally well suited. For the open border the larger Poppies are very suitable, especially the great Oriental Poppy (P. orientale) and the grand scarlet Siberian Poppy (P. bracteatum), perhaps the most gorgeous of hardy plants: while among the rarer species of the tribe we must reckon the Meconopses of the Himalayas (M. Wallichi and M. Nepalensis), plants of singular beauty and elegance, but very difficult to grow, and still more difficult to keep, even if once established; for though perfectly hardy, they are little more than biennials. Besides these Poppies, the large double garden Poppies are very showy and of great variety in colour, but they are only annuals.


[223:1] "We usually think of the Poppy as a coarse flower; but it is the most transparent and delicate of all the blossoms of the field. The rest, nearly all of them, depend on the texture of their surface for colour. But the Poppy is painted glass; it never glows so brightly as when the sun shines through it. Wherever it is seen, against the light or with the light, always it is a flame, and warms the wind like a blown ruby."—RUSKIN, Proserpina, p. 86.


(1) Thersites.

How the devil Luxury, with his fat rump and Potato-finger, tickles these together.

Troilus and Cressida, act v, sc. 2 (55).

(2) Falstaff.

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

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

The chief interest in these two passages is that they contain almost the earliest notice of Potatoes after their introduction into England. The generally received account is that they were introduced into Ireland in 1584 by Sir Walter Raleigh, and from thence brought into England; but the year of their first planting in England is not recorded. They are not mentioned by Lyte in 1586. Gerard grew them in 1597, but only as curiosities, under the name of Virginian Potatoes (Battata Virginianorum and Pappas), to distinguish them from the Spanish Potato, or Convolvulus Battatas, which had been long grown in Europe, and in the first edition of his "Herbal" is his portrait, showing him holding a Potato in his hand. They seem to have grown into favour very slowly, for half a century after their introduction, Waller still spoke of them as one of the tropical luxuries of the Bermudas—

"With candy'd Plantains and the juicy Pine, On choicest Melons and sweet Grapes they dine, And with Potatoes fat their wanton swine."

The Battel of the Summer Islands.

Potato is a corruption of Batatas or Patatas.

As soon as the Potato arrived in England, it was at once invested with wonderful restorative powers, and in a long exhaustive note in Steevens' Shakespeare, Mr. Collins has given all the passages in the early writers in which the Potato is mentioned, and in every case they have reference to these supposed virtues. These passages, which are chiefly from the old dramatists, are curious and interesting in the early history of the Potato, and as throwing light on the manners of our ancestors; but as in every instance they are all more or less indelicate, I refrain from quoting them here.

As a garden plant, we now restrict the Potato to the kitchen garden and the field, but it belongs to a very large family, the Solanaceae or Nightshades, of which many members are very ornamental, though as they chiefly come from the tropical regions, there are very few that can be treated as entirely hardy plants. One, however, is a very beautiful climber—the Solanum jasminoides from South America—and quite hardy in the South of England. Trained against a wall it will soon cover it, and when once established will bear its handsome trusses of white flowers with yellow anthers in great profusion during the whole summer. A better known member of the family is the Petunia, very handsome, but little better than an annual. The pretty Winter Cherry (Physalis alkekengi) is another member of the family, and so is the Mandrake (see MANDRAKE). The whole tribe is poisonous, or at least to be suspected, yet it contains a large number of most useful plants, as the Potato, Tomato, Tobacco, Datura, and Cayenne Pepper.


(1) Queen.

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

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

(2) Queen.

I would be blind with weeping, sick with groans, Look pale as Primrose with blood-drinking sighs, And all to have the noble duke alive.

2nd Henry VI, act iii, sc. 2 (62).

(3) Arviragus.

Thou shalt not lack The flower that's like thy face, pale Primrose.

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

(4) Hermia.

In the wood where often you and I Upon faint Primrose-beds were wont to lie.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act i, sc. 1 (214).

(5) Perdita.

Pale Primroses, That die unmarried, ere they can behold Bright Phoebus in his strength.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 4 (122).

(6) Ophelia.

Like a puff'd and reckless libertine, Himself the Primrose path of dalliance treads And recks not his own rede.

Hamlet, act i, sc. 3 (49).

(7) Porter.

I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the Primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.

Macbeth, act ii, sc. 3 (20).


Primrose, first-born child of Ver Merry spring-time's harbinger, With her bells dim.

Two Noble Kinsmen, Introd. song.


Witness this Primrose bank whereon I lie.

Venus and Adonis (151).

