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ON FLOWERS

a short essay by T. Augustus Forbes Leith

The flowers that grow to glad all earth
Are emblems of a better birth,
When we shall wake beyond the skies,
And see the plains of heaven arise.

The trees that bud and blossom forth,
Throughout the world from south to north,
Are tokens that a life will bloom
When manhood's passed beyond the tomb.

FLOWERS are the gems that give color to the poetry of nature, and to cultivate a taste for them helps to beautify our minds. They assist at times in expressing our feelings and thoughts. The full-blown red rose is the emblem of beauty. The heath or heather that of solitude. The purple heartsease, that I am thinking of you. The white lily the emblem of purity, and the bridal rose of happy love. Orange blossoms, of purity equal to your loveliness; and the daisy of innocence. The aloe is the emblem of affliction and grief, and the apple of temptation. The aspen tree is emblematic of lamentation; the scarlet auricula of avarice; and the asturtium of splendor, while the nasturtium is of patriotism. The myrrh is emblematic of gladness, and the myrtle of love. The olive denotes peace, and the rose of York and Lancaster war. The pepper-plant satire, and the pear-tree affection. The peony anger, and the poplar courage. The bay-tree glory, and the pineapple perfection. The birch gracefulness, and the blackthorn difficulty. The bluebell constancy, and the bittersweet nightshade truth. The bramble envy, and the broom neatness. The box stoicism, and the bryony prosperity. The white polar time, and the holly foresight. The ivy friendship, and the willow freedom. The lemon-blossom of fidelity in love, and the palm-tree of genius; and so on through all our well-known flowers, trees and shrubs, wild and cultivated. What ornament can deck the head of youth like a simple flower, or what add lustre to the bloom of maidenhood if the camellia or the rosebud will not. Can any gorgeous plate, or antique china, make up at a banquet for the absence of flowers? and where they are displayed with taste, the commonest delf can be made to look charming. When we see a pretty cottage-garden neat and well-kept, the flowers therein tastefully arranged and blended as to colors, have we not some little insight into the character of the inhabitants? As we walk through the cemetery, and see the well-kept grave, and the many pretty flowers growing and laid thereon, is not it a token that he or she who lies beneath, was loved while here on earth, and is not forgotten now that they are no longer present in form? Many a lovely flower is growing far from the haunts of man, but its sweetness is not lost or wasted, the dazzling little humming-bird or the honey-eater is not far off, and loves it. If anything in this far-off southern clime would rouse to its highest pitch of patriotism, 'twould be to see in bloom a bunch of highland heather, or touch a sprig of Scottish broom.

"On Flowers" is reprinted from Short Essays. T. Augustus Forbes Leith. Melbourne: M'Carron, Bird & Co., 1879.

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