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Title: The Call of the Wildflower
Author: Salt, Henry S.
Language: English
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    THE CALL OF THE
    WILDFLOWER



    _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

    SEVENTY YEARS AMONG SAVAGES. 12s. 6d.

    THE FLOGGING CRAZE. A Statement of the Case
    against Corporal Punishment. With Foreword by
    Sir George Greenwood. 3s. 6d. net.

    GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.

    ON CAMBRIAN AND CUMBRIAN HILLS.
    Pilgrimages to Snowdon and Scafell. Revised
    Edition. 5s. net.

    C. W. DANIEL LTD.

    ANIMALS' RIGHTS: Considered in relation to Social
    Progress. Revised Edition. 2s. 6d.

    DE QUINCEY. Great Writers Series. 1s. 6d. net.

    G. BELL & SONS LTD.

    THE LIFE OF HENRY D. THOREAU. 1s. 6d. net.

    WALTER SCOTT PUBLISHING CO.

    RICHARD JEFFERIES: His Life and his Ideals. 1s. 6d. net.

    JONATHAN CAPE.

    THE LIFE OF JAMES THOMSON, B.V. 2s. 6d. net.

    TREASURES OF LUCRETIUS. Selected Passages
    translated into English Verse. 1s. 6d. net.

    WATTS & CO.

[Illustration: _G. P. Abraham & Sons._] [_Photo. Keswick_

THE HAUNT OF THE SPIDERWORT

The Devil's Kitchen, Carnarvonshire]



    THE CALL OF THE
    WILDFLOWER

    BY
    HENRY S. SALT

    [Illustration]

    LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD
    RUSKIN HOUSE, 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C.

    _First published in 1922_

    (_All rights reserved_)



    TO

    MY FRIENDS

    W. J. JUPP and E. BERTRAM LLOYD



NOTE

I am indebted to the courtesy of the editors of the _Daily News_, _Pall
Mall Gazette_, _Liverpool Daily Post_, and _Sussex Daily News_, for
permission to reprint in this book the substance of articles that first
appeared in their columns.

My obligation to Jack London, in regard to the choice of a title, will
be apparent.



CONTENTS

                                                                    PAGE
    I. THE CALL OF THE WILDFLOWER                                      9

    II. ON SUSSEX SHINGLES                                            21

    III. BY DITCH AND DIKE                                            29

    IV. LIKENESSES THAT BAFFLE                                        37

    V. BOTANESQUE                                                     43

    VI. THE OPEN DOWNLAND                                             50

    VII. PRISONERS OF THE PARTERRE                                    58

    VIII. PICKING AND STEALING                                        63

    IX. ROUND A SURREY CHALK-PIT                                      68

    X. A SANDY COMMON                                                 77

    XI. QUAINTNESS IN FLOWERS                                         85

    XII. HERTFORDSHIRE CORNFIELDS                                     90

    XIII. THE SOWER OF TARES                                          97

    XIV. DALES OF DERBYSHIRE                                         103

    XV. NO THOROUGHFARE!                                             113

    XVI. LIMESTONE COASTS AND CLIFFS                                 121

    XVII. ON PILGRIMAGE TO INGLEBOROUGH                              128

    XVIII. A BOTANOPHILIST'S JOURNAL                                 133

    XIX. FELONS AND OUTLAWS                                          139

    XX. SOME MARSH-DWELLERS                                          144

    XXI. A NORTHERN MOOR                                             151

    XXII. APRIL IN SNOWDONIA                                         158

    XXIII. FLOWER-GAZING _IN EXCELSIS_                               164

    XXIV. COVES OF HELVELLYN                                         171

    XXV. GREAT DAYS                                                  178

    XXVI. THE LAST ROSE                                              185

    INDEX                                                            191



The Call of the Wildflower



I

THE CALL OF THE WILDFLOWER

    _Tantus amor florum._

    VIRGIL.


THE "call of the wild," where the love of flowers is concerned, has an
attraction which is not the less powerful because it is difficult to
explain. The charm of the garden may be strong, but it is not so strong
as that which draws us to seek for wildflowers in their native haunts,
whether of shore or water-meadow, field or wood, moorland or mountain. A
garden is but a "zoo" (with the cruelty omitted); and just as the true
natural history is that which sends us to study animals in the wilds,
not to coop them in cages, so the true botany must bring man to the
flower, not the flower to man.

That the lovers of wildflowers--those, at least, who can give active
expression to their love--are not a numerous folk, is perhaps not
surprising; for even a moderate knowledge of the subject demands such
favourable conditions as free access to nature, with opportunities for
observation beyond what most persons command; but what they lack in
numbers they make up in zeal, and to none is the approach of spring more
welcome than to those who are then on the watch for the reappearance of
floral friends.

For it is as friends, not garden captives or herbarium specimens, that
the flower-lover desires to be acquainted with flowers. It is not their
uses that attract him; _that_ is the business of the herbalist. Nor is
it their structure and analysis; the botanist will see to that. What he
craves is a knowledge of the loveliness, the actual life and character
of plants in their relation to man--what may be called the spiritual
aspect of flowers--and this is seen and felt much more closely when they
are sought in their free wild state than when they are cultivated on
rockery or in parterre.

The reality of this love of wildflowers is evident, but its cause and
meaning are less easy to discern. Is it only part of a modern "return to
nature," or a sign of some latent sympathy between plant and man? We do
not know; but we know that our interest in flowers is no longer
utilitarian, as in the herbalism of a bygone time, or decorative and
æsthetic, as in the immemorial use of the garland on festive occasions,
and in the association of the wine-cup with the rose. The "great
affection" that Chaucer felt for the daisy marked a new era; and later
poets have carried the sentiment still further, till it reached a climax
in the faith that Wordsworth avowed:

    One impulse from a vernal wood
      May teach you more of man,
    Of moral evil and of good,
      Than all the sages can.

Here is a new herbalism--of the heart. We smile nowadays at the
credulity of the old physicians, who rated so highly the virtues of
certain plants as to assert, for example, that comfrey--the "great
consound," as they called it--had actual power to unite and solidify a
broken bone. But how if there be flowers that can in very truth make
whole a broken spirit? Even in the Middle Ages it was recognized that
mental benefit was to be gained from this source, as when betony was
extolled for its value in driving away despair, and when _fuga dæmonum_
was the name given to St. John's-wort, that golden-petaled amulet which,
when hung over a doorway, could put all evil spirits to flight. That,
like many another flower, it can put "the blues" to flight, is a fact
which no modern flower-lover will doubt.

But what may be called the anthropocentric view of wildflowers is now
happily becoming obsolete. "Their beauty was given them for our
delight," wrote Anne Pratt in one of the pleasantest of her books:[1]
"God sent them to teach us lessons of Himself." It would somewhat spoil
our joy in the beauty of wildflowers if we thought they had been "sent,"
like potted plants from a nursery, for any purpose whatsoever; for it is
their very naturalness, their independence of man, that charms us, and
our regard for them is less the prosaic satisfaction of an owner in his
property, than the love of a friend, or even the worship of a devotee:

    The devotion to something afar
      From the sphere of our sorrow.

[Footnote 1: _Haunts of the Wild Flowers._]

This, I think, is the true gospel of the love of flowers, though as yet
it has found but little expression in the literature of the subject.
"Flowers as flowers," was Thoreau's demand, when he lamented in his
journal that there was no book which treated of them in that light, no
real "biography" of plants. The same want is felt by the English reader
to-day: there is no writer who has done for the wildflower what Mr. W.
H. Hudson has done for the bird.[2]

[Footnote 2: Unless it be Canon John Vaughan, in those two delightful
books of his, _The Wild-Flowers of Selborne_ and _The Music of
Wild-Flowers_.]

Indeed, the books mostly fail, not only to portray the life of the
plant, but even to give an intelligible account of its habitat and
appearance; for very few writers, however sound their technical
knowledge, possess the gift of lucid description--a gift which depends,
in its turn, upon that sympathy with other minds which enables an author
to see precisely what instruction is needed. Thus it often happens
that, unless personal help is available, it is a matter of great
difficulty for a beginner to learn the haunts of flowers, or to
distinguish them when found; for when he refers to the books he finds
much talk about inessential things, and little that goes directly to the
point.

One might have thought that a new and strange flower would attract the
eye more readily than a known one, but it is not so; the old is detected
much more easily than the new. "Out of sight, out of mind," says the
proverb; and conversely that which is not yet in mind will long tarry
out of sight. But when once a new flower, even a rare one, has been
discovered, it is curious how often it will soon be noticed afresh in
another place: this, I think, must be the experience of all who have
made systematic search for flowers, and it explains why the novice will
frequently see but little where the expert will see much.

Not until the various initial obstacles have been overcome can one
appreciate the true "call of the wild," the full pleasures of the chase.
When we have learnt not only what plants are to be looked for, but those
two essential conditions, the _when_ and the _where_; the rule of season
and of soil; the flowers that bloom in spring, in summer, or in autumn;
the flowers that grow by shore, meadow, bog, river, or mountain; on
chalk, limestone, sand, or clay--then the quest becomes more effective,
and each successive season will add materially to our widening circle
of acquaintance.

Then, too, we may begin to discard that rather vapid class of
literature, the popular flower-book, which too often deals sentimentally
in vague descriptions of plants, diversified with bad illustrations, and
with edifying remarks about the goodness of the Creator, and may find a
new and more rational interest in the published _Floras_ of such
counties or districts as have yet received that distinction. For dry
though it is in form, a _Flora_, with its classified list of plants, and
its notes collected from many sources, past and present, as to their
"stations" in the county, becomes an almost romantic book of adventure,
when the student can supply the details from his own knowledge, and so
read with illumination "between the lines." Here, let us suppose it to
be said, is a locality where grows some rare and beautiful flower, one
of the prizes of the chase. What hopes and aspirations such an assurance
may arouse! What encouragement to future enterprise! What regrets, it
may be, for some almost forgotten omission in the past, which left that
very neighbourhood unsearched! It is possible that a cold,
matter-of-fact entry in a local _Flora_ will thus throw a sudden light
on some bygone expedition, and show us that if we had but taken a
slightly different direction in our walk--but it is vain to lament what
is irreparable!