Whenever we speak of spring flowers, the first that comes into our minds is the Primrose. Both for its simple beauty and for its early arrival among us we give it the first place over

"Whatsoever other flowre of worth And whatso other hearb of lovely hew, The joyous Spring out of the ground brings forth To cloath herself in colours fresh and new."

It is a plant equally dear to children and their elders, so that I cannot believe that there is any one (except Peter Bell) to whom

"A Primrose by the river's brim A yellow Primrose is to him— And it is nothing more;"

rather I should believe that W. Browne's "Wayfaring Man" is a type of most English countrymen in their simple admiration of the common flower—

"As some wayfaring man passing a wood, Whose waving top hath long a sea-mark stood, Goes jogging on and in his mind nought hath, But how the Primrose finely strews the path, Or sweetest Violets lay down their heads At some tree's roots or mossy feather beds."

Britannia's Pastorals, i, 5.

It is the first flower, except perhaps the Daisy, of which a child learns the familiar name; and yet it is a plant of unfailing interest to the botanical student, while its name is one of the greatest puzzles to the etymologist. The common and easy explanation of the name is that it means the first Rose of the year, but (like so many explanations that are derived only from the sound and modern appearance of a a name) this is not the true account. The full history of the name is too long to give here, but the short account is this—"The old name was Prime Rolles—or primerole. Primerole is an abbreviation of Fr., primeverole: It., primaverola, diminutive of prima vera from flor di prima vera, the first spring flower. Primerole, as an outlandish unintelligible word, was soon familiarized into primerolles, and this into primrose."—DR. PRIOR. The name Primrose was not at first always applied to the flower, but was an old English word, used to show excellence—

"A fairer nymph yet never saw mine eie, She is the pride and Primrose of the rest."

SPENSER, Colin Clout.

"Was not I [the Briar] planted of thine own hande To bee the Primrose of all thy lande; With flow'ring blossomes to furnish the prime And scarlet berries in sommer time?"

SPENSER, Shepherd's Calendar—Februarie.

It was also a flower name, but not of our present Primrose, but of a very different plant. Thus in a Nominale of the fifteenth century we have "hoc ligustrum, a Primerose;" and in a Pictorial Vocabulary of the same date we have "hoc ligustrum, A{ce} a Prymrose;" and in the "Promptorium Parvulorum," "Prymerose, primula, calendula, ligustrum"—and this name for the Privet lasted with a slight alteration into Shakespeare's time. Turner in 1538 says, "ligustrum arbor est non herba ut literatorū vulgus credit; nihil que minus est quam a Prymerose." In Tusser's "Husbandry" we have "set Privie or Prim" (September Abstract), and—

"Now set ye may The Box and Bay Hawthorn and Prim For clothe's trim"—(January Abstract).

And so it is described by Gerard as the Privet or Prim Print (i.e., prime printemps), and even in the seventeenth century, Cole says of ligustrum, "This herbe is called Primrose." When the name was fixed to our present plant I cannot say, but certainly before Shakespeare's time, though probably not long before. It is rather remarkable that the flower, which we now so much admire, seems to have been very much overlooked by the writers before Shakespeare. In the very old vocabularies it does not at all appear by its present Latin name, Primula vulgaris, but that is perhaps not to be wondered at, as nearly all the old botanists applied that name to the Daisy. But neither is it much noticed by any English name. I can only find it in two of the vocabularies. In an English Vocabulary of the fourteenth century is "Haec pimpinella, A{e} primerolle," but it is very doubtful if this can be our Primrose, as the Pimpernel of old writers was the Burnet. Gower mentions it as the flower of the star Canis Minor—

"His stone and herbe as saith the scole Ben Achates and Primerole."

Conf. Aman. lib. sept. (3, 130. Paulli).

And in the treatise of Walter de Biblesworth (13th century) is—

"Primerole et primeveyre (cousloppe) Sur tere aperunt en tems de veyre."

I should think there is no doubt this is our Primrose. Then we have Chaucer's description of a fine lady—

"Hir schos were laced on hir legges hyghe Sche was a Primerole, a piggesneyghe For any lord have liggyng in his bedde, Or yet for any gode yeman to wedde."

The Milleres Tale.

I have dwelt longer than usual on the name of this flower, because it gives us an excellent example of how much literary interest may be found even in the names of our common English plants.

