Flower Poetry Fridays: The White Lily

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

THE WHITE LILY.
TO A YOUNG LADY.

White Lily with Water Drops
White Lily with Water Drops (by Foxytocin at DeviantArt)

WITH its pure and stainless breast,
See the graceful Lily rise,
Bearing on its snowy vest
Pearly dew-drops from the skies.

Emblem of the youthful mind—
Fresh from Nature’s pencil bright,
And by Heaven’s own smile refin’d
For unfading realms of light.

Fair One—may thy life below,
Like that peaceful flow’ret prove,
And thy spirit’s fragrance flow
O’er the fervent heart of love.

Of thyself forgetful still,
All who dwell around thee bless,
Heedful of thy Maker’s will,
Beautiful in lowliness.

Long may faithful Memory dwell
On thy virtues fond and true,
And Affection’s tablet tell
Where the stainless Lily grew.

The waxy petals of the lily seem so pearly white. It’s as if they’ve been untouched and not blemished in any way, like a young lady.

Refined, maybe. Virtuous, of course. Beautiful, yes.

A common theme running through Mrs. Sigourney’s writing is a dutiful reverence for a Higher Power, called “Thy Maker” in this short poem. She speaks about Heaven smiling down on the purity and gracefulness of the stainless lily.

If we all could be like the lily, being ‘beautiful in lowliness’, the world would be a better place. Pride, envy and greed get in the way for many of us, so it’s hard to be like the simple, unstained flower.

My favorite lines are, “Of thyself forgetful still, All who dwell around thee bless”. It’s as if the white lily adorns the whole community where she grows because she is a beautiful flower.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “Flora’s Party”.

Flower Poetry Fridays: The Lobelia Cardinalis

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

THE LOBELIA CARDINALIS.

Lobelia Cardinalis
Lobelia Cardinalis

"CULL me a flower," the Indian maid
Unto her lover sigh’d—
"Such as thy noble spirit deems
Fit for thy chosen bride.

"And I will wear it on my brow
When from this home I part,
And enter to thy forest bower,
Thy true love in my heart."

With meek intent, and searching glance,
The chieftain pac’d the sod—
Who, with Acteon’s haughty stride,
Had erst that region trod.

Not now, to rouse the slumbering deer,
Or scathe the eagle’s throne,
Thro’ those secluded shades he roam’d—
His heart was love’s alone.

He cut the rich, wild rose, that still
A lingering radiance cast—
Yet soon its falling petals told
Its day of pride was past.

He pluck’d the iris, deeply blue,
The amaryllis, bright,
And stor’d their treasures through the day,
But cast them forth at night.

He bound the water-lily white,
Amid her lustrous hair,
But found her black and flashing eye
Requir’d a gem more rare.

At length, beside its mantling pool,
Majestic and serene,
He saw the proud Lobelia tower
In beauty, like a queen.

That eve, the maiden’s ebon locks
Reveal’d its glowing power,
Amid the simple, nuptial rites
That grac’d the chieftain’s bower.

But she, who, by that stately flower,
Her lover’s preference knew,
Was doom’d, alas ! in youthful bloom,
To share its frailty, too ;

For ere again its scarlet spire
Rejoic’d in summer’s eye,
She droop’d amid her forest home—
Her fount of life was dry.

Then, as the ebbing pulse declin’d,
Forth from her sacred nook,
With swimming eye, and trembling hand,
Her bridal wreath she took,

And bound its wither’d floral bells
Around her temples pale,
And faintly to her maidens spake—
For breath began to fail :—

"Should the last death-pang shake me sore,
(For on they come with power,)
Press closer in my ice-cold hand
My husband’s token-flower;

And rear the turf-mound broad and high
To span my lonely grave,
That nought may sever from my locks
The gift of love he gave—

So, when the dance of souls goes forth
Athwart the starry plain,
He’ll know me by his chosen flower,
And I’ll be his again."

I liked this tale of an Indian chieftain searching high and low for the perfect flower to weave into his lover’s hair. The wild rose he first tried wasn’t good enough because the petals of these dainty flowers fell away too quickly.

The Chief tried other flowers, like the blue iris, bright amaryllis, and a white water lily, but none of these could be sufficient to adorn her crown. He needed something more rare for his stunning bride.

The Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis, cast a spell on the Chief once he saw its fiery red blooms. He knew this was the beautiful and rare flower that could rightfully serve as a token of his love.

Alas, the maiden wasn’t long for this world. On her death bed she wore her bridal wreath of crimson lobelia flowers so that her chief would know her in the afterlife and they could be together for eternity.

How sweet was that?!

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “The White Lily”.