Of such musings upon the might-have-been I can myself speak with
feeling, for I was not so fortunate in my youth as to be initiated into
the knowledge of flowers: it was not till much later in life, as I
wandered among the Welsh and English mountains, that the scales fell
from my eyes, and looking on the beauty of the saxifrages I realized
what glories I had missed. Thus I was compelled to put myself to school,
so to speak, and to make a study of wildflowers with the aid of such
books as were available, a process which, like a botanical Jude the
Obscure, I found by no means easy. The self-educated man, we know, is
apt to be perverse and opinionated; so I trust my readers will make due
allowance if they notice such faults in this book. I can truly plead, as
the illiterate do, that "I'm no scholar, more's the pity." But it was my
friends and acquaintances--those, at least, who had some botanical
knowledge--who were the chief sufferers during this period of inquiry;
and, looking back, I often marvel at the patience with which they
endured the problems with which I confronted them. I remember waylaying
my friend, W. J. Jupp, a very faithful flower-lover, with some mutilated
and unrecognizable labiate plant which I thought might be calamint, and
how tactfully he suggested that my conjecture was "near enough." On
another occasion it was Edward Carpenter, the Sage of Millthorpe, or
Wild Sage, as some botanical friend once irreverently described him,
who volunteered to assist me, by means of a scientific book which shows,
by an unerring process, how to eliminate the wrong flowers, until at the
end you are left with the right one duly named. All through the list we
went; but there must have been a slip somewhere; for in the conclusion
one thing alone was clear--that whatever my plant might be, it was not
that which the scientific book indicated. Of all my friends and helpers,
Bertram Lloyd, whose acquaintance with wildflowers is unusually large,
and to whom, in all that pertains to natural history, I am as the "gray
barbarian" (_vide_ Tennyson) to "the Christian child," was the most
constant and long-suffering: he solved many of my enigmas, and
introduced me to some of his choicest flower-haunts among the Chiltern
Hills. In the course of my researches I was sometimes referred for
guidance to persons who were known in their respective home-circles as
"the botanists of the family," a title which I found was not quite
equivalent to that of "the complete botanist." There was one "botanist
of the family" who was visibly embarrassed when I asked her the name of
a plant that is common on the chalk hills, but is so carelessly
described in the books as to be easily confused with other kindred
species. She gazed at it long, with a troubled eye, and then, as if
feeling that her domestic reputation must at all hazards be upheld,
replied firmly: "Hemp-nettle." Hemp-nettle it was not; it was wild
basil; but years after, when I began to have similar questions put to
myself, I realized how disconcerting it is to be thus suddenly
interrogated. It made me understand why Cabinet Ministers so frequently
insist that they must have "notice of that Question." With one complete
botanist, however, I was privileged to become acquainted, Mr. C. E.
Salmon, whose special diocese, so to speak, is the county of Surrey, but
whose intimate knowledge of wildflowers extends to many counties and
coasts. Not a few favours did I receive from him, in certifying for me
some of the more puzzling plants; and very good-naturedly he bore the
disappointment when, on his asking me to send him, for his _Flora of
Surrey_, a list of the rarer flowers in the neighbourhood where I was
living, I included among them the small bur-parsley (_caucalis
daucoides_), a vanished native, a prodigal son of the county, whose
return would have been a matter for gladness. But alas, my plant was not
a _caucalis_ at all, but a _torilis_, a squat weed of the cornfields,
which by its superficial resemblance to its rare cousin had grossly
imposed upon my ignorance. It is when he has acquired some familiarity
with the ordinary British plants that a flower-lover, thus educated late
in life, finds his thoughts turning to the vanished opportunities of the
past. I used to speculate regretfully on what I had missed in my early
wanderings in wild places; as in the Isle of Skye, where I picked up the
eagle's feather, but overlooked the mountain flower; or on Ben Lawers,
a summit rich in rare Alpines to which I then was stone-blind; or in a
score of other localities which I can scarcely hope to revisit. But
time, which heals all things, brought me a sort of compensation for
these delinquencies; for with a fuller knowledge of plants I could to
some extent reconstruct in imagination the sights that were formerly
unseen, and with the eye of faith admire the Alpine forget-me-not on the
ridges of Ben Lawers, or the yellow butterwort in the marshes of Skye.
Nor was it always in imagination only; for sometimes a friend would send
me a rare flower from some distant spot; and then there was pleasure
indeed in the opening of the parcel and in anticipating what it might
contain--the pasque-flower perhaps, or the wild tulip, or the Adonis, or
the golden samphire, or some other of the many local treasures that make
glad the flower-lover's heart. The exhibitions of wildflowers that are
now held in the public libraries of not a few towns are extremely
useful, and often awake a love of nature in minds where it has hitherto
been but dormant. A queer remark was once made to me by a visitor at the
Brighton show. "This is a good institution," he said. "It saves you from
tramping for the flowers yourself." I had not regarded the exhibition in
that light; on the contrary, it stimulates many persons to a pursuit
which is likely to fascinate them more and more.

For no tramps can be pleasanter than those in quest of wildflowers;
especially if one has a fellow-enthusiast for companion: failing that,
it is wiser to go alone; for when a flower-lover tramps with someone who
has no interest in the pursuit, the result is likely to be
discomfiting--he must either forgo his own haltings and deviations, with
the probability that he will miss something valuable, or he must feel
that he is delaying his friend. In a company, I always pray that their
number may be uneven, and that it may not be necessary to march stolidly
in pairs, where "one to one is cursedly confined," as Dryden said of
matrimony; or worst of all, where one's yoke-fellow may insist, as
sometimes happens, on walking "in step," and be forever shuffling his
feet as if obeying the commands of some invisible drill-sergeant. It is
not with the feet that we should seek harmony, but with the heart. My
intention in this book is to speak of the more noteworthy flowers of a
few distinctive localities that are known to me, starting from the coast
of Sussex, and ascending to the high mountains of Wales and the
north-west: I propose also to intersperse the descriptive chapters, here
and there with discussions of such special topics as may incidentally
arise. And here, at the outset, I was tempted to say a few words about
my own favourite flowers--not such universally admired beauties as the
primrose, violet, daffodil, hyacinth, forget-me-not, and the others,
whose names will readily suggest themselves; for, lovely as they are,
it would be superfluous to add to their praises; but rather of some less
famous plants, the saints and anchorites of the floral world, the
flower-lover's flowers--not the popular, but the best-beloved. On second
thoughts, however, I will leave these choicest ones, with a single
exception, to be mentioned in their due place and surroundings, and will
here name but one of them, a flower which is among the first, not only
in the order of merit, but in the order of the seasons.

The greater stitchwort, as writers tell us, is one of "the most
ornamental of our early flowers"; but surely it is something more than
that. The radiance of those white stars that stud the hedge-banks and
road-sides in April and May, is dearer to some of us than many of the
more favoured blossoms that poets have sung of. The dull English name
quite fails to do justice to the almost ethereal lustre of the flower:
the Latin _stellaria_ is truer and more expressive. The reappearance of
the stitchwort, like that of the orange-tip butterfly, is one of the
keenest joys of spring; and one of our keenest regrets in spring is that
the stitchwort's flowering-season is so short.



II

ON SUSSEX SHINGLES

    Salt and splendid from the circling brine.

    SWINBURNE.


WHERE should a flower-lover begin his story if not from the sea shore?
Earth has been poetically described as "daughter of ocean"; and the
proximity of the sea has a most genial and stimulating effect upon its
grandchildren the flowers, not those only that are peculiar to the
beach, but also the inland kinds. There is no "dead sea" lack of
vegetation on our coasts, but a marked increase both in the luxuriance
of plants and in their beauty.

Sussex is rich in "shingles"--flat expanses of loose pebbles formerly
thrown up by the waves, and now lying well above high-water mark, or
even stretching landward for some distance. One might have expected
these stony tracts to be barren in the extreme; in fact they are the
nursery-ground of a number of interesting flowers, including some very
rare ones; and in certain places, where the stones are intersected by
banks of turf, the eye is surprised by a veritable garden in the
wilderness. Let us imagine ourselves on one of these shingle-beds in the
early summer, when the show of flowers is at its brightest: and first at
Shoreham--"Shoreham, crowned with the grace of years," as Swinburne
described it.

Alas! the Shoreham beach, which until less than twenty years ago was in
a natural state, has been so overbuilt with ship-works and bungalows
that it has become little else than a suburb of Brighton; yet even now
the remaining strip of shingle, stretching for half a mile between sea
and harbour, is the home of some delightful plants. In the more favoured
spots the gay mantle thrown over the stony strand is visible at the
first glance in a wonderful blending of colours--the gold of horned
poppy, stonecrop, melilot, and kidney vetch; the white of sea-campion;
the delicate pink of thrift; and the fiery reds and blues of the
gorgeous viper's bugloss--and when a nearer scrutiny is made, a number
of minute plants will be found growing in close company along the grassy
ridges. The most attractive of these are the graceful little spring
vetch (_vicia lathyroides_), the rue-leaved saxifrage, and that tiny
turquoise gem which is apt to escape notice, the dwarf forget-me-not--a
trio of the daintiest blossoms, red, white, and blue, that eyes could
desire to behold.

Shoreham has long been famous for its clovers; and some are still in
great force there, especially the rigid trefoil (_trifolium scabrum_),
and its congener, _trifolium striatum_, with which it is often confused,
while the better-known hare's-foot also covers a good deal of the
ground. But there is a sad tale to tell of the plant which once the
chief pride of these shingles, the starry-headed trefoil, a very lovely
pink flower fringed with silky hairs, which, though not a native, has
been naturalized near the bank of the harbour since 1804, but now, owing
to the enclosures made for ship-building works, has been all but
exterminated. "This," wrote the author of the _Flora of Sussex_ (1907)
"is one of the most beautiful of our wildflowers, and is found in
Britain at Shoreham only. Fortunately it is very difficult to extirpate
any of the _leguminosæ_, and it may therefore be hoped that it may long
continue to adorn the beach at Shoreham." The hope seems likely to be
frustrated. Among the rubble of concrete slabs, and piles of timber,
only three or four tufts of the trefoil were surviving last year, with
every likelihood of these also disappearing as the place is further
"developed." The second of the Shoreham rarities, the pale yellow vetch
(_vicia lutea_) has fared better, owing to its wider range, and is still
scattered freely over the yet unenclosed shingles. It is a charming
flower; but its doom in Sussex seems to be inevitable, for the
bungalows, with their back-yards, tennis-courts, "tradesmen's
entrances," and other amenities of villadom, will doubtless continue to
encroach upon what was once a wild and unsullied tract.