But it is time to come from the name to the flower. The English Primrose is one of a large family of more than fifty species, represented in England by the Primrose, the Oxlip, the Cowslip, and the Bird's-eye Primrose of the North of England and Scotland. All the members of the family, whether British or exotic, are noted for the simple beauty of their flowers, but in this special character there is none that surpasses our own. "It is the very flower of delicacy and refinement; not that it shrinks from our notice, for few plants are more easily seen, coming as it does when there is a dearth of flowers, when the first birds are singing, and the first bees humming, and the earliest green putting forth in the March and April woods; and it is one of those plants which dislikes to be looking cheerless, but keeps up a smouldering fire of blossom from the very opening of the year, if the weather will permit."—FORBES WATSON. It is this character of cheerfulness that so much endears the flower to us; as it brightens up our hedgerows after the dulness of winter, the harbinger of many brighter perhaps, but not more acceptable, beauties to come, it is the very emblem of cheerfulness. Yet it is very curious to note what entirely different ideas it suggested to our forefathers. To them the Primrose seems always to have brought associations of sadness, or even worse than sadness, for the "Primrose paths" and "Primrose ways" of Nos. 6 and 7 are meant to be suggestive of pleasures, but sinful pleasures.

Spenser associates it with death in some beautiful lines, in which a husband laments the loss of a young and beautiful wife—

"Mine was the Primerose in the lowly shade!

* * * * *

Oh! that so fair a flower so soon should fade, And through untimely tempest fade away."

Daphnidia, 232.

In another place he speaks of it as "the Primrose trew"—Prothalamion; but in another place his only epithet for it is "green," which quite ignores its brightness—

"And Primroses greene Embellish the sweete Violet."

Shepherd's Calendar—April.

Shakespeare has no more pleasant epithets for our favourite flower than "pale," "faint," "that die unmarried;" and Milton follows in the same strain yet sadder. Once, indeed, he speaks of youth as "Brisk as the April buds in Primrose season" ("Comus"); but only in three passages does he speak of the Primrose itself, and in two of these he connects it with death—

"Bring the rathe Primrose that forsaken dies,

* * * * *

And every flower that sad embroidery wears."—Lycidas.

"O fairest flower, no sooner blown but blasted, Soft silken Primrose fading timelesslie; Summer's chief honour, if thou hadst outlasted Bleak winter's force that made thy blossoms drie."

On the Death of a Fair Infant.

His third account is a little more joyous—

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

On May Morning.

And nearly all the poets of that time spoke in the same strain, with the exception of Ben Jonson and the two Fletchers. Jonson spoke of it as "the glory of the spring" and as "the spring's own spouse." Giles Fletcher says—

"Every bush lays deeply perfumed With Violets; the wood's late wintry head, Wide flaming Primroses set all on fire."

And Phineas Fletcher—

"The Primrose lighted new her flame displays, And frights the neighbour hedge with fiery rays. And here and there sweet Primrose scattered.

* * * * *

Nature seem'd work'd by Art, so lively true, A little heaven or earth in narrow space she drew."

I can only refer very shortly to the botanical interest of the Primula, and that only to direct attention to Mr. Darwin's paper in the "Journal of the Linnaean Society," 1862, in which he records his very curious and painstaking inquiries into the dimorphism of the Primula, a peculiarity in the Primula that gardeners had long recognized in their arrangement of Primroses as "pin-eyed" and "thrum-eyed." It is perhaps owing to this dimorphism that the family is able to show a very large number of natural hybrids. These have been carefully studied by Professor Kerner, of Innspruck, and it seems not unlikely that a further study will show that all the European so-called species are natural hybrids from a very few parents.

Yet a few words on the Primrose as a garden plant. If the Primrose be taken from the hedges in November, and planted in beds thickly in the garden, they make a beautiful display of flowers and foliage from February till the beds are required for the summer flowers; and there are few of our wild flowers that run into so many varieties in their wild state. In Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire I have seen the wild Primrose of nearly all shades of colour, from the purest white to an almost bright red, and these can all be brought into the garden with a certainty of success and a certainty of rapid increase. There are also many double varieties, all of which are more often seen in cottage gardens than elsewhere; yet no gardener need despise them.

One other British Primrose, the Bird's-eye Primrose, almost defies garden cultivation, though in its native habitats in the north it grows in most ungenial places. I have seen places in the neighbourhood of the bleak hill of Ingleborough, where it almost forms the turf; yet away from its native habitat it is difficult to keep, except in a greenhouse. For the cultivation of the other non-English species, I cannot do better than refer to an excellent paper by Mr. Niven in the "The Garden" for January 29, 1876, in which he gives an exhaustive account of them.

I am not aware that Primroses are of any use in medicine or cookery, yet Tusser names the Primrose among "seeds and herbs for the kitchen," and Lyte says "the Cowslips, Primroses, and Oxlips are now used dayly amongst other pot herbes, but in physicke there is no great account made of them." They occur in heraldy. The arms of the Earls of Rosebery (Primrose) are three Primroses within a double tressure fleury counter-fleury, or.



