Flora - Poem by Charlotte Smith
REMOTE from scenes, where the o'erwearied mind
Shrinks from the crimes and follies of mankind,
From hostile menace, and offensive boast,
Peace, and her train of home-born pleasures lost;
To fancy's reign, who would not gladly turn,
And lose awhile, the miseries they mourn
In sweet oblivion ? Come then, Fancy ! deign,
Queen of ideal pleasure, once again,
To lend thy magic pencil, and to bring
Such lovely forms, as in life's happier spring,
On the green margin of my native Wey,
Before mine infant eyes were wont to play,
And with that pencil, teach me to describe
The enchanting goddess of the flowery tribe,
Whose first prerogative it is to chase
The clouds that hang on languid beauty's face;
And, while advancing suns and tepid showers,
Lead on the laughing Spring's delicious hours,
Bid the wan maid the hues of health assume,
Charm with new grace, and blush with fresher bloom.
The vision comes !While slowly melt away,
Night's hovering shades before the eastern ray,
Ere yet declines the morning's humid star,
Fair Fancy brings her; in her leafy car
Flora descends, to dress the expecting earth,
Awake the germs, and call the buds to birth;
Bid each hybernacle its cell unfold,
And open silken leaves, and eyes of gold !
Of forest foliage of the firmest shade
Enwove by magic hands, the car was made;
Oak, and the ample Plane, without entwined,
And Beech and Ash the verdant concave lin'd;
The Saxifrage, that snowy flowers emboss,
Supplied the seat; and of the mural moss
The velvet footstool rose, where lightly rest,
Her slender feet in Cypripedium drest.
The tufted rush, that bears a silken crown,
The floating feathers of the thistle's down,
In tender hues of rainbow lustre dyed,
The airy texture of her robe supplied,
And wild convolvuli, yet half unblown,
Form'd, with their wreathing buds, her simple zone,
Some wandering tresses of her radiant hair,
Luxuriant floated on the enamour'd air;
The rest were by the Scandix' points confin'd
And graced a shining knot, her head behind
While, as a sceptre of supreme command,
She waved the Anthoxanthum in her hand.
Around the goddess, as the flies that play,
In countless myriads in the western ray,
The sylphs innumerous throng; whose magic powers
Guard the soft buds, and nurse the infant flowers;
Round the sustaining stems weak tendrils bind,
And save the pollen from dispersing wind;
From suns too ardent, shade their transient hues,
And catch in odorous cups translucent dews.
The ruder tasks of others are, to chase
From vegetable life the insect race,
Break the polluting thread the spider weaves,
And brush the aphis from th' unfolding leaves.
For conquest arm'd these pigmy warriors wield
The thorny lance, and spread the hollow shield
Of lichen tough; or bear, as silver bright,
Lunaria's pearly circlet, firm and light.
On the helm'd head the crimson foxglove glows,
Or Scutellaria guards the martial brows,
While the Leontodon its plumage rears,
And o'er the casque in waving grace appears;
With stern undaunted eye, one warlike chief
Grasps the tall club from Arum's blood-dropt leaf;
This, with the Burdock's hooks annoys his foes,
The purple thorn that borrows from the Rose.
In honeyed nectaries couched, some drive away
The forked insidious earwig from his prey;
Fearless the scaled libellula assail,
Dart their keen lances at the encroaching snail;
Arrest the winged ant, on pinions light,
And strike the headlong beetle in his flight.
Nor less assiduous round their lovely queen,
The lighter forms of female fays are seen;
Rich was the purple vest Floscella wore,
Spun of the tufts the Tradescantia bore;
The Cistus' flowers minute her temple graced,
And threads of Yucca bound her slender waist.
From the wild bee, whose wond'rous labour weaves,
In artful folds the rose's fragrant leaves,
Was borrow'd fair Petalla's light cymar;
And the Hypericum, with spangling star,
O'er her fair locks its bloom minute enwreath'd;
Then, while voluptuous odours round her breath'd,
Came Nectarynia; as the arrowy rays
Of lambent fire round pictur'd seraphs blaze,
So did the Passiflora's radii shed,
Cerulean glory o'er the sylphid's head,
While round her form, the pliant tendrils twined,
And clasp'd the scarf that floated on the wind.
More grave the para-nymph Calyxa drest;
A brown transparent spatha formed her vest;
The silver scales that bound her raven hair,
Xeranthemum's unfading calyx bear;
And a light sash of spiral Ophrys press'd
Her filmy tunic, on her tender breast.
But where shall images or words be found
To paint the fair ethereal forms, that round
The queen of flowers attended ? and the while
Bask'd in her eyes and wanton'd in her smile.
Now towards the earth the gay procession bends,
Lo ! from the buoyant air, the car descends;
Anticipating then the various year,
Flowers of all hues and every month appear,
From every swelling bulb its blossoms rise;
Here, blow the Hyacinths of loveliest dyes,
Breathing of heaven; and there, her royal brows
Begemmed with pearl, the Crown imperial shews;
Peeps the blue Gentian, from the soft'ning ground,
Jonquils and Violets, shed their odours round;
The Honeysuckle rears his scallop'd horn;
A snow of blossoms whiten on the thorn.