Still sadder is the fate of the devastated coast on the Brighton side of
the harbour-mouth, where the low cliffs that overlook the lagoon from
Southwick to Fisher's-gate have long been known to botanists as worthy
of some attention. Here, on the grassy escarpment, the rare Bithynian
vetch used once to grow, as we learn from Mrs. Merrifield's interesting
_Sketch of the Natural History of Brighton_ (1860); and here we may
still find such plants as the sea-radish, a large coarse crucifer with
yellow flowers and queer knotted seed-pods; the blue clary, or
wild-sage, running riot in great profusion; the fragrant soft-leaved
fennel; the strange star-thistle (_calcitrapa_), so-called from its
fancied resemblance to an ancient and diabolical military instrument,
the caltrop, an iron ball armed with sharp points, which was thrown on
the ground to maim the horses in a cavalry charge; the pale-flowered
narrow-leaved flax; and lastly, that rather uncanny shrub of the
poisonous nightshade order, with small purple flowers and scarlet
berries, which is called the "tea-tree," though the tea which its leaves
might furnish would hardly make a palatable brew.

Below these cliffs, on an embankment that divides the waters of the
lagoon from the seashore, there still flourishes in plenty the fleshy
leaved samphire, once sought after for a pickle, and ever famous through
the reference in _King Lear_ to "one who gathers samphire, dreadful
trade." In this locality there is no dreadful trade, except that of
reducing a once pleasant shore to an unsightly slag-heap.

Let me now turn from this melancholy spectacle to those Sussex shingles
on which the Admiralty and the contractor have not as yet laid a heavy
and ruinous hand. On some of the more spacious of these pebbly beaches,
as on that which lies between Eastbourne and Pevensey, the traveller may
still experience the feeling expressed by Shelley:

        I love all waste
    And solitary places, where we taste
    The pleasure of believing what we see
    Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.

From Langney Point one looks north-east along a desolate shore, beyond
which the ruins of Pevensey Castle are seen in the distance, and the
width of the shingly belt between the sea and the high-road is at this
point scarcely less than a mile. A scene that is bleak and barren enough
in its general aspect; but a search soon reveals the presence of floral
treasures, the first of which is a rather rare member of the Pink
family, the soapwort, which I had long sought in vain until I met with
it growing in abundance close to the outskirts of Eastbourne, where it
roots so luxuriantly in the loose shingles as to make one wonder why it
is so fastidious elsewhere. Among other noticeable inhabitants of these
flats, or of the shallow marshy depressions which they enclose, are
hairy crowfoot, catmint, white melilot, stinking groundsel,
strawberry-headed trefoil, and candytuft--the last-named a rather
unexpected flower in such a place.

Still nearer to the sea, not many yards removed from the spray of the
waves at their highest, the wild seakale is plentiful; a stout glabrous
cabbage, with thick curly leaves and white cruciferous blossoms, it
rises straight out of the bare stones, and thrives exceedingly when the
folk who stroll along the shore can so far restrain their destructive
tendencies as not to hack and mangle it. In its company, perhaps, or in
similar situations, will be seen its first-cousin, the sea-rocket, a
quaint and pleasant crucifer with zigzag stems, fleshy leaves, and pale
lilac petals. The sea-pea, formerly native near Pevensey, is now hardly
to be hoped for.

One of the most naturally attractive spots on the Sussex coast is
Cuckmere Haven, near Seaford, a gap in the chalk cliffs, about half a
mile in width, through which the river Cuckmere finds a dubious exit to
the sea. Were it not for the abomination of the rifle-butts, which
sometimes close the shore to the public, no more delectable nook could
be desired; and to the flower-lover the little shelf of shingle which
forms the beach is full of charm. Here, growing along the grassy margin
of brackish pools, and itself so like a flowering grass that a sharp eye
is needed to detect it, one may find that singular umbelliferous
plant--not at all resembling the other members of its tribe--the slender
hare's-ear (_bupleurum tenuissimum_), thin, wiry, dark-green, with
narrow lance-like leaves and minute yellow umbels. Near by, the small
sea-heath, one of the prettiest of maritime flowers, makes a dense
carpet; on the corner of the adjacent cliff the lesser and rarer
sea-lavender (_statice binervosa_) is plentiful, and in the late summer
blooms at a considerable height on the narrow ledges.

Pagham "Harbour," a wild estuary of some extent, between Selsey and
Bognor, is another locality that has earned a reputation for its
flowers, the most remarkable of which is the very local proliferous
pink, which has long been known as abundant on that portion of the
coast, though elsewhere very infrequent. A pleasant walk of about three
miles leads from Bognor to Pagham, along a sandy shore fringed with very
luxuriant tamarisk-bushes; and when one reaches the stony reef where
further progress is barred by the waters or sand-shoals of the
"Harbour," the little pink, which bears a superficial resemblance to
thrift, will be seen springing up freely among the pebbles. We are told
that only one of its blossoms opens at a time; but this is the sort of
statement, often copied from book to book, which is not verified by
experience, or to which at least many exceptions must be admitted. What
is certain is that the proliferous pink has a considerable share of the
distinctive grace of its family, and that the occasion of first
encountering it will live in the flower-lover's memory.

I have named but a few--those personally known to me--of the rarer or
more characteristic shingle-flowers; and in so wide a field there is
always the chance of new discoveries: hence the unfailing interest, to
the botanist, of places which, apart from their flora, are likely to be
shunned as wearisome. The shore itself is seldom without visitors; but
the shingles that stretch back from the shore rarely attract the
footsteps even of the hardiest walkers. It is only when there has been a
murder in one of those solitary spots--or at least something that the
newspapers can describe as "dramatic" or "sensational"--that the
holiday-folk in the neighbouring towns forsake for a day or two the
pleasures of pier or parade, and sally forth over the stony wildernesses
in a search for "clues"; as when the "Crumbles," near Eastbourne, was
the scene, two years ago, of a murder, and at a later date of a ghost.
To discover the foot of some partially buried victim protruding from the
pebbles--_that_ is deemed a sufficient object for a pilgrimage. The gold
of the sea-poppy and the pink of the thrift are trifles that are passed
unseen.



III

BY DITCH AND DIKE

          On either side
    Is level fen, a prospect wild and wide.

    CRABBE.


"LEVELS," or "brooks," is the name commonly given in Sussex to a number
of grassy tracts, often of wide extent, which, though still in a state
of semi-wildness, have been so far reclaimed from primitive fens as to
afford a rough pasturage for horses and herds of cattle, the ground
being drained and intersected by dikes and sluggish streams. In these
spacious and unfrequented flats wildfowl of various kinds are often to
be seen; herons stand motionless by the pools, or flap slowly away if
disturbed in their meditation; pewits wheel and cry overhead; and the
redshank, most clamorous of birds during the nesting-season, makes such
a din as almost to distract the attention of the intruding botanist. For
it is the botanist who is specially drawn to these wild water-ways,
where hours may be profitably spent in strolling beside the brooks, with
the certainty of seeing many interesting plants and the chance of
finding some unfamiliar ones; nor is there anything to mar his
enjoyment, except the possible meeting with a bull on a wide arena from
which there is no ready exit, save by jumping a muddy ditch or by
crossing one of the narrow and precarious planks which do duty as
footbridges.

These "levels," though often bordering on a tidal river, are not
themselves salt marshes, nor is their flora a maritime one; in that
respect they differ from the East-coast fens described by Crabbe in one
of his _Tales_, "The Lover's Journey"; a passage which has been praised
as one of the best pictures ever given of dike-land scenery. There are
lines in it which might be quoted of the Sussex as well as of the
Suffolk marsh-meadows; but for me the verses are spoiled by the
strangely apologetic tone which the poet assumed in speaking of the
local plants:

    The few dull flowers that o'er the place are spread
    Partake the nature of their fenny bed.

And so on. Did he think that his polite readers expected to hear of
sweet peas and carnations beautifying the desolate mud-banks? The
"dulness" seems to be--well, not on the part of the flowers. "Dull as
ditchwater," they say. But ditchwater flowers are far from dull.

Of Sussex marshes the most extensive are the Pevensey Levels; but the
most pleasantly situated are those that lie just south of Lewes, where
the valley of the Ouse widens into an oval plain before it narrows
again towards Newhaven. From the central part of this alluvial basin the
view is very striking all around; for the estuary seems to be everywhere
enclosed, except to seaward, by the great smooth slopes of the chalk
Downs. On its west side are three picturesque villages, Iford, Rodmell,
and Southease, with churches and farms lying on the very verge of the
"brooks": at the head, the quaint old houses and castle of Lewes rise
conspicuous like a mediæval town.

But to whichever of these watery wastes the flower-lover betakes
himself, he will not lack for occupation. One of the first friends to
greet him in the early summer, by the Lewes levels, will be the charming
_Hottonia_, or "water-violet," as it is misnamed; for though the petals
are pink, its yellow eye and general form proclaim it to be of the
_primulaceæ_, and "water-primrose" should by preference be its title.
There are few prettier sights than a company of these elegant flowers
rising clear above the surface, their slender stems bearing whorls of
the pink blossoms, while the dark green featherlike leaves remain
submerged. This "featherfoil," as it is sometimes called, is as lovely
as the primrose of the woods.

Companions or near neighbours of the _Hottonia_ are the arrow-head, at
once recognized by its bold sagittate leaves, and the frog-bit, another
flower of three white petals, whose small reniform foliage, floating on
the brooks, gives it the appearance of a dwarf water-lily. By no means
common, but growing in profusion where it grows at all, the dainty
little frog-bit, once met with, always remains a favourite. The true
water-lilies, both the white and the yellow, are also native on the
levels; so, too, is the quaint water-milfoil, with its much-cut
submerged leaves resembling those of the featherfoil, and its numerous
erect flower-spikes dotting the surface of the pools. All these
water-nymphs may be seen simultaneously blossoming in June.

More prominent than such small aquatics are the tall-growing kinds which
lift their heads two or three feet above the waters. Of these quite the
handsomest is the flowering rush (_butomus_), stately and pink-petaled;
among the rest are the two water-plantains (the lesser one rather
uncommon); the water-speedwell, a gross and bulky _veronica_ which lacks
the charm of its smaller relative the brook-lime; and the queer
mare's-tails, which in the midst of a running stream look like a number
of tiny fir-trees out of their element. The umbelliferous family is also
well represented. Wild celery is there; and the showy water-parsnip
(_sium_); the graceful tubular water-dropwort, and its big neighbour the
horse-bane, which in some places swells to an immense size in the centre
of the ditches. On the margin grows the pretty trailing money-wort, or
"creeping Jenny"; and with it, maybe, the white-blossomed brook-weed, or
water-pimpernel, which at first sight has more likeness to the
crucifers than to its real relatives the primroses, and is thus apt to
puzzle those by whom it has not previously been encountered.