Mrs. Ford.

Go to, then. We'll use this unwholesome humidity, this gross watery Pumpion.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act iii, sc. 3 (42).

The old name for the Cucumber (in AElfric's "Vocabulary") is hwer-hwette, i.e., wet ewer, but Pumpion, Pompion, and Pumpkin were general terms including all the Cucurbitaceae such as Melons, Gourds, Cucumbers, and Vegetable Marrows. All were largely grown in Shakespeare's days, but I should think the reference here must be to one of the large useless Gourds, for Mrs. Ford's comparison is to Falstaff, and Gourds were grown large enough to bear out even that comparison. "The Gourd groweth into any forme or fashion you would have it, . . . being suffered to clime upon an arbour where the fruit may hang; it hath beene seene to be nine foot long." And the little value placed upon the whole tribe helped to bear out the comparison. They were chiefly good to "cure copper faces, red and shining fierce noses (as red as red Roses), with pimples, pumples, rubies, and such-like precious faces." This was Gerard's account of the Cucumber, while of the Cucumber Pompion, which was evidently our Vegetable Marrow, and of which he has described and figured the variety which we now call the Custard Marrow, he says, "it maketh a man apt and ready to fall into the disease called the colericke passion, and of some the felonie."

Mrs. Ford's comparison of a big loutish man to an overgrown Gourd has not been lost in the English language, for "bumpkin" is only another form of "Pumpkin," and Mr. Fox Talbot, in his "English Etymologies," has a very curious account of the antiquity of the nickname. "The Greeks," he says, "called a very weak and soft-headed person a Pumpion, whence the proverb peponos malakoteros, softer than a Pumpion; and even one of Homer's heroes, incensed at the timidity of his soldiers, exclaims o pepones, you Pumpions! So also cornichon (Cucumber) is a term of derision in French."

Yet the Pumpion or Gourd had its uses, moral uses. Modern critics have decided that Jonah's Gourd, "which came up in a night and perished in a night," was not a Gourd, but the Palma Christi, or Castor-oil tree. But our forefathers called it a Gourd, and believing that it was so, they used the Gourd to point many a moral and illustrate many a religious emblem. Thus viewed it was the standing emblem of the rapid growth and quick decay of evil-doers and their evil deeds. "Cito nata, cito pereunt," was the history of the evil deeds, while the doers of them could only say—

"Quasi solstitialis herba fui, Repente exortus sum, repente occidi."




They call for Dates and Quinces in the pastry.

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

Quince is also the name of one of the "homespun actors" in "Midsummer Night's Dream," and is no doubt there used as a ludicrous name. The name was anciently spelt "coynes"—

"And many homely trees ther were That Peches, Coynes, and Apples bere, Medlers, Plommes, Perys, Chesteyns, Cherys, of which many oon fayne is."

Romaunt of the Rose.

The same name occurs in the old English vocabularies, as in a Nominale of the fifteenth century, "haec cocianus, a coventre;" in an English vocabulary of the fourteenth century, "Hoc coccinum, a quoyne," and in the treatise of Walter de Biblesworth, in the thirteenth century—

"Issi troverez en ce verger Estang un sek Coigner (a Coyn-tre, Quince-tre)."

And there is little doubt that "Quince" is a corruption of "coynes" which again is a corruption, not difficult to trace, of Cydonia, one of the most ancient cities of Crete, where the Quince tree is indigenous, and whence it derived its name of Pyrus Cydonia, or simply Cydonia. If not indigenous elsewhere in the East, it was very soon cultivated, and especially in Palestine. It is not yet a settled point, and probably never will be, but there is a strong consensus of most of the best commentators, that the Tappuach of Scripture, always translated Apple, was the Quince. It is supposed to be the fruit alluded to in the Canticles, "As the Apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons; I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste;" and in Proverbs, "A word fitly spoken is like Apples of gold in pictures of silver;" and the tree is supposed to have given its name to various places in Palestine, as Tappuach, Beth-Tappuach, and Aen-Tappuach.

