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.


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”.

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