Rambling beside these so-called brooks, which are mostly not brooks but
channels of almost stagnant water, one cannot fail to remark the
clannishness of many of the flowers: they grow in groups, monopolizing
nearly the whole length of a ditch, and making a show by their united
array of leaves or blossoms. In one part, perhaps, the slim water-violet
predominates; then, as you turn a corner, a long vista of arrow-heads
meets the eye, nothing but arrow-heads between bank and bank, their
sharp, barbed foliage topping the surface in a phalanx: or again, you
may come upon fifty yards of frog-bit, a multitude of small green
bucklers that entirely hide the water; or a radiant colony of
water-lilies, whose broad leaves make the intrusion of other aquatics
scarcely possible, and provide a cool pavement for wagtail and moorhen
to walk on. It is noticeable, too, that the lesser water-plantain,
unlike the greater, is almost confined to one section of the levels; and
in like manner the brook-weed and the burmarigold have each occupied for
their headquarters the banks of a particular dike.

The fringed buckbean (_villarsia_) is said to be an inhabitant of these
brooks. I have not seen it there; but it may be found, sparsely, in the
river Ouse, a short distance above Lewes, where its round leaves float
on the quiet backwaters like those of a large frog-bit or a small
water-lily, though the botanists tell us it is a gentian. I remember
that on the first occasion when I saw it there, on a late summer day,
there was only a single blossom left, and as that was on a deep pool,
several yards from the bank, there was no choice but to swim for it. The
great yellow cress (_nasturtium amphibium_), a glorified cousin of the
familiar water-cress, is also native on the Ouse above Lewes, less
frequently below.

More spacious than the Lewes levels, but drearier, and on the whole less
interesting, are those of Pevensey, which cover a wide tract to the east
of Hailsham, formerly an inlet of the sea, where the sites of the few
homesteads that rise above the flat meadows, such as Chilley and
Horse-eye, were once islands in the bay. Walking north from Pevensey, by
a road which traverses this inhospitable flat, one sees the walls of
Hurstmonceux Castle in front, on what was originally the coast-line; on
either side of the highway is a maze of ditches and dikes, among which
rare flowers are to be found, notably the broad-leaved pepperwort, the
largest and most remarkable of its family, and the great spearwort, said
to be locally plentiful near Hurstmonceux. The bladderwort, reputed
common on these marshes, seems to have become much scarcer than it was
twenty years back.

For other flowers, other fenny tracts may be sought; Henfield Common,
for instance, has the bog-bean, the marsh St. John's-wort, and still
better, the marsh-cinquefoil. But of all Sussex water-meadows with which
I am acquainted the richest are the Amberley Wild Brooks, which lie
below Pulborough, adjacent to the tidal stream of the Arun, a piece of
partially drained bog-land which in a wet winter season is apt to be
flooded anew, and to revert to its primitive state of swamp. It is a
glorious place to wander over, on a sunny August afternoon, with the
great escarpment of the Downs, and the ever-prominent Chanctonbury Ring,
close in view to the south; and in a long summer day the expedition can
be combined with a visit to Arundel Park, only three miles distant, the
best of parks, as being the least parklike and most natural, and having
a goodly store of the wildflowers that are dwellers upon chalk hills.

The Amberley Wild Brooks possess this great merit, that in addition to
most of the aquatics and dike-land plants above-mentioned, they present
a fine display of the tall riverside flowers. Their wet hollows that
teem with frog-bit, arrow-head, water-parsnip, water-plantain, yellow
cress, glaucous stitchwort, and other choice things, are fringed here
and there with purple loosestrife, and with marsh-woundwort almost equal
to the loosestrife in size and colour; and mingling with these in like
luxuriance are yellow loosestrife, tansy, toadflax, and water-ragwort--a
brilliant combination of purple flowers and gold. Then, as if the
better to set off this spectacle, there is in some places a background
of staid and massive herbs like the great water-dock,

    And bulrushes, and reeds of such deep green
    As soothe the dazzled eye with sober sheen.[3]

One would fear that this wealth of diverse hues might even become
embarrassing, were it not that the heart of the flower-lover is
insatiable.

[Footnote 3: From Shelley's short lyric, "The Question," perhaps the
most beautiful flower-poem in the language.]



IV

LIKENESSES THAT BAFFLE

    Stay, stand apart; I know not which is which.

    _The Comedy of Errors._


ONE of the first difficulties by which those who would learn their
native flora are beset is the likeness which in some cases exists
between one plant and another--not the close resemblance of kindred
species, such as that found, for instance, among the brambles or the
hawkweeds, which is necessarily a matter for expert discrimination, but
the superficial yet often puzzling similarity in what botanists call the
"habit" of wildflowers. Thus the horse-shoe vetch may easily be
mistaken, by a beginner, for the bird's-foot trefoil, or the field
mouse-ear chickweed for the greater stitchwort; and the differences
between the dove's-foot crane's-bill and the less common _geranium
pusillum_ are not at first sight very apparent. Distinguishing features
instantly recognized by an expert, who has taken, so to speak,
finger-tip impressions of the plants, do not readily present themselves
to the layman, whose only guide is the general testimony of structure,
colour, and height.

It is, moreover, unfortunate that some of the popular flower-books,
owing to the slovenly way in which their descriptions are worded, are of
little help; they not only fail to give the needed particulars where
there is a real likeness, but often, where there is none, create
confusion in the reader's mind by depicting quite dissimilar plants in
almost identical terms. In Johns's _Flowers of the Field_ (edition of
1908), for example, the description of hedge-woundwort hardly differs
verbally from that of black horehound, and might certainly mislead a
novice who was studying hedgerow flowers. The same writer had an
exasperating habit of repeatedly stating that various plants are "well
distinguished" by certain features, when in fact it is very difficult,
from the accounts given by him, to distinguish them at all!

An earlier and better writer, Anne Pratt, did make an effort in her
_Haunts of the Wild Flowers_ to indicate the chief characteristics, as
between the sea-plantain and the sea-arrowgrass, the hemp-agrimony and
the valerian; but even she, when some of the labiate flowers were in
question, dismissed them, not very helpfully, as "all growing in
abundance, but so much alike that it needs a knowledge of botany to
distinguish them from each other"! I have known a case where, owing to a
picturesque but inaccurate account, in the same book, the Welsh
stonecrop (_sedum Forsterianum_) was confused with the marsh St.
John's-wort, which has leaves that bear a curious resemblance to those
of the _sedum_ tribe.

Even writers of botanical handbooks seem not to realize with what
difficulties the uninitiated are faced, in regard to certain groups of
plants where the several species, though quite distinct, bear a strong
family likeness. The chamomiles, for instance, might well receive some
special treatment in books; for it is no simple matter to assign their
proper names to some four or five of the clan--the true chamomile, the
wild chamomile, the corn chamomile, the stinking chamomile, and the
"scentless" mayweed, which is _not_ scentless. Many of the umbellifers
also are notoriously difficult to identify; and among leguminous plants
there is a bewildering similarity between black medick, or "nonsuch,"
and the lesser clover (_trifolium minus_), which in turn is liable to be
confused with the popular hop-clover or with the slender and fairy-like
_trifolium filiforme_. "Small examples of _t. minus_," said a well-known
botanist, Mr. H. C. Watson, "are so frequently misnamed _t. filiforme_,
that I trust only my own eyes for it."[4] "As like as two peas" is a
saying which finds fulfilment in these and other examples.

[Footnote 4: _Flora of Surrey_, by J. A. Brewer, 1863.]

The clovers are indeed a perplexing family; and it is not surprising
that the identification of the "shamrock" has given cause for dispute.
Two of the smaller trefoils, for example, _trifolium scabrum_ and
_striatum_, so closely resemble each other that a novice fails to
appreciate the assurance given in the _Flora of Kent_ that they "can
very easily be separated." It is doubtless easy to separate one twin
from another twin, Dromio of Ephesus from Dromio of Syracuse, when once
you know how to do so; but until you have acquired that knowledge there
is material for a "comedy of errors." The majority of folk are much more
apt to confuse plants than to distinguish them: witness such names as
"fool's-parsley" and "fool's-watercress." Fools there are; yet anyone
who has spent time in studying wildflowers, with no better aid than that
of the popular books on the subject, will hesitate to pass judgment on
such folly; for as so good an observer as Richard Jefferies said: "If
you really wish to identify with certainty, and have no botanist friend
and no _magnum opus_ of Sowerby to refer to, it is very difficult indeed
to be quite sure."[5] We have to be thankful for small mercies in this
matter; and it may be recognized that in some cases--generally where the
similarity is _not_ great, as that between the strawberry-leaved
cinquefoil and the wild strawberry, or between the feverfew and the
scentless mayweed--the books occasionally give a word of advice to "the
young botanist." Nine times out of ten, however, that young fellow, or
perchance old fellow (for one may be young as a botanist, while by no
means young in years), must shift for himself; and doing so, he will
gradually learn by experience what a number of likenesses there are
among plants, and how many mistakes may be made before a sure
acquaintance is arrived at.

[Footnote 5: Essay on "Wild Flowers," in _The Open Air_.]

The name of "mockers" is sometimes given by gardeners to weeds that are
so like certain valued plants as to be easily mistaken for them; and in
the same way, in the search for wildflowers, one's attention is often
distracted, as, for instance, if one is looking for the spineless
meadow-thistle, the eye may be baffled by innumerable knapweed blossoms
of the same hue; the clustered bell-flower will feign to be the autumnal
gentian, its neighbour on the chalk downs; or the blossoms and leaves of
the purple saxifrage on the high mountains are aped by the ubiquitous
wild thyme.

Of all these likenesses the most perilous is that between the malodorous
ramsons, which have a very abiding smell of garlic, and the highly
esteemed lily of the valley. Hence a story which I once heard from the
affable keeper who presides over a wooded hill in Westmorland where the
lily of the valley abounds, and where visitors are permitted to pick as
many flowers as they like after payment of a shilling. Seeing a
gentleman busily engaged in gathering a large bunch of ramsons, the
keeper, suspecting error, asked him what he supposed himself to be
picking. "Why, lilies of the valley, of course," was the reply. When the
truth was explained, the visitor thanked the keeper cordially, and
added: "I was picking the flowers for my wife: but if I had brought her
a present of garlic she would have had something to say to me. I myself
have lost the sense of smell."[6]

[Footnote 6: So, too, had the poet Wordsworth; of whom William Morris,
who disliked the Wordsworthian cult, used to say, in explanation of such
antipathy: "The fellow couldn't smell."]