By the Greeks and Romans the Quince was held in honour as the fruit especially sacred to Venus, who is often represented as holding a Quince in her right hand, the gift which she received from Paris. In other sculptures "the amorous deities pull Quinces in gardens and play with them. For persons to send Quinces in presents, to throw them at each other, to eat them together, were all tokens of love; to dream of Quinces was a sign of successful love" (Rosenmuller). The custom was handed down to mediaeval times. It was at a wedding feast that "they called for Dates and Quinces in the pastry;" and Brand quotes a curious passage from the "Praise of Musicke," 1586 ("Romeo and Juliet" was published in 1596)—"I come to marriages, wherein as our ancestors did fondly, and with a kind of doting, maintaine many rites and ceremonies, some whereof were either shadowes or abodements of a pleasant life to come, as the eating of a Quince Peare to be a preparative of sweet and delightful dayes between the married persons."

To understand this high repute in which the Quince was held, we must remember that the Quince of hot countries differs somewhat from the English Quince. With us the fruit is of a fine, handsome shape, and of a rich golden colour when fully ripe, and of a strong scent, which is very agreeable to many, though too heavy and overpowering to others. But the rind is rough and woolly, and the flesh is harsh and unpalatable, and only fit to be eaten when cooked. In hotter countries the woolly rind is said to disappear, and the fruit can be eaten raw; and this is the case not only in Eastern countries, but also in the parts of Tropical America to which the tree has been introduced from Europe.

In England the Quince is probably less grown now than it was in Shakespeare's time—yet it may well be grown as an ornamental shrub even by those who do not appreciate its fruit. It forms a thick bush, with large white flowers, followed in the autumn by its handsome fruit, and requires no care. "They love shadowy, moist places;" "It delighteth to grow on plaine and even ground and somewhat moist withall." This was Lyte's and Gerard's experience, and I have never seen handsomer bushes or finer fruit than I once saw on some neglected bushes that skirted a horsepond on a farm in Kent; the trees were evidently revelling in their state of moisture and neglect. The tree has a horticultural value as giving an excellent stock for Pear-trees, on which it has a very remarkable effect, for "Cabanis asserts that when certain Pears are grafted on the Quince, their seeds yield more varieties than do the seeds of the same variety of Pear when grafted on the wild Pear."—DARWIN. Its economic value is considered to be but small, being chiefly used for Marmalade,[236:1] but in Shakespeare's time, Browne spoke of it as "the stomach's comforter, the pleasing Quince," and Parkinson speaks highly of it, for "there is no fruit growing in the land," he says, "that is of so many excellent uses as this, serving as well to make many dishes of meat for the table, as for banquets, and much more for their physical virtues, whereof to write at large is neither convenient for me nor for this work."


[236:1] This was a very old use for the Quince. Wynkyn de Worde, in the "Boke of Kervynge" (p. 266), speaks of "char de Quynce;" and John Russell, in the "Boke of Nurture" (l. 75), speaks of "chare de Quynces." This was Quince marmalade.


(1) Falstaff.

When a' was naked, he was, for all the world, like a fork'd Radish.

2nd Henry IV, act iii, sc. 2 (333).

(2) Falstaff.

If I fought not with fifty of them, I am a bunch of Radish.

1st Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (205).

There can be no doubt that the Radish was so named because it was considered by the Romans, for some reason unknown to us, the root par excellence. It was used by them, as by us, "as a stimulus before meat, giving an appetite thereunto"—

"Acria circum Rapula, lactucae, Radices, qualia lassum Pervellunt stomachum."—HORACE.

But it was cultivated, or allowed to grow, to a much larger size than we now think desirable. Pliny speaks of Radishes weighing 40lb. each, and others speak even of 60lb. and 100lb. But in Shakespeare's time the Radish was very much what it is now, a pleasant salad vegetable, but of no great value. We read, however, of Radishes being put to strange uses. Lupton, a writer of Shakespeare's day, says: "If you would kill snakes and adders strike them with a large Radish, and to handle adders and snakes without harm, wash your hands in the juice of Radishes and you may do without harm" ("Notable Things," 1586).

We read also of great attempts being made to procure oil from the seed, but to no great effect. Hakluyt, in describing the sufficiency of the English soil to produce everything necessary in the manufacture of cloth, says: "So as there wanteth, if colours might be brought in and made naturall, but onely oile; the want whereof if any man could devise to supply at the full with anything that might become naturall in this realme, he, whatsoever he were that might bring it about, might deserve immortal fame in this our Commonwealth, and such a devise was offered to Parliament and refused, because they denied to allow him a certain liberty, some others having obtained the same before that practised to work that effect by Radish seed, which onely made a trial of small quantity, and that went no further to make that oile in plenty, and now he that offered this devise was a merchant, and is dead, and withal the devise is dead with him" ("Voiages," vol. ii.).