Here, like the fatal fruit to Paris given,
That spread fell feuds throughout the fabled heaven,
The yellow Rose her golden globe displays;
There lovelier still, among the spiny sprays
Her blushing rivals glow with brighter dyes,
Than paints the summer sun on western skies.
And the scarce tinged, and paler Rose unveil
Their modest beauties to the sighing gale.
Thro' the deep woodland's wild uncultur'd scene,
Spreads the soft influence of the floral queen;
See a fair pyramid the Chesnut rear,
Its crimson tassels on the Larch appear;
The Fir, dark native of the sullen North,
Owns her soft sway; and slowly springing forth
On the rough Oak are buds minute unfurl'd,
Whose giant produce may command the world !
Each forest thicket feels the balmy air,
And plants that love the shade are blowing there.
Rude rocks with Filices and Bryums smile,
And wastes are gay with Thyme and Chamomile.
Ah ! yet prolong the dear delicious dream,
And trace her power along the mountain stream.
See ! from its rude and rocky source, o'erhung
With female fern, and glossy adder's-tongue
Slowly it wells, in pure and chrystal drops,
And steals soft-gliding, thro' the upland copse;
Then murmuring on, along the willowy sides,
The reed-bird whispers, and the Halcyon hides;
While among sallows pale, and birchen bowers,
Embarks in Fancy's eye the queen of flowers.
O'er her light skiff, of woven bull-rush made,
The Water lily lends a polish'd shade;
While Galium there, of pale and silver hue,
And Epilobiums on the banks that grew,
Form her soft couch; and as the Sylphs divide,
With pliant arms, the still increasing tide,
A thousand leaves along the stream unfold;
Amid its waving swords, in flaming gold
The Iris towers; and here the Arrowhead
And water Crowfoot, more profusely spread
Spangle the quiet current; higher there,
As conscious of her claims, in beauty rare,
Her rosy umbels rears the flow'ring Rush,
While with reflected charms the waters blush.
The naiad now, the year's fair goddess leads,
Through richer pastures and more level meads
Down to the sea; where even the briny sands
Their product offer to her glowing hands;
For there, by sea-dews nurs'd and airs marine,
The Chelidonium blows; in glaucous green,
Each refluent tide the thorn'd Eryngium laves,
And its pale leaves seem tinctured by the waves;
And half-way up the cliff, whose rugged brow
Hangs o'er the ever toiling surge below,
Springs the light Tamarisk.The summit bare,
Is tufted by the Statice; and there,
Crush'd by the fisher, as he stands to mark
Some distant signal or approaching bark,
The Saltwort's starry stalks are thickly sown,
Like humble worth, unheeded and unknown !
From depths where corals spring from chrystal caves,
And break with scarlet branch, the eddying waves,
Where Algæ stream, as change the flowing tides,
And where, half flower, half fish, the Polyp hides,
And long tenacious bands of sea-lace twine
Round palm-shaped leaves impearl'd with coralline.
Enamour'd Fancy now the sea-maids calls,
And from their grottos dim, and shell-paved halls,
Charm'd by her voice, the shining train emerge,
And buoyant float above the circling surge;
Green Byssus, waving in the sea-born gales,
Form'd their thin mantles, and transparent veils,
Panier'd in shells, or bound with silver strings,
Of silken pinna; each her trophy brings
Of plants, from rocks and caverns submarine,
With leathery branch, and bladder'd buds between;
There, its dark folds the pucker'd laver spread,
With trees in miniature of various red;
There flag-shaped olive-leaves, depending hung,
And fairy fans from glossy pebbles sprung;
Then her terrestrial train the nereids meet,
And lay their spoils saline at Flora's feet.
O ! fairest of the fabled forms ! that stream,
Dress'd by wild Fancy, thro' the poet's dream,
Still may thy attributes of leaves and flowers,
Thy garden's rich, and shrub-o'ershadow'd bowers,
And yellow meads, with Spring's first honours bright,
The child's gay heart, and frolic step invite;
And, while the careless wanderer explores,
The umbrageous forest, or the rugged shores,
Climbs the green down, or roams the broom-clad waste,
May Truth, and Nature, form his future taste !
Goddess ! on youth's bless'd hours thy gifts bestow;
Bind the fair wreath on virgin-beauty's brow,
And still may Fancy's brightest flowers be wove
Round the gold chains of hymeneal love.
But most for those, by Sorrow's hands oppress'd,
May thy beds blossom, and thy wilds be dress'd;
And where by Fortune and the world forgot,
The mourner droops in some sequester'd spot,
('Sad luxury to vulgar minds unknown,')
O'er blighted happiness for ever gone,
Yet the dear image seeks not to forget,
But woos his grief, and cherishes regret;
Loving, with fond and lingering pain, to mourn
O'er joys and hopes that never will return;
Thou, visionary power ! mayst bid him view
Forms not less lovely, and as transient too;
And while they soothe the wearied pilgrim's eyes,
Afford an antepast of Paradise.
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