Likeness or unlikeness--it is all a matter of observation. To a
stranger, every sheep in the flock has a face like that of her fellows:
to the shepherd there are no two sheep alike.



V

BOTANESQUE

    What is it? a learned man
      Could give it a clumsy name.
    Let him name it who can,
      The beauty would be the same.

    TENNYSON.


AMONG the difficulties that waylay the beginner must be reckoned the
botanical phraseology. We have heard of "the language of flowers," and
of its romantic associations; but the language of botany is another
matter, and though less picturesque is equally cryptic and not to be
mastered without study.

When, for example, we read of a certain umbelliferous plant that its
"cremocarp consists of two semicircular-ovoid mericarps, constricted at
the commissure"--or when, with our lives in our hands, so to speak, we
experiment in fungus-eating, and learn that a particular mushroom has
its stem "fistulose, subsquamulose, its pileus membranaceous, rarely
subcarnose, when young ovato-conic, then campanulate, at length torn and
revolute, deliquescent, and clothed with the flocculose fragments of
the veil"--we probably feel that some further information would be
welcome.

A friend who had been reading a series of articles on botany once
remarked to me that "they could scarcely be said to be written in any
known language, but were in a new tongue which might perhaps be called
Botanesque."

But it is of the botanesque nomenclature that I now wish to speak. The
faculty of bestowing appropriate names is at all times a gift, an
inspiration, most happy when least laboured, and often eluding the
efforts of learned and scientific men. By schoolboys it is sometimes
exhibited in perfection; as in a case that I remember at a public
school, where three brothers of the name of Berry were severally known,
for personal reasons, as Bilberry, Blackberry, and Gooseberry, the
fitness of which botanical titles was never for a moment impugned.

But botanists rarely invent names so well. The nomenclature of plants,
like that of those celestial flowers, the stars, is a queer jumble of
ancient and modern, classical learning and mediæval folk-lore, in which
the really characteristic features are often overlooked. In this respect
the Latin names are worse offenders than the English; and one is
sometimes tempted, in disgust at their pedantic irrelevance, to ignore
them altogether, and to exclaim with the poet:

    What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.

But this would be an error; for a name does greatly enhance the interest
of an object, be it boy, or bird, or flower; and the Greek and Latin
plant-names, cumbrous and far-fetched though many of them are--as when
the saintfoin is absurdly labelled _onobrychis_, on the supposition that
its scent provokes an ass to bray--form, nevertheless, a useful link
between botanists of different nations and a safeguard against the
confusion that arises from a variety of local terms.

Among the English names also there are some clumsy appellations, and in
a few cases the Latin ones are much pleasanter: _stellaria_, for
example, as I have already said, is more elegant than "stitchwort."
"What have I done?" asks the small cousin of the woodruff, in Edward
Carpenter's poem, when it justly protests against its hideous
christening by man:

    What have I done? Man came,
      Evolutional upstart one,
    With the gift of giving a name
      To everything under the sun.
    What have I done? Man came
      (They say nothing sticks like dirt),
    Looked at me with eyes of blame,
      And called me "Squinancy-wort."

But on the whole the English names of flowers are simpler and more
suggestive than the Latin; certainly "monk's-hood" is preferable to
_aconitum_, "rest-harrow" to _ononis_, "flowering rush" to _butomus_;
and so on, through a long list: and it therefore seems rather strange
that the native titles should sometimes be ousted by the foreign. I have
met botanists who had quite forgotten the English, and were obliged to
ask me for the scientific term before they could sufficiently recall the
plant of which we were speaking.

The prefix "common" is often very misleading in the English
nomenclature. Anyone, for example, who should go confidently searching
for the "common hare's-ear" would soon find that he had got his work cut
out. There are, in fact, not many plants that are everywhere common;
most of those that are so described should properly be classed as
_local_, because, while plentiful in some districts, they are infrequent
in others.

Botanical names fall mainly into three classes, the medicinal, the
commemorative, the descriptive. The old uses of plants by the herbalists
mark the prosaic origin of many of the names; some of which, such as
"goutweed," at once explain themselves, as indicating supposed remedies
for ills that flesh is heir to. Others, if less obvious, are still not
far to seek; the "scabious," for example, derived from the Latin
_scabies_, was reputed to be a cure for leprosy: a few, like
"eye-bright" (_euphrasia_, gladness), have a more cheerful significance.
When we turn to such titles as _centaurea_, for the knapweed and
cornflower, some explanation is needed, to wit, that Chiron, the
fabulous centaur, was said to have employed these herbs in the exercise
of his healing art.

The commemorative names are mostly given in honour of accomplished
botanists, it being a habit of mankind, presumably prompted by the
acquisitive instincts of the race, to name any object, great or
small--from a mountain to a mouse--as _belonging_ to the person who
discovered or brought it to notice. In the case of wildflowers this is
not always a very felicitous system of distinguishing them, though
perhaps better than the utilitarian jargon of the pharmacopoeia.
Sometimes, indeed, it is beyond cavil; as in the fit association of the
little _linnæa borealis_ with the great botanist who loved it; but when
a number of the less important professors of the science are
immortalized in this way, there seems to be something rather irrelevant,
if not absurd, in such nomenclature. Why, for example, should two of the
more charming crucifers be named respectively _Hutchinsia_ and
_Teesdalia_, after a Miss Hutchins and a Mr. Teesdale? Why should the
water-primrose be called _Hottonia_, after a Professor Hotton; or the
sea-heath _Frankenia_, after a Swedish botanist named Franken; and so
on, in a score of other cases that might be cited? The climax is reached
when the _rubi_ and the _salices_ are divided into a host of more or
less dubious sub-species, so that a Bloxam may have his bramble, and a
Hoffmann his willow, as a possession for all time!

The most rational, and also the most graceful manner of naming flowers
is the descriptive; and here, luckily, there are a number of titles,
English or Latin, with which no fault can be found. Spearwort,
mouse-tail, arrow-head, bird's-foot, colt's-foot, blue-bell, bindweed,
crane's-bill, snapdragon, shepherd's purse, skull-cap, monk's-hood,
ox-tongue--these are but a few of the well-bestowed names which, by an
immediate appeal to the eye, fix the flower in the mind; they are at
once simple and appropriate: in others, such as Adonis, Columbine,
penny-cress, cranberry, lady's-mantle, and thorow-wax, the description,
if less manifest at first sight, is none the less charming when
recognized. The Latin, too, is at times so befitting as to be accepted
without demur; thus _iris_, to express the rainbow tints of the flowers,
needs no English equivalent, and _campanula_ has only to be literally
rendered as "bell-flower." In _campanula hederacea_, the "ivy-leaved
bell-flower," we see nomenclature at its best, the petals and the
foliage of a floral gem being both faithfully described.

A glance at a list of British wildflowers will bring to mind various
other ways in which names have been given to them--some familiar, some
romantic, a few even poetical. Among the homely but not unpleasing kind,
are "Jack by the hedge" for the garlic mustard; "John go to bed at noon"
for the goat's-beard; "creeping Jenny" for the money-wort; and
"lady's-fingers" for the kidney-vetch. Of the romantically named plants
the most conspicuous example is doubtless the forget-me-not, its English
name contrasting, as it does, with the more realistic Latin _myosotis_,
which detects in the shape of the leaves a likeness to a mouse's ear.
None, perhaps, can claim to be so poetical as Gerarde's name for the
clematis; for "traveller's joy" was one of those happy inspirations
which are unfortunately rare.



VI

THE OPEN DOWNLAND

    Open hither, open hence,
    Scarce a bramble weaves a fence.

    MEREDITH.


WHEN speaking of some Sussex water-meadows, I mentioned as one of their
many delights the views which they offer of the never distant Downs. The
charm of these chalk hills is to me only inferior to that of real
mountains; there are times, indeed, when with clouds resting on the
summits, or drifting slowly along the coombes, one could almost imagine
himself to be in the true mountain presence. I have watched, on an
autumn day, a long sea of vapour rolling up from the weald against the
steep northern front of the Downs, while their southern slopes were
still basking in sunshine; and scarcely less wonderful than the clouds
themselves are the cloud-shadows that may often be seen chasing each
other across the wide open tracts which lie in the recesses of the
hills.

"Majestic mountains," "exalted promontories," were among the
descriptions given of the Downs by Gilbert White: what we now prize in
them is not altitude but spaciousness. In Rosamund Marriott Watson's
words:

    Broad and bare to the skies
    The great Down-country lies.

Its openness, with the symmetry of the free curves and contours into
which the chalk shapes itself, is the salient feature of the range; and
to this may be added its liberal gift of solitude and seclusion. Even
from the babel of Brighton an hour's journey on foot can bring one into
regions where a perpetual Armistice Day is being celebrated, with
something better than the two minutes of silence snatched from the
townsfolk's day of din.

The Downs are also open in the sense of being free, to a very great
extent, from the enclosures which in so many districts exclude the
public from the land. In some parts, unfortunately, the abominable
practice of erecting wire fences is on the increase among sheep-farmers;
but generally speaking, a naturalist may here wander where he will.

Of all the flowering plants of the Downs, the gorse is at once the
earliest and the most impressive; no spectacle that English wildflowers
can offer, when seen _en masse_, excels that of the numberless
furze-bushes on a bright April day. There is then a vividness in the
gorse, a depth and warmth of that "deep gold colour" beloved by
Rossetti, which far surpasses the glazed metallic sheen of a field of
buttercups. It is pure gold, in bullion, the palpable wealth of
Croesus, displayed not in flat surfaces, but in bars, ingots, and
spires, bough behind bough, distance on distance, with infinite variety
of light and shade, and set in strong relief against a background of
sombre foliage. Thus it has the appearance, in full sunshine, almost of
a furnace, a reddish underglow and heart of flame which is lacking even
in the broom. To creep within one of these gorse-temples when illumined
by the sun, is to enjoy an ecstasy both of colour and of scent.

With the exception of the furze, the Downland flowers are mostly low of
stature, as befits their exposed situation, a small but free people
inhabiting the wind-swept slopes and coombes, and well requiting the
friendship of those who visit them in their fastnesses. One of the
earliest and most welcome is the spring whitlow-grass, which abounds on
ant-hills high up on the ridges, forming a dense growth like soft down
on the earth's cheek. Here it hastes to get its blossoming done before
the rush of other plants, its little reddish stalk rising from a rosette
of short leaves, and bearing the tiny terminal flowers with white deeply
cleft petals and anthers of yellow hue. Its near successor is the
equally diminutive mouse-ear (_cerastium semidecandrum_), a
white-petaled plant of a deep dark green, viscous, and thickly covered
with hairs.