Flower Poetry Fridays: The Disobedient Pansy

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

THE DISOBEDIENT PANSY.

Pansy in a Pot
Pansy in a Pot

     A PANSY had many little ones. She talked much with them daily—instructing them, and set them a good example of sweet temper and humility.
     She said often to them, "As soon as the great sun sinks away from you, and you feel the cool, fresh dews, compose yourself to rest. Look up smilingly, and breathe one sweet breath to Him who giveth the sun-beam, and the drops of dew.
     When you have offered this, (the prayer of all good flowers,) fold your leaves, and bend your heads in sleep, for He will take care of you. The buds that thus early and piously go to rest, will flourish and be
pleasing in His sight."
     So her children obeyed her, all except one.
This young pansy grew on rather a longer
stalk than the others ; and it said, "I wonder
why my mother is thus always lecturing us ?"
     "I think I know as much as she. I do not
like to go so early to bed. I have heard that
those who have genius are always brightest
when it is late. I wish to see how the world
looks at midnight."
     So she omitted her prayers, and strained her
eyes open as wide as she could. Her brothers
and sisters were quietly sleeping around her,
and she laughed at what she called their stupidity.
     By and by she began to grow tired, when
suddenly a huge black spider seized her in his
claws. She cried out in terror, but no one
was awake to hear her.

     He held her so tight that she could scarcely
breathe, and tears stood in her large, dark eyes.
In the gray dawn he spun a web over her face,
and fastened it to a neighboring shrub.
     Her mother awoke early, and lamented over
her ; "Oh, my poor daughter, would that I
could help you ! Perhaps He, to whom you
forgot to pray, who is so good to all, may yet
cause these chains to fall from you."
     Bitterly did the young pansy deplore her
disobedience. Her fright, and the spider’s
cords, with their tight lacing, had so com-
pressed her heart and lungs, that she turned
pale, and panted for breath.
     When the noon-day sun beat fiercely upon
her, she drooped and faded away—saying, with
her last, faint sigh, "Oh ! brothers and sisters,
take warning by my sad fate. Never disobey
our dear mother, for she is wiser than we."

The moral of the story was that it’s better to say your evening prayers than risk losing the protection of the One from above, else something bad could happen to you while you lay sleeping.

All along we’ve known that “Mother knows best”, but some of us just have to try things out for ourselves and learn the hard way that we should have listened better.

The young pansy did not see the folly of staying out late with no one near for help or protection. She learned too late why mother lectured her little ones on taking the righteous path.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “The Lobelia Cardinalis”.

Flower Poetry Fridays: He Told His Love In Flowers

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

HE TOLD HIS LOVE IN FLOWERS.

A rose is a rose.
A rose is a rose.

I’LL tell thee a story, friend,
Here, under this shady tree ;
If thou ‘lt keep it close in thy faithful breast,
I’ll whisper the whole to thee

I had a lover once,
In my early, sunny hours ;
A fair and fanciful youth was he,
And he told his love in flowers.

I remember its waking sigh ;—
We roam’d in a verdant spot,
And he cull’d for me a cluster bright
Of the purple "Forget me not."

But I was a giddy girl,
So I toss’d it soon away,
Gathering the dandelion buds,
And the wild-grape’s gadding spray.

Tiny blue strict forget-me-not.
Tiny blue strict forget-me-not.

He mark’d their blended hues
With sad, reproachful eye—
For one was the symbol of thoughtless mirth,
And one of coquetry.

Yet he would not be baffled thus—
So he brought for my chrystal vase
The Rose-geranium’s tender bloom,
And the blushing Hawthorn’s grace.

And a brilliant and fresh bouquet
Of the rich Moss-rose he bore,
Whose eloquent buds with dew-drops pearl’d,
Were full of the heart’s deep lore.

I could not refuse the gift,
Though I knew the spell it wove ;—
But I gave him back a snow-white bud :
" Too young—too young to love."

Then he proffer’d a myrtle wreath,
With damask roses fair,
And took the liberty—only think !
To bind it round my hair.

And he prest in my yielding hand
The Everlasting Pea,
Whose questioning lip of perfume breath’d,
" Oh, say, wilt thou go with me?"

Yet we were but children still,
And our love, tho’ it seem’d so sweet,
Was well express’d by the types it bore,
For it pass’d away as fleet.

Tho’ he brought me the Laurel leaf,
That changes but to die,
And the Primrose pale, and Amaranth,
Yet what did it signify ?

For over his vaunted love
Suspicion’s mood had power—
So I put a French Marigold in his hat,
That gaudy and jealous flower.

But his rootless passion shrank,
Like Jonah’s gourd, away,
‘Till the cold Chrysanthemum best reveal’d
The blight of its quick decay.

