Old Fashioned Flowers, and other out-of-door studies

Old Fashioned Flowers, and other out-of-door studies
Category: Gardening / Flowers
Title: Old Fashioned Flowers, and other out-of-door studies
Release Date: 2017-09-21
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 11
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OLDFASHIONEDFLOWERSAND OTHEROUT-OF-DOORSTUDIESBYMAURICEMAETERLINCKTRANSLATED BYALEXANDER TEIXEIRADE MATTOSILLUSTRATEDNEW YORKDODD, MEAD & CO.1905

COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY THE OUTLOOK COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY THE CENTURY CO.
COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 1905
COMPOSITION AND ELECTROTYPE PLATES BY
D. B. UPDIKE, THE MERRYMOUNT PRESS, BOSTON

CONTENTS

OLD-FASHIONED FLOWERS 3
NEWS OF SPRING43
FIELD FLOWERS65
CHRYSANTHEMUMS85

ILLUSTRATIONS

“I HAVE SEEN THEM ... IN THE GARDEN OF AN OLD SAGE” Frontispiece
“THE HOLLYHOCK ... FLAUNTS HER COCKADES” Facing page 20
“A CLUSTER OF CYPRESSES, WITH ITS PURE OUTLINE”50
“THAT SORT OF CRY AND CREST OF LIGHT AND JOY”70
“HERE IS THE SAD COLUMBINE”74
THE CHRYSANTHEMUMS92

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OLD-FASHIONED FLOWERS

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OLD-FASHIONED FLOWERS


THIS morning, when I went to look at my flowers, surrounded by theirwhite fence, which protects them against the good cattle grazing in thefield beyond, I saw again in my mind all that blossoms in the woods, thefields, the gardens, the orangeries and the green-houses, and I thoughtof all that we owe to the world of marvels which the bees visit.{4}

Can we conceive what humanity would be if it did not know the flowers?If these did not exist, if they had all been hidden from our gaze, asare probably a thousand no less fairy sights that are all around us, butinvisible to our eyes, would our character, our faculties, our sense ofthe beautiful, our aptitude for happiness, be quite the same? We should,it is true, in nature have other splendid manifestations of luxury,exuberance and grace; other dazzling efforts of the superfluous forces:the sun, the stars, the varied lights of the moon, the azure and theocean, the dawns and twilights, the mountain, the plain, the forest andthe rivers, the light and the trees, and lastly, nearer to us, birds,{5}precious stones and woman. These are the ornaments of our planet. Yetbut for the last three, which belong to the same smile of nature, howgrave, austere, almost sad, would be the education of our eye withoutthe softness which the flowers give! Suppose for a moment that our globeknew them not: a great region, the most enchanted in the joys of ourpsychology, would be destroyed, or rather would not be discovered. Allof a delightful sense would sleep for ever at the bottom of our harderand more desert hearts and in our imagination stripped of worshipfulimages. The infinite world of colours and shades would have been butincompletely revealed to us by a few rents in{6} the sky. The miraculousharmonies of light at play, ceaselessly inventing new gaieties,revelling in itself, would be unknown to us; for the flowers first brokeup the prism and made the most subtle portion of our sight. And themagic garden of perfumes—who would have opened its gate to us? A fewgrasses, a few gums, a few fruits, the breath of the dawn, the smell ofthe night and the sea, would have told us that beyond our eyes and earsthere existed a shut paradise where the air which we breathe changesinto delights for which we could have found no name. Consider also allthat the voice of human happiness would lack! One of the blessed heightsof our soul would be almost{7} dumb, if the flowers had not, sincecenturies, fed with their beauty the language which we speak and thethoughts that endeavour to crystallize the most precious hours of life.The whole vocabulary, all the impressions of love, are impregnate withtheir breath, nourished with their smile. When we love, all the flowersthat we have seen and smelt seem to hasten within us to people withtheir known charms the consciousness of a sentiment whose happiness, butfor them, would have no more form than the horizons of the sea or sky.They have accumulated within us, since our childhood, and even beforeit, in the soul of our fathers, an immense treasure, the nearest to ourjoys, upon{8} which we draw each time that we wish to make more real theclement minutes of our life. They have created and spread in our worldof sentiment the fragrant atmosphere in which love delights.{9}

II

THAT is why I love above all the simplest, the commonest, the oldest andthe most antiquated; those which have a long human past behind them, alarge array of kind and consoling actions; those which have lived withus for hundreds of years and which form part of ourselves, since theyreflect something of their grace and their joy of life in the soul ofour ancestors.

But where do they hide themselves? They are becoming rarer than thosewhich we call rare flowers to-day. Their life is secret and precarious.It seems as though we were on the point of losing them, and perhapsthere are{10} some which, discouraged at last, have lately disappeared, ofwhich the seeds have died under the ruins, which will no more know thedew of the gardens and which we shall find only in very old books, amidthe bright grass of the Illuminators or along the yellow flower-beds ofthe Primitives.