When summer has come, the flowers of the Downs are legion--yellow
bird's-foot trefoil, and horse-shoe vetch; milkwort pink, white, or
blue; fragile rock-rose; graceful dropwort; salad burnet;
squinancy-wort, and a hundred more,[7] of which one of the fairest,
though commonest, is the trailing silverweed, whose golden petals are in
perfect contrast with the frosted silver of the foliage. But the special
ornament of these hills, known as "the pride of Sussex," is the
round-headed rampion, a small, erect, blue-bonneted flower which is no
"roundhead" in the Puritan sense, but rather of the gay company of
cavaliers. Abundant along the Downs from Eastbourne to Brighton, and
still further to the west, it is a plant of which the eye never tires.

[Footnote 7: See the beautiful chapter on "The Living Garment," in Mr.
W. H. Hudson's _Nature in Downland_.]

But it is the orchids that chiefly draw one's thoughts to Downland when
midsummer is approaching. "Have you seen the bee orchis?" is then the
question that is asked; and to wander on the lower slopes at that season
without seeing the bee orchis would argue a tendency to
absent-mindedness. I used to debate with myself whether the likeness to
a bee is real or fanciful, till one day, not thinking of orchids at all,
I stopped to examine a rather strange-looking bee which I noticed on the
grass, and found that the insect was--a flower. That, so far, settled
the point; but I still think that the fly orchis is the better imitation
of the two.

The early spider orchis is native on the eastern range of the Downs,
near the lonely hamlet of Telscombe and in a few other localities in
the heart of the hills; where, unless one has luck--and I had none--the
search for a small flower on those far-stretching slopes is like the
proverbial hunt for a needle in a hayloft. The only noticeable object on
the hillside was an apparently dead sheep, about a hundred feet below
me, lying flat on her back, with hoofs pointing rigidly to the sky; but
as it was _orchis_, not _ovis_, that I was in quest of, I was about to
pass on, when I saw a shepherd, who had just come round a shoulder of
the Down, uplift the sheep and set her on her legs, whereupon, to my
surprise, she ambled away as if nothing had been amiss with her. I
learnt from the shepherd that such accidents are not uncommon, and that
having once "turned turtle" the sluggish creature (as mankind has made
her) would certainly have perished unless he had chanced to come to the
rescue. When I told the good man what had brought me to that
unfrequented coombe, he said, as country people often do, that he did
not "take much notice" of wildflowers; nevertheless, after inquiring
about the appearance of the orchids, he volunteered to note the place
for me if he chanced to see them. Then, as we were parting, he called
after me: "And if you see any more sheep on their backs, I'll thank you
if you'll turn 'em over." This I willingly promised, on the principle
not only of humanity, but that one good turn deserves another. Next
season, perhaps, our friendly compact may be renewed.

The dingle in which Telscombe lies is rich in flowers; in the Maytime of
which I am speaking, there was a profusion of hound's-tongue in bloom,
and a good sprinkling of that charming upland plant, deserving of a
pleasanter name, the field fleawort; but of what I was searching for, no
trace. I had walked into the spider's "parlour," but the spider was not
at home. More fortunate was a lady who on that same day brought to the
Hove exhibition a flower which she had casually picked on another part
of the Downs where she was taking a walk. Sitting down for a rest, she
saw an unknown plant on the turf. It was a spider orchis.

Much less unaccommodating, to me, was the musk orchis, a still smaller
species which grows in several places where the northern face of the
Downs is intersected, as below Ditchling Beacon, by deep-cut
tracks--they can hardly be called bridle-paths--that slant upward across
the slope. I was told by Miss Robinson, of Saddlescombe, to whose wide
knowledge of Sussex plants many flower-lovers besides myself have been
indebted, that she once picked a musk orchis from horseback as she was
riding along the hill side. It is a sober-garbed little flower, with not
much except its rarity to signalize it; but an orchis is an orchis
still; there is no member of the family that has not an interest of its
own. Many of them are locally common on these hills; to wit, the early
purple, the fly, the frog, the fragrant, the spotted, the pyramidal,
and most lovely of all, the dwarf orchis; also the twayblade, the
lady's-tresses, and one or two of the helleborines. The green-man
orchis, not uncommon in parts of Surrey and Kent, will here be sought in
vain.

But the Downs are not wholly composed of grassy sheep-walks and
furze-dotted wastes; they include many tracts of cultivated land, where,
if we may judge from the botanical records of the past generation,
certain cornfield weeds which are now very rare, such as the mouse-tail
and the hare's-ear, were once much more frequent. It is rather strange
that the improved culture, which has nearly eliminated several
interesting species, should have had so little effect on the charlock
and the poppy, which still colour great squares and sections of the
Downs with their rival tints, their yellow and scarlet rendered more
conspicuous by having the quiet tones of these rolling uplands for a
background.

In autumn, when most of the wealden flowers are withering, the chalk
hills are still decked with gentians and other late-growing kinds; and
the persistence, even into sere October, of such children of the sun as
the rampion and the rock-rose is very remarkable. The autumnal aspect of
the Downs is indeed as beautiful as any; for there are then many days
when a blissful calm seems to brood over the great coombes and hollows,
and the fields lie stretched out like a many-coloured map, the rich
browns of the ploughlands splashed and variegated with patches of
yellow and green. Then, too, one sees and hears overhead the joy-flight
of the rooks and daws, as round and round they circle, higher and
higher, like an inverted maelstrom swirling upward, till it breaks with
a chorus of exulting cries as gladdening to the ear as is the sight of
those aerial manoeuvres to the eye.

The final impression which the Downs leave on the mind is, I repeat, one
of freedom and space; and this is felt by the flower-lover as strongly
as by any wanderer on these hills, these "blossoming places in the
wilderness," as Mr. Hudson has called them, "which make the thought of
our trim, pretty, artificial gardens a weariness."



VII

PRISONERS OF THE PARTERRE

    Prim little scholars are the flowers of her garden,
      Trained to stand in rows, and asking if they please.
    I might love them well but for loving more the wild ones:
      O my wild ones! they tell me more than these.

    MEREDITH.


THE domestication of plants, as of animals, is a concern of such
practical importance that in most minds it quite transcends whatever
interest may be felt in the beauty of wildflowers. But the many delights
of the garden ought not to blind us to the fact that there is in the
wild a peculiar quality which the domesticated can never reproduce, and
that the plant which is free, even if it be the humblest and most
common, has a charm for the nature-lover which the more gorgeous
captives of the garden must inevitably lack. If much is gained by
domestication, much is also lost. This, doubtless, is felt less strongly
in the taming of plants than of animals, but in either case it holds
true.

To some of us, it must be owned, zoological gardens are a nightmare of
confusion, and the now almost equally popular "rock-garden" a place
which leaves an impression of dulness and futility; for while we fully
recognize the interest, such as it is, of inducing Alpines to grow under
altered conditions of climate, there is an irrelevance in the assembling
of heterogeneous flowers in one enclosure, which perplexes and wearies
the mind. For just as a cosmopolitan city is no city at all, and a Babel
is no language, so a multifarious rock-garden, where a host of alien
plants are grouped in unnatural juxtaposition, is a collection not of
flowers but of "specimens." For scientific purposes--the determination
of species, and viewing the plants in all stages of their growth--it may
be most valuable: to the mere flower-lover, as he gazes on such a
concourse, the thought that arises is: "What's Hecuba to him, or he to
Hecuba?" It is a museum, a herbarium, if you like; but hardly, in any
true sense, a garden.

I once had the experience of living next door to a friend who was
smitten with the mania for rock-gardening, and from my study window I
overlooked the process from start to finish--first the arrival of many
tons of limestone blocks and chips; then the construction of artificial
crags and gullies, moraines and escarpments, until a line of miniature
Alps rose to view; and lastly the planting of various mountain flowers
in the situations suited to their needs. Then followed many earnest
colloquies between the creator of this fair scene and a neighbour
enthusiast, as they walked about the garden together and inspected it
plant by plant, much as a farmer goes his rounds to examine his oats or
turnips. They surveyed the world, botanically speaking, from China to
Peru. Yet somehow I felt that, just as I would rather see a sparrow at
large than an eagle in captivity, so to be shown round that
well-fashioned rockery was less entertaining than to show oneself round
the most barren of the adjacent moors. "Herbes that growe in the
fieldes," wrote a fifteenth-century herbalist, "be bettere than those
that growe in gardenes."[8]

[Footnote 8: Quoted in _A Garden of Herbs_, by E. S. Rohde.]

This, however, is by no means the common opinion; on the contrary, there
is in most minds a disregard or veritable contempt for wildflowers as
being, with a few exceptions, "weeds," and quite unworthy of comparison
with the inmates of a garden.

In her _Haunts of the Wild Flowers_, Anne Pratt has recorded how she was
invited by a cottager to throw away a bunch of "ordinary gays" that she
was carrying, and to gather some garden flowers in their stead.

I once took a long walk over the moors in Derbyshire in order to visit
certain rare flowers of the limestone dales, among them the
speedwell-leaved whitlow-grass (_draba muralis_), a specimen of which I
brought home. This little crucifer is very insignificant in appearance;
and the fact that anyone should plod many miles to gather it so upset
the gravity of an extremely demure and respectful servant girl, when
she saw it on my mantelpiece, that to her own visible shame and
confusion she broke into a loud giggle, somewhat as Bernard Shaw's
chocolate-cream soldier failed to conceal his amusement when the
portrait of the hero of the cavalry charge was shown to him by its
possessor.

Even in the case of those wildings whose beauty or scent has made them
generally popular, it is thought the highest compliment to domesticate
them, to bring them--poor waifs and strays that they are--from their
forlorn savage state into the fold of civilization, just as a
"deserving" pauper might be received into an almshouse, or an orphan
child into one of Dr. Barnardo's homes. And strange to say, this
reverential belief in the garden, as enhancing the merits of the wild,
has found its way into many of the wildflower books: for instance, in
Johns's well-known work, _Flowers of the Field_ (of the _field_, be it
noted), we are informed that the lily of the valley is "a universally
admired garden plant, and that the sweet-brier is "deservedly"
cultivated.