The Radish is not a native of Britain, but was probably introduced by the Romans, and was well-known to the Anglo-Saxon gardener under its present name, but with a closer approach to the Latin, being called Raedic, or Radiolle.[237:1]

A curious testimony to the former high reputation of the Radish survives in the "Annual Radish Feast at Levens Hall, a custom dating from time immemorial, and supposed by some to be a relic of feudal times, held on May 12th at Levens Hall, the seat of the Hon. Mrs. Howard, and adjoining the high road about midway between Kendal and Milnthorpe. Tradition hath it that the Radish feast arose out of a rivalry between the families of Levens Hall and Dallam Tower, as to which should entertain the Corporation with their friends and followers, and in which Levens Hall eventually carried the palm. The feast is provided on the bowling green in front of the Hall, where several long tables are plentifully spread with Radishes and brown bread and butter, the tables being repeatedly furnished with guests" ("Gardener's Chronicle").


[237:1] "Catholicon Anglicum."



Four pounds of Prunes and as many of Raisins o' the sun.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (51).

Raisins are alluded to, if not actually named, in "1st Henry IV.," act ii, sc. 4, when Falstaff says: "If reasons were as plentiful as Blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon compulsion, I——" "It seems that a pun underlies this, the association of reasons with Blackberries springing out of the fact that reasons sounded like raisins."—EARLE, Philology, &c.

Bearing in mind that Raisin is a corruption of racemus, a bunch of Grapes, we can understand that the word was not always applied, as it is now, to the dried fruit, but was sometimes applied to the bunch of Grapes as it hung ripe on the tree—

"For no man at the firste stroke He may not felle down an Oke; Nor of the Reisins have the wyne Till Grapes be ripe and welle afyne."

Romaunt of the Rose.

The best dried fruit were Raisins of the sun, i.e., dried in the sun, to distinguish them from those which were dried in ovens. They were, of course, foreign fruit, and were largely imported. The process of drying in the sun is still the method in use, at least, with "the finer kinds, such as Muscatels, which are distinguished as much by the mode of drying as by the variety and soil in which they are grown, the finest being dried on the Vines before gathering, the stalk being partly cut through when the fruits are ripe, and the leaves being removed from near the clusters, so as to allow the full effect of the sun in ripening."

The Grape thus becomes a Raisin, but it is still further transformed when it reaches the cook; it then becomes a Plum, for Plum pudding has, as we all know, Raisins for its chief ingredient and certainly no Plums; and the Christmas pie into which Jack Horner put in his thumb and pulled out a Plum must have been a mince-pie, also made of Raisins; but how a cooked Raisin came to be called a Plum is not recorded. In Devonshire and Dorsetshire it undergoes a further transformation, for there Raisins are called Figs, and a Plum pudding is called a Fig pudding.


(1) 2nd Servant.

I had as lief have a Reed that will do me no service, as a partizan I could not heave.

Antony and Cleopatra, act ii, sc. 7 (13).

(2) Arviragus.

Fear no more the frown o' the great, Thou art past the tyrant's stroke; Care no more to clothe and eat; To thee the Reed is as the Oak; The sceptre, learning, physick, must All follow this, and come to dust.

Cymbeline, act iv, sc. 2 (264).

(3) Ariel.

His tears run down his beard, like winter's drops From eaves of Reeds.

Tempest, act v, sc. 1 (16).

(4) Ariel.

With hair up-staring—then like Reeds, not hair—

Ibid., act i, sc. 2 (213).

(5) Hotspur.

Swift Severn's flood; Who then, affrighted with their bloody looks, Ran fearfully among the trembling Reeds.

1st Henry IV, act 1, sc. 3 (103).

(6) Portia.

And speak between the change of man and boy With a Reed voice.

Merchant of Venice, act iii, sc. 4 (66).

(7) Wooer.

In the great Lake that lies behind the Pallace From the far shore thick set with Reeds and Sedges.

* * * * *

The Rushes and the Reeds Had so encompast it.

Two Noble Kinsmen, act iv, sc. 1 (71, 80).


To Simois' Reedy banks the red blood ran.

Lucrece (1437).

Reed is a general term for almost any water-loving, grassy plant, and so it is used by Shakespeare. In the Bible it is perhaps possible to identify some of the Reeds mentioned, with the Sugar Cane in some places, with the Papyrus in others, and in others with the Arundo donax. As a Biblical plant it has a special interest, not only as giving the emblem of the tenderest mercy that will be careful even of "the bruised Reed," but also as entering largely into the mockery of the Crucifixion: "They put a Reed in His right hand," and "they filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it upon a Reed and gave Him to drink." The Reed in these passages was probably the Arundo donax, a very elegant Reed, which was used for many purposes in Palestine, and is a most graceful plant for English gardens, being perfectly hardy, and growing every year from 12ft. to 14ft. in height, but very seldom flowering.[240:1]

But in Shakespeare, as in most writers, the Reed is simply the emblem of weakness, tossed about by and bending to a superior force, and of little or no use—"a Reed that will do me no service" (No. 1). It is also the emblem of the blessedness of submission, and of the power that lies in humility to outlast its oppressor—

"Like as in tempest great, Where wind doth bear the stroke, Much safer stands the bowing Reed Then doth the stubborn Oak."