They are driven from the borders and the proud baskets by arrogantstrangers from Peru, the Cape of Good Hope, China, Japan. They have twopitiless enemies in particular. The first of these is the encumberingand prolific Begonia Tuberosa, that swarms in the beds like a tribe ofturbulent fighting-cocks, with innumerous combs. It is pretty, butinsolent and a little artificial; and,{11} whatever the silence andmeditation of the hour, under the sun and under the moon, in theintoxication of the day and the solemn peace of the night, it sounds itsclarion cry and celebrates its victory, monotonous, shrill andscentless. The other is the Double Geranium, not quite so indiscreet,but indefatigable also and extraordinarily courageous. It would appeardesirable were it less lavished. These two,—with the help of a few morecunning strangers and of the plants with coloured leaves that close upthose turgid mosaics which at present debase the beautiful lines of mostof our lawns,—these two have gradually ousted their native sisters fromthe spots which these had so long brightened with{12} their familiarsmiles. They no longer have the right to receive the guest with artlesslittle cries of welcome at the gilded gates of the mansion. They areforbidden to prattle near the steps, to twitter in the marble vases, tohum their tune beside the lakes, to lisp their dialect along theborders. A few of them have been relegated to the kitchen-garden, in theneglected and, for that matter, delightful corner occupied by themedicinal or merely aromatic plants, the Sage, the Tarragon, the Fenneland the Thyme,—old servants, too, dismissed and nourished through asort of pity or mechanical tradition. Others have taken refuge by thestables, near the low door of the kitchen or the cellar, where{13} theycrowd humbly like importunate beggars, hiding their bright dresses amongthe weeds and holding their frightened perfumes as best they may, so asnot to attract attention.

But, even there, the Pelargonium, red with indignation, and the Begonia,crimson with rage, came to surprise and hustle the unoffending littleband; and they fled to the farms, the cemeteries, the little gardens ofthe rectories, the old maid’s houses and the country convents. And nowhardly anywhere, save in the oblivion of the oldest villages, aroundtottering dwellings, far from the railways and the nursery-gardener’soverbearing hot-houses, do we find them again with their natural{14} smile;not wearing a driven, panting and hunted look, but peaceful, calm,restful, plentiful, careless and at home. And, even as in former times,in the coaching-days, from the top of the stone wall that surrounds thehouse, through the rails of the white fence, or from the sill of thewindows enlivened by a caged bird, on the motionless road where nonepasses, save the eternal forces of life, they see spring come andautumn, the rain and the sun, the butterflies and the bees, the silenceand the night followed by the light of the moon.{15}

III

BRAVE old flowers! Wall-flowers, Gillyflowers, Stocks! For, even as thefield-flowers, from which a trifle, a ray of beauty, a drop of perfume,divides them, they have charming names, the softest in the language; andeach of them, like tiny, artless ex-votos, or like medals bestowed bythe gratitude of men, proudly bears three or four. You Stocks, who singamong the ruined walls and cover with light the grieving stones; youGarden Primroses, Primulas or Cowslips, Hyacinths, Crocuses, CrownImperials, Scented Violets, Lilies of the Valley, Forget-me-nots,Daisies and Periwinkles, Poet’s Narcissuses,{16} Pheasant’s-Eyes,Bear’s-Ears, Alyssums, Saxifrage, Anemones—it is through you that themonths that come before the leaf-time—February, March, April—translateinto smiles which men can understand the first news and the firstmysterious kisses of the sun! You are frail and chilly and yet asbold-faced as a bright idea. You make young the grass; you are fresh asthe water that flows in the azure cups which the dawn distributes overthe greedy buds, ephemeral as the dreams of a child, almost wide stilland almost spontaneous, yet already marked by the too precociousbrilliancy, the too flaming nimbus, the too pensive grace, thatoverwhelm the flowers which yield obedience to man.{17}

IV

BUT here, innumerous, disordered, many-coloured, tumultuous, drunk withdawns and noons, come the luminous dances of the daughters of Summer!Little girls with white veils and old maids in violet ribbons,school-girls home for the holidays, first-communicants, pale nuns,dishevelled romps, gossips and prudes. Here is the Marigold, who breaksup with her brightness the green of the borders. Here is the Camomile,like a nosegay of snow, beside her unwearying brothers, the GardenChrysanthemums, whom we must not confuse with the JapaneseChrysanthemums of autumn. The Annual{18} Helianthus, or Sunflower, towerslike a priest raising the monstrance over the lesser folk in prayer andstrives to resemble the luminary which he adores. The Poppy exertshimself to fill with light his cup torn by the morning wind. The roughLarkspur, in his peasant’s blouse, who thinks himself more beautifulthan the sky, looks down upon the Dwarf Convolvuluses, who reproach himspitefully with putting too much blue into the azure of his flowers. TheVirginia Stock, arch and demure in her gown of jaconet, like the littleservant-maids of Dordrecht or Leyden, washes the borders of the bedswith innocence. The Mignonette hides herself in her laboratory andsilently{19} distils perfumes that give us a foretaste of the air which webreathe on the threshold of Paradises. The Peonies, who have drunk theirimprudent fill of the sun, burst with enthusiasm and bend forward tomeet the coming apoplexy. The Scarlet Flax traces a bloodstained furrowthat guards the walks; and the Portulaca, creeping like a moss, studiesto cover with mauve, amber or pink taffeta the soil that has remainedbare at the foot of the tall stalks. The chub-faced Dahlia, a littleround, a little stupid, carves out of soap, lard or wax his regularpompons, which will be the ornament of a village holiday. The old,paternal Phlox, standing amid the clusters, lavishes the loud laughterof his{20} jolly, easy-going colours. The Mallows, or Lavateras, likedemure misses, feel the tenderest blushes of fugitive modesty mount totheir corollas at the slightest breath. The Nasturtium paints his watercolours, or screams like a parakeet climbing up the bars of its cage;and the Rose-mallow, Althæa Rosea, Hollyhock, riding the high horse ofher many names, flaunts her cockades of a flesh silkier than a maiden’sbreast. The Snapdragon and the almost transparent Balsam are moretimorous and awkward and fearfully press their flowers against theirstalks.

Next, in the discreet corner of the old families, are crowded theLong-leaved Veronica; the Red Potentilla; the{21}

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