The more refined wildflowers, it will be seen, can thus rise, as it
were, from the ranks, at the cost of their freedom, which happens to be
the most interesting thing about them, to be enrolled in the army of the
civilized; and the result has been that some of the more distinguished
plants, such as the _daphne mezereum_, are fast losing their place among
British wildflowers, and becoming nothing better than prisoners and
captives of the parterre. This disdain that is felt for whatever is
wild, natural, and unowned, is largely responsible for the unscrupulous
digging up of any attractive plants that may be discovered, a subject of
which I propose to speak in the next chapter.

The absurdity of the typical gardener's attitude toward wildflowers is
well illustrated by some remarks in Delamer's _The Flower Garden_ (1856)
with reference to that exceedingly beautiful plant, the tutsan. "Tutsan
is a hardy shrubby St. John's-wort, largely employed by gardeners of the
last century; but it has now, for the most part, retired from business,
in consequence of the arrival of more attractive and equally serviceable
newcomers. One or two tutsan bushes may be permitted to help to form a
screen of shrubs, in consideration of the days of auld lang syne."

Fortunately the tutsan is not "retiring from business" in Nature's
garden. It seems to me that, instead of carrying more and more
wildflowers into captivity, it would be much wiser to set at liberty the
many British plants that are now under detention. I would instruct my
gardener (if I had one) to lift very carefully the daphnes, the lilies
of the valley, the tutsans, the cornflowers, the woodruffs, and the rest
of the native clan, and to plant them out, each according to its taste,
by bank or hedgerow, in field, common, or wood.



VIII

PICKING AND STEALING

    Flower in the crannied wall,
      I pluck you out of the crannies.

    TENNYSON.


THERE is, as I have said, a positive contempt in many minds for the
wildflower; that is, for the flower which is regarded as being no one's
"property." But the flora of a country, rightly considered, is very far
from being unowned; it is the property of the people, and when any
species is diminished or extirpated the loss is not private but
national. We have already reached a time, as many botanists think, when
the choicer British flowers need some sort of protection.

That some injury should be caused to our native flora by improved
culture, drainage, building, and the extension of towns, is inevitable;
though these losses might be considerably lessened if there were a more
general regard for natural beauty. But that is all the stronger reason
for discountenancing such damage as is done in mere thoughtlessness, or,
worse, for selfish purposes; and it were greatly to be wished that some
of the good folk who pray that their hands may be kept "from picking and
stealing" would so far widen the scope of their sympathies as to include
the rarer wildflowers.

It cannot be doubted that there is an immense amount of wasteful
flower-picking by children, and also by persons who are old enough to
know better. Nothing is commoner, in Spring, than to see piles of
freshly gathered hyacinths or cowslips abandoned by the roadside; and
many other flowers share the same fate, including, as I have noticed,
the beautiful green-winged meadow orchis. Trippers and holiday-makers
are often very mischievous: I have seen them, for instance, on the
ramparts of Conway Castle, hooking and tearing the red valerian which is
an ornament to the grey old walls. I was told by a friend who lives in a
district where the rare meadow-sage (_salvia pratensis_) is native, that
he is compelled to pluck the blue flowers just before the August
bank-holiday, in order to save the plant itself from being up-rooted and
carried off.

Primroses, abundant as they still are in many places, have nearly
disappeared from others, in consequence of the depredations of
flower-vendors; and there was a time when they were seriously threatened
in the neighbourhood of London because a certain fashionable cult was at
its height. Witness the following "Idyll of Primrose Day" by some
unknown versifier:

    How blest was dull old Peter Bell,
      Whom Wordsworth sung in days of yore!
    A primrose by a river's brim
    A yellow primrose was to him,
      And it was nothing more.

    Alas! 'tis something more to us;
      No longer Nature's meekest flower,
    But symbol of consummate Quack,
    Who by tall talk and knavish knack
      Could plant himself in power.

    For his sweet sake we mourn, each spring,
      Our lanes and hedgerows robbed and bare,
    Our woods despoiled by clumsy clown,
    That primrose-tufts may come to town
      For tuft-hunters to wear.

    And so, on snobbish Primrose Day,
      We envy Peter's simple lore:
    A primrose, worn with fulsome fuss,
    A yellow primrose is to us,
      Alas! and something more.

The nurseryman and the professional gardener have also much to answer
for in the destruction of wildflowers. Take the following instance,
quoted from the _Flora of Kent_, with reference to the cyclamen:
"Towards the end of August, 1861, I was shown the native station of this
plant. . . . The people in those parts had found out it was in request,
and had almost entirely extirpated it, digging up the roots, and selling
them for transplantation into shrubberies." In the same work it is
recorded that, when the frog orchis was found in some abundance near
Canterbury, "in a wonderfully short space of time the whole of this
charming colony was dug and extirpated."

Again, if it be permissible to call a spade a spade, what shall be said
of those roving knights of the trowel, the unconscionable rock-gardeners
who ride abroad in search of some new specimen for their collections? A
late writer of very charming books on the subject has feelingly
described how, after the discovery of some long-sought treasure, he
craved a brief spell of repose, a sort of holy calm, before commencing
operations. "We blessed ones," he said, referring to botanists as
contrasted with ornithologists, "may sit down calmly, philosophically,
beside our success, and gently savour all its sweetness, until it is
time to take out the trowel after half an hour of restful rapture in our
laurels."[9]

[Footnote 9: From _My Rock Garden_, by Reginald Farrer, p. 257.]

Other flower-fanciers there are who show much less circumspection. In
Upper Teesdale, where the rare blue gentian (_gentiana verna_) is found
on the upland pastures, I was told that a "gentleman" had come with two
gardeners in a motor, and departed laden with a number of these
beautiful Alpine flowers for transplantation to his private rockery. The
nation which permits such a theft--far worse than stealing from a
private garden--deserves to possess no wildflowers at all; and such a
botanist, if botanist he can be called, deserves to be himself
transplanted, or transported--to Botany Bay.

The same vandalism, in varying degrees, has been at work in every part
of the land, and nothing has yet been done effectively to check it,
whether by legislation, education, or appeal to public opinion: it seems
to be absolutely no one's business to protect what ought to be a
cherished national possession. In no district, perhaps, has the greed of
the collector been more unabashed than among the mountains of Cumberland
and North Wales. "Thanks to the inconsiderate rapacity of the
fern-getter," wrote Canon Rawnsley, in an Introduction to a _Guide to
Lakeland_, "the few rarer sorts are fast disappearing. ... There has
been, in the time past, quite a cruel and unnecessary uprooting of the
rarer ferns and flowers;" and he went on to ask: "When will travellers
learn that the fern by the wayside has a public duty to fulfil?"

All such remonstrances have hitherto been in vain: neither the fear of
God nor the fear of man has deterred the collector from his purpose. It
is pleasant to read that in the seventeenth century a Welsh guide
alleged "the fear of eagles" as a reason for not leading one of the
earliest English visitors to the haunts of Alpine plants on the
precipices of Carnedd Llewelyn; but unfortunately eagles are now as
scarce as nurserymen and fern-filchers are numerous.



IX

ROUND A SURREY CHALK-PIT

     I found a deep hollow on the side of a great hill, a green concave,
     where I could rest and think in perfect quiet.

    RICHARD JEFFERIES.


AS a range of hills, the North Downs are inferior to those of Sussex in
beauty and general interest. Their outline suggests no "greyhound backs"
coursing along the horizon; nor have they that "living garment" of turf,
woven by centuries of pasturing, which Hudson has matchlessly described.
Their northern side is but a gradual slope leading up to a bleak
tableland; and only when one emerges suddenly on their southern front,
with its wide views across the weald, do their glories begin to be
realized. In this steep declivity, facing the sun at noon, there is a
distinctive and unfailing charm, quite unlike that of the corresponding
escarpment of the South Downs: it forms, as it were, an inland riviera,
a sheltered undercliff, green with long waving grasses, and sweet with
marjoram and thyme, a haven where the wandering flower-lover may revel
in glowing sunshine, or take a siesta, if so minded, under that most
friendly of trees the white-beam.

I have memories of many a pious Sabbath spent in this enchanted realm,
with the wind in the beeches for anthem, and for incense the scent of
marjoram enriching the air. To one who knows these fragrant banks it
seems strange that though the wild thyme has been so celebrated by poets
and nature-writers, the marjoram, itself a glorified thyme, has by
comparison gone unsung. We are told in the books that it is a potherb,
an aromatic stimulant, even a remedy for toothache. It may be all that;
but it is something much better, a thing of beauty which might cure the
achings not of the tooth only, but of the heart. Its relatives the
lavender and the rosemary have not more charm. It was the _amaracus_ of
Virgil, the flower on whose sweetness the young Iulus rested, when he
was spirited away by Venus to her secret abode:

    She o'er the prince entrancing slumber strows,
    And, fondling in her bosom, far away
    Bears him aloft to high Idalian bowers,
    Where banks of marjoram sweet, in soft repose,
    Enfold him, propped on beds of fragrant flowers.[10]

[Footnote 10: _Æneid_, I. 691-4.]

Who could wish for a diviner couch?

Along this range of hills the chalk-pits, used or disused, are frequent
at intervals, some of such size as to form landmarks visible at the
distance of twenty or thirty miles. For a botanist, these
amphitheatres, large or small, have always an attraction; for though
they vary much in the quality of their flowers, and some have little to
show beyond the commoner plants of a calcareous soil, there are a few
which present a surprising array of the choicer kinds; and to light upon
one of these treasure-troves is a joy indeed. I have in mind a large
semicircular disused pit, lying high among the Downs, and bordered with
abrupt grassy banks and coppices of beech, hazel, and fir, where during
the past thirty years I have spent many long summer days, sometimes
writing under the shade of the trees, at other times idling among the
flowers, or watching the snakes that lie basking in the sun, or the
kestrels that may often be seen hovering over the adjacent slopes. For
all their unrivalled openness and sense of space, the Sussex Downs have
no such "sun-trap" to show.

One has heard of "the music of wild flowers."[11] I used to call the
floor of this chalk-pit "the orchistra," so numerous are the orchids
that adorn it. The spotted orchis, the fragrant orchis, the pyramidal
orchis, the bee orchis, the butterfly orchis, and the twayblade--these
six are stationed there within a small compass. The marsh orchis grows
below; the fly orchis is in the neighbouring thickets; in the
beech-woods are the bird's-nest orchis, the broad-leaved helleborine,
with its rare purple variety (_epipactis purpurata_), and the large
white helleborine or egg orchis. A dozen of the family within the
circuit of a short walk! The man orchis seems to be absent, though it
grows in some plenty in similar places on the same line of hills.

[Footnote 11: See note on p. 12.]