And he sail’d o’er the faithless sea
To a brighter clime than ours :—
So it faded away, that fickle love,
Like its alphabet of flowers.

In 1848 Mrs. Sigourney was writing in a time when you had to entertain yourself, so people often looked toward their natural surroundings for a little inspiration.

Flowers seem to have been very important at this time. Every flower was imparted with some quality or meaning. The meanings of flowers were well understood, so giving a flower to someone was more than a simple gesture.

For instance, the young man was saddened because she tossed away his forget-me-nots. Doing that was as if she tossed him to the side along with that floral symbol of his admiration and love for her.

He showed his feelings through flowers. He gave her beautiful blooms of rose-geranium, hawthorne, moss-rose and many others to show the depth of his feelings for her. When she did not return his feelings, the young love faded away like a spent blossom.

Forget-me-not, dandelion, wild grape, myrtle, damask rose, everlasting pea, laurel leaf, primrose, amaranth, French marigold, and chrysanthemum were the other flowers mentioned in this poem. What meanings do you assign to any of these?

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “The Disobedient Pansy”.

Flower Poetry Fridays: The Winter Hyacinth

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

THE WINTER HYACINTH.

How beautiful thou art, my winter flower !
Day after day thy mesh of slender roots,
That mid the water wrought their busy way,
I’ve watch’d intently through the chrystal vase
That deck’d my mantel-piece.

Pink Hyacinth in Bud
Pink Hyacinth in Bud

                              Then, bursting forth,
Came leaves, and swelling buds, and floral bells,
Replete with fragrance: while thy graceful
form,
Fair Hyacinth, attracted every eye,
And many a phrase of admiration woke,
As from a lover’s lip; —while unto me
Thou wert as a companion, skill’d to smile
All loneliness away.

                              But now—alas !
I mark the plague-spot stealing o’er thy brow,
And know that thou must die.

Pink Hyacinth Flowering
Pink Hyacinth Flowering

                              In thy brief space,
Say—did thine inmost soul remember Him
Of whom thy rare and pencill’d beauty spake
So tenderly to us ? And was thy breath
A pure and sweet ascription to His praise ?
We trust it was ; for those who teach of heaven
Should have its spirit too.

                              Yet, if like us,
Poor erring ones, thou e’er didst leave undone
What ‘t was the duty of thy life to do,
Haste, and repent thee ! for the time is short—
The Spoiler cometh !

                              Drooping on the stem,
Methought it meekly folded its faint leaves
For the last, voiceless prayer ; while unto me
A gush of fragrance was its benison.

At morn I came. No more its bosom glow’d ;
A heavy sleep hung o’er its leaden eyes,—
And dews like funeral tears.

                              Oh, Friend ! whose gift
Was the dark bulb that veil’d this glorious
flower,
And unto whom, in gratitude, I turn’d,
As its rich charms develop’d—come with me,
And let us gather from its wither’d lips
Some lingering sigh of wisdom.

                              If we blend
True love to God with every kindly deed
Unto our fellow man, and steadfast stand
At duty’s post, still inly bow’d, as those
Who feel the time is short—may we not wait
For sleep’s last angel, full of placid trust,
Like this sweet, folded flower ?

Red Hyacinth in the Garden
Red Hyacinth in the Garden

The Winter Hyacinth reminds us about the beauty to behold in our floral friends. And indeed, in the midst of Winter, a pretty flower can be a good friend in providing so many smiles.

How interesting it is to watch the hyacinth bulb grow from a tangle of roots. Long green leaves rise up with tiny flower buds that blossom into very fragrant flowers.

Mrs. Sigourney’s message to us is about the fleeting nature of life and she warns us to take heed. Life is too short for regrets.

Take time to watch the hyacinth grow. And smile. :)

I’m sure there’s a lot more meaning in her poem when you thrown in the religious aspect, but I really like the part about the admiration for the flowers, especially hyacinth.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “He Told His Love In Flowers”.

Flower Poetry Fridays: Flowers

Welcome to the first Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. I’ll be posting a new poem each week from her The Voice Of Flowers.

FLOWERS.

Beautiful day lilies found by the wayside.
Beautiful day lilies found by the wayside.

SWEET playmates of life’s earliest hours !
They ne’er upbraid the child,
Who, in the wantonness of mirth,
Uproots them on the wild ;
And when the botanist, his shaft,
With cruel skill, doth ply,
Reproachless ‘neath the fatal wound,
Martyrs to science die.