Shakespeare mentions but two uses to which the Reed was applied, the thatching of houses (No. 3), and the making of Pan or Shepherd's pipes (No. 6). Nor has he anything to say of its beauty, yet the Reeds of our river sides (Arundo phragmites) are most graceful plants, especially when they have their dark plumes of flowers, and this Milton seems to have felt—

"Forth flourish't thick the flustering Vine, forth crept The swelling Gourd, up stood the Cornie Reed Embattled in her field."

Paradise Lost, book vii.


[240:1] I have only been able to find one record of the flowering of Arundo donax in England—"Mem: Arundo donax in flower, 15th September, 1762, the first time I ever saw it, but this very hot dry summer has made many exotics flower. . . . It bears a handsome tassel of flowers."—P. COLLINSON'S Hortus Collinsonianus.



What Rhubarb, Cyme, or what purgative drug Would scour these English hence?

Macbeth, act v, sc. 3 (55).

Andrew Boorde writing from Spayne in 1535, to Thomas Cromwell, says, "I have sent to your Mastershipp the seeds of Reuberbe the whiche come forth of Barbary in this parte ytt ys had for a grett tresure."[241:1] But the plant does not seem to have become established and Shakespeare could only have known the imported drug, for the Rheum was first grown by Parkinson, though it had been described in an uncertain way both by Lyte and Gerard. Lyte said: "Rha, as it is thought, hath great broad leaves;" and then he says: "We have found here in the gardens of certaine diligent herboristes that strange plant which is thought by some to be Rha or Rhabarbum;" but from the figure it is very certain that the plant was not a Rheum. After the time of Parkinson, it was largely grown for the sake of producing the drug, and it is still grown in England to some extent for the same purpose, chiefly in the neighbourhood of Banbury; though it is doubtful whether any of the species now grown in England are the true species that has long produced Turkey Rhubarb. The plant is now grown most extensively as a spring vegetable, though I cannot find when it first began to be so used. Parkinson evidently tried it and thought well of it. "The leaves have a fine acid taste; a syrup, therefore, made with the juice and sugar cannot but be very effectual in dejected appetites." Yet even in 1807 Professor Martyn, the editor of "Millar's Dictionary," in a long article on the Rhubarb, makes no mention of its culinary qualities, but in 1822 Phillips speaks of it as largely cultivated for spring tarts, and forced for the London markets, "medical men recommending it as one of the most cooling and wholesome tarts sent to table."

As a garden plant the Rhubarb is highly ornamental, though it is seldom seen out of the kitchen garden, but where room can be given to them, Rheum palmatum or Rheum officinale, will always be admired as some of the handsomest of foliage plants. The finest species of the family is the Himalayan Rheum nobile, but it is exceedingly difficult to grow. Botanically the Rhubarb is allied to the Dock and Sorrel, and all the species are herbaceous.


[241:1] Quoted in Furnival's forewords to Boorde's "Introduction to Knowledge," p. 56.



Let me see; what am I to buy for our sheep-shearing feast? Three pound of sugar, five pound of Currants, Rice——What will this sister of mine do with Rice?[242:1]

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (38).

Shakespeare may have had no more acquaintance with Rice than his knowledge of the imported grain, which seems to have been long ago introduced into England, for in a Nominale of the fifteenth century we have "Hoc risi, indeclinabile, Ryse." And in the "Promptorium Parvulorum," "Ryce, frute. Risia, vel risi, n. indecl. secundum quosdam, vel risium, vel risorum granum (rizi vel granum Indicum)." Turner was acquainted with it: "Ryse groweth plentuously in watery myddowes between Myllane and Pavia."[242:2] And Shakespeare may have seen the plant, for Gerard grew it in his London garden, though "the floure did not show itselfe by reason of the injurie of our unseasonable yeare 1596." It is a native of Africa, and was soon transferred to Europe as a nourishing and wholesome grain, especially for invalids—"sume hoc ptisanarium oryzae," says the doctor to his patient in Horace, and it is mentioned both by Dioscorides and Theophrastus. It has been occasionally grown in England as a curiosity, but seldom comes to any perfection out-of-doors, as it requires a mixture of moisture and heat that we cannot easily give it. There are said to be species in the North of China growing in dry places, which would perhaps be hardy in England and easier of cultivation, but I am not aware that they have ever been introduced.