Another feature of the chalk-pit is the viper's bugloss. If, as Thoreau
says, there is a flower for every mood of the mind, the viper's bugloss
must surely belong to that mood which is associated with the pomps and
splendours of the high summer noontide. Gorgeous and tropical in its
colouring beyond all other British flowers, as it rears its bristly
green spikes, studded profusely with the pink buds that are turning to
an equally vivid blue, it seems instinct with the spirit of a fiery
summer day. Like other members of the Borage group, it has the warm
southern temperament; its name, too, suits it well; for there is
something viperish in the almost fierce beauty of the plant, as if some
passionate-hearted exotic had sprung up among the more staid and sober
representatives of our native flora. Its richness never palls on us; we
no more tire of its brilliance than of the summer itself.

Akin to the bugloss, though less striking and less abundant, is the
hound's-tongue, with its long downy leaves and numerous purple-red buds
of a sombre and sullen hue that is not often to be matched. It has the
misfortune, so we are told, to smell of mice; were it not for this
hindrance to its career, it might justly be held in high esteem. Among
the larger plants prominent on ledges of the chalk, or in near
neighbourhood, are the mullein, the teazle, the ploughman's-spikenard,
and the deadly nightshade or dwale. The buckthorn is frequent in the
hedges and thickets; and the traveller's-joy is climbing wherever it can
get a hold.

But it is on the shelving banks that skirt the margin of the pit that
the comeliest flowers are to be found; the most beautiful of all,
perhaps, is the rock-rose, a plant so delicate that its small golden
petals will scarcely survive a journey in the vasculum, yet so hardy
that it will flower to the very latest autumn days. The wild strawberry
is creeping everywhere; and the crimson of the grass vetchling may
occasionally be seen among the ranker herbage, to which the stalk seems
to belong; on the shorter turf is the small squinancy-wort, lovely
cousin of the woodruff, its pink and white petals chiselled like the
finest ivory.

The elegant yellow-wort, glaucous and perfoliate, and the handsome pink
centaury, are common on the Downs; so, too, in the late summer, will be
their less showy but always welcome relative, the autumnal gentian: all
three have the firm and erect habit that is a property of the Gentian
tribe. It is one of the many merits of these chalk hills that their
flower-season is a prolonged one. Not the gentians only, with
yellow-wort and centaury, are still vigorous in the autumn, but also the
blue fleabane, clustered bell-flower, vervain, marjoram, basil, and many
labiate herbs. Even in October, when the glory has long departed from
the lowlands of the weald, there remains a brave show of blossom on
these delectable hills.

The Pilgrim's Way, often no more than a grassy track, runs eastward
along the base of the Downs, interrupted here and there by the
encroachment of parks and private estates, which now block the ancient
route to Canterbury; but where Nature has provided so many shrines and
cathedrals of her own, there is no need of any others; certainly I never
lacked a holy place wherein to make my vows, many as were the
pilgrimages on which I started.

On one occasion that I recall, I was joined in my quest by a rather
strange fellow-traveller, a man who met me, coming from the opposite
direction, and eagerly asked whether I had seen anyone on the hillside.
When I assured him that nobody had passed that way, he turned and walked
in my company, and presently confided to me that he was an attendant at
a lunatic asylum, and was in pursuit of an inmate who had escaped an
hour or two before. We went a short distance together, he peering into
the coombes and bushy hollows, as incongruous a pair as could be
imagined; yet it occurred to me that his mission, too, might be
considered a botanical one, since there is a plant named the
madwort--nay, worse, the "German madwort," a title which, in those
feverish war-days, would of itself have justified incarceration.
Nevertheless, as I always sympathize with escaped prisoners (provided,
of course, that it is not _my_ bed under which they conceal
themselves), I was secretly glad that my companion's search was
unavailing.

To return to my chalk-pit: I have mentioned but a few of the many
flowers that belong there; within a mile, or less, others and quite
different ones are flourishing. The rampion, though very local in
Surrey, is found in places along these Downs; so, too, is the strange
yellow bugle, or "ground pine," which is much more like a diminutive
pine than a bugle; also the still stranger fir-rape (_monotropa_), which
lurks in the thickest shade of the beech-woods. That interesting shrub,
the butcher's-broom, or "knee holly," as it is more agreeably called, is
another native: it wears its small flower daintily, like a button-hole,
on the centre of the rigid leaves of deepest green.

A few miles east there is another chalk-pit which, though inferior in
the number of its flowers, has a sprinkling of the man orchis, whose
shape, if there is any likeness at all, seems to suggest a toy man
dangling from a string; a simile which I prefer to that of a dead man
dangling from the gallows. In the woods that crown this pit there is a
profusion of the deadly nightshade; and I noticed that during the
war-summers, when there was a scarcity of belladonna, these plants were
regularly harvested by some enterprising herbalist.

Such are a few of the delights of the Surrey undercliff; but alas! they
are vanishing delights, for the proximity to London has rendered all
this district peculiarly liable to change. How could it be otherwise,
when from the top of the ridge the dome of "smoky Paul's" is visible on
a clear day, and a view of the Crystal Palace, "that dreadful C.P." as
one has heard it called, can seldom be avoided. What havoc has been
wrought in the Surrey hills by the advance of "civilization," may be
learnt by anyone who studies the district with a sixty-year-old _Flora
of Surrey_ for guide. Between Merstham and Godstone, for instance, the
hillsides, which were then free, open ground, have become in the saddest
sense "residential," and the wildflowers have suffered in proportion.
One may still find there the narrow-leaved everlasting pea, "hanging in
festoons on thickets and copses," but other equally valued plants have
disappeared or are disappearing. The marsh helleborine was once
plentiful, it seems, in a swampy situation near Merstham; but when, by
dint of careful trespassing and circumnavigation of barbed wire, I
reached a place which corresponded exactly with that indicated in the
_Flora_, not a single flower was to be seen. Probably some conscientious
gardener had "transplanted" them.

It is impossible to doubt that this process will be continued, and that
every year more wild land will be broken up in the building of villas
and in the making of gardens, with the inevitable shrubberies, gravel
walks, flower-borders, and lawn-tennis courts. The trim parterre with
its "detested calceolarias," as a great nature-lover has described
them, will more and more be substituted for the rough banks that are the
favourite haunts of marjoram and rock-rose. How can the owners of such a
fairyland have the heart to sell it for such a purpose? In Omar's words:

    I often wonder what the vintners buy
    One half so precious as the stuff they sell.



X

A SANDY COMMON

    The common, overgrown with fern, . . .
    Yields no unpleasing ramble; there the turf
    Smells fresh, and rich in odoriferous herbs
    And fungus fruits of earth, regales the sense
    With luxury of unexpected sweets.

    COWPER.


STRETCHED between the North Downs and the weald, through the west part
of Kent and the length of Surrey, runs the parallel range of greensand,
which in a few places, as at Toys Hill and Leith Hill, equals or
overtops its rival, but is elsewhere content to keep a lower level, as a
region of high open commons and heaths. The light soil of this district
shows a flora as different from that of the chalk hills on its north as
of the wealden clays on its south; so that a botanist has here the
choice of three kingdoms to explore.

In natural beauty, these hills can hardly compare with the Downs. "For
my part," wrote Gilbert White, "I think there is something peculiarly
sweet and amusing in the shapely figured aspect of chalk hills, in
preference to those of stone, which are rugged, broken, abrupt, and
shapeless."[12] The same opinion was held by William Morris, who once
declined to visit a friend of his (from whom I had the story) because he
was living on just such a sandy common in west Surrey, where the
formless and lumpish outline of the land was a pain to the artistic eye.
For hygienic reasons, however, a sandy soil is reputed best to dwell
upon; and I have heard a tale--told as a warning to those who are
over-fastidious in their choice of a site--of a pious old gentleman who,
being determined to settle only where he could be assured of two
conditions, "a sandy soil and the pure gospel," finally died without
either in a Bloomsbury hotel.

[Footnote 12: _Natural History of Selborne_, ch. lvi.]

The gorse and broom in spring, and in autumn the heather, are the marked
features of the sandy Common: the foxglove, too, which has a strong
distaste for lime, here often thrives in vast abundance, and makes a
great splash of purple at the edge of the woods. But even apart from
these more conspicuous plants, the "barren heath," as it is sometimes
called, is well able to hold its own in a flower-lover's affection;
though the absence of the finer orchids, and of some other flowers that
pertain to the chalk, makes it perhaps less exciting as a field of
adventure. In Crabbe's words:

    And then how fine the herbage! Men may say
    A heath is barren: nothing is so gay.

From May to September the Common is sprinkled with a bright succession
of flowers--the slender _moenchia_, akin to the campions and
chickweeds, dove's-foot, crane's-bill; tormentil; heath bedstraw;
speedwells of several species; autumnal harebell, and golden rod--each
in turn playing its part. Among the aristocracy of this small people are
the bird's-foot, an elfin creature, with tiny pinnate leaves and creamy
crimson-veined blossoms; the modest milkwort, itself far from a rarity,
yet so lovely that it shames us in our desire for the rare; and the
trailing St. John's-wort, which we hail as the beauty of the family,
until presently, meeting with its "upright" sister of the smooth
heart-shaped leaves and the golden red-stained buds, we are forced to
own that to her the name of _hypericum pulcrum_ most rightly belongs.

But the chief prize of the sandy heath is the Deptford pink, a rare
annual of uncertain appearance, which bears the unmistakable stamp of
nobility: it is a red-letter day for the flower-lover when he finds a
small colony of these comely plants on some dry grassy margin. It was on
a bank in Westerham Park that I first met with them; and there they
reappeared, though in lessening numbers, in the two succeeding seasons.
There was also a solitary flower, growing unpicked, strange to say,
close beside one of the most frequented tracks that skirt the
neighbouring Common.

In the woods of beech and fir with which the hill is fringed there are
more fungi than flowers; and here too the "call of the wild" is felt,
though to a feast of a less ethereal order. Fungus hunting is one of the
best of sports, and a joy unknown to those who imagine that the orthodox
"mushroom" of the market is the only wholesome species; and it is worthy
of note that, whereas the true meadow mushroom is procurable during only
a few weeks of the year, the fungus-eater can pursue his quarry during
six or seven months, so great is the variety at his disposal. Among the
delicacies that these woods produce are the red-fleshed mushroom, a
brown-topped warty plant which becomes rufous when bruised; the
gold-coloured chantarelle, often found growing in profusion along bushy
paths and dingles; the big edible boletus, ignored in this country, but
well appreciated on the Continent; and best of