Wreathed brightly mid the locks of youth,
They come to beauty’s aid,
And in this ministry of love
All unreluctant fade ;
To grace the bridal and the feast,
From sun and shower, they bring
Such robes of glorious tint, as sham’d
Judea’s gorgeous king.

And when the fallen meet the scorn
Of man’s disdainful eye,
They smile amid his path of thorn
With sweet and pitying sigh ;
And to the brow of guilt and care,
The heart by anguish riven,
Still point, with angel-finger, where
The sinner is forgiven.

They shrink not in our ghastly shroud
Their sad abode to take,
And keep their vigil o’er the tomb,
When all beside forsake ;
Down in their own dark sleep of death
They sink at wintry hour,
But in new glory rise to show
The soul’s immortal dower.

Oh ! sharers in our time of joy,
And weepers in our woe,
We bless ye, –children of the sky,
That by the wayside grow ;
That to the cottage eaves go up,
Or wreathe the courtly hall,
Still, like the Power who call’d ye forth,
Dispensing love to all.

Children pick flowers and botanists study them. We use their bright colors to adorn people and things. Flowers touch our lives at many turns, at both happy and sad events like weddings and funerals.

More than having an appreciation of flowers, the underlying message in the poem, “Flowers”, is about expressing that appreciation and delighting in it whenever we experience flowers playing important roles in our lives.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “The Winter Hyacinth”.

Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers Slated for Fridays

The first month of Winter has given us some really cold temperatures and a bit of snow to appreciate looking out from our windows.

Spring seems far away right about now, but we can still use our words and photos to appreciate wildflowers.

To keep up in the spirit of searching for wild herbs and wild flowers, each Friday we’ll publish an excerpt from the classic book, The Voice of Flowers by Mrs. L. H. Sigourney.

The Voice of Flowers 7th. ed. 1848
The Voice of Flowers 1848

The Voice of Flowers was first published in 1845 and I’m lucky enough to have in my possession a small, 4.5 by 3 inches, hard-bound book that was my great-great-grandfather’s. It’s the 7th edition published in 1848 by H. S. Parsons and Co., Hartford, Connecticut.

The Index gives title to 43 poems written by Mrs. Sigourney in the pre-Civil War era. In the 1840s vast changes were happening in America. The Mexican-American war gave control of Texas and parts of California, Arizona and New Mexico to the United States. Florida, Wisconsin and Iowa were admitted as States of the Union. The borders between Canada and the U.S. were decided. The California Gold Rush began and wagon trains headed West.

During this time of radical change some Americans stayed in the East and put down their roots. Mrs. Sigourney, (Lydia Huntley Sigourney September 1, 1791 – June 10, 1865), was born and lived in Connecticut.

Lydia Sigourney c. 1860

She wrote poetry at first for pleasure and later her writing became an occupation. Her writings touch on the way a lady of the Victorian times should act and present herself and she wrote scores of books and hundreds of articles.

Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers probably stems from the times she found herself in. During the Victorian Era women were to be seen and not heard, instead fulfilling roles as the help-meet for their man.

Real gender specific.

Society dictated that a woman’s place was in the home and part of making a nice home was to have beautiful gardens and to grow flowers for bouquets and nose-gays. Mrs. Sigourney shares her flower appreciation with us in her little book of poems.

Alas, we’ll keep looking toward Spring and we look forward to our Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. I’ll be posting a new poem each week from her The Voice Of Flowers.

Dreaming of the Beauty of Spring

Cold, dark days of winter let us see straight through the trees of the forest to that grove of hemlocks on the south side of the property. A small group of 6-7 white-tailed deer bed down in there on most days.

From our higher vantage point in the house we see them going to and from the hemlock area in the early morning hours and near dusk. Once the trees leaf-in in Spring, we won’t be able to view this area from on top the hill.

During December and the Holiday Season we had evergreens and pines to appreciate in the form of wreaths and Christmas trees and boughs on the window sills.

For the last couple of months the action in the field has been harvesting of planted crops like corn, soy and sunflowers. Also, hunting of turkey, bear and deer.

Outdoors there’s nothing blooming now. Most of us who seek the company of our little green friends go inside and appreciate our houseplants.

Christmas cactus blooming in bright pink.
Christmas cactus blooming in bright pink.

Other plant appreciation we get through eating the foods that we’ve canned or preserved from the garden, like salsa and tomatoes.

Right now the garden has baby lettuce about 3 inches tall that we’ll protect over the winter for an early start in Spring next year. Only an old sheet will cover these plants even in the coldest of Winter.

In the next couple of months we’ll dream by the fire of new flowers to seek out on walks in the woods and we’ll pour over seed catalogs to help us design the gardens for next year. Until then we can only dream of Spring and the beauty it brings.