[242:1] In 1468 the price of rice was 3d. a pound = 3s. of our money ("Babee's Book," xxx.).

[242:2] "Names of Herbes," s.v. Oryza.


(1) Titania.

Some to kill cankers in the Musk-rose buds.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 3 (3).

(2) Titania.

And stick Musk-Roses in thy sleek, smooth head.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 1 (3).

(3) Julia.

The air hath starved the Roses in her cheeks.

Two Gentlemen of Verona, act iv, sc. 4 (159).

(4) Song.

There will we make our beds of Roses And a thousand fragrant posies.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act iii, sc. 1 (19).

(5) Autolycus.

Gloves as sweet as Damask Roses.

Winter's Tale, act iv, sc. 3 (222).

(6) Olivia.

Caesario, by the Roses of the spring, By maidhood, honour, truth, and everything, I love thee so.

Twelfth Night, act iii, sc. 1 (161).

(7) Diana.

When you have our Roses, You barely leave us thorns to prick ourselves And mock us with our bareness.

All's Well that Ends Well, act iv, sc. 2 (18).

(8) Lord.

Let one attend him with a silver basin Full of Rose-water and bestrew'd with flowers.

Taming of the Shrew, Induction, sc. 1 (55).

(9) Petruchio.

I'll say she looks as clear As morning Roses newly wash'd with dew.

Ibid., act ii, sc. 1 (173).

(10) Tyrrell.

Their lips were four red Roses on a stalk, Which in their summer beauty kiss'd each other.

Richard III, act iv, sc. 3 (12).

(11) Friar.

The Roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade To paly ashes.

Romeo and Juliet, act iv, sc. 1 (99).

(12) Romeo.

Remnants of packthread and old cakes of Roses Were thinly scatter'd, to make up a show.

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

(13) Hamlet.

With two Provincial Roses on my razed shoes.

Hamlet, act iii, sc. 2 (287).

(14) Laertes.

O Rose of May, Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!

Ibid., act iv, sc. 5 (157).

(15) Duke.

For women are as Roses, whose fair flower Being once display'd doth fall that very hour.

Twelfth Night, act ii, sc. 4 (39).

(16) Constance.

Of Nature's gifts, thou may'st with Lilies boast, And with the half-blown Rose.

King John, act iii, sc. 1 (153).

(17) Queen.

But soft, but see, or rather do not see, My fair Rose wither.

Richard II, act v, sc. 1 (7).

(18) Hotspur.

To put down Richard, that sweet lovely Rose, And plant this Thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke.

1st Henry IV, act i, sc. 3 (175).

(19) Hostess.

Your colour, I warrant you, is as red as any Rose.

2nd Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4 (27).

(20) York.

Then will I raise aloft the milk-white Rose, With whose sweet smell the air shall be perfumed.

2nd Henry VI, act i, sc. 1 (254).

(21) Don John.

I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a Rose in his grace.

Much Ado About Nothing, act i, sc. 3 (27).

(22) Theseus.

But earthlier happy is the Rose distill'd Than that which withering on the virgin Thorn Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.[244:1]

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

(23) Lysander.

How now, my love! Why is your cheek so pale? How chance the Roses there do fade so fast?

Midsummer Night's Dream, act i, sc. 1 (128).

(24) Titania.

The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson Rose.

Ibid., act ii, sc. 1 (107).

(25) Thisbe.

Of colour like the red Rose on triumphant Brier.

Ibid., act iii, sc. 1 (95).

(26) Biron.

Why should I joy in any abortive mirth? At Christmas I no more desire a Rose Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth, But like of each thing that in season grows.[245:1]

Love's Labour's Lost, act i, sc. 1 (105).

(27) King (reads).

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not To those fresh morning drops upon the Rose.

Ibid., act iv, sc. 3 (26).

(28) Boyet.

Blow like sweet Roses in this summer air.


How blow? how blow? Speak to be understood.


Fair ladies mask'd are Roses in their bud; Dismask'd, their damask sweet commixture shown, Are angels veiling clouds, or Roses blown.

Ibid., act v, sc. 2 (293).

(29) Touchstone.

He that sweetest Rose will find, Must find Love's prick and Rosalind.

As You Like It, act iii, sc. 2 (117).

(30) Countess.

This Thorn Doth to our Rose of youth rightly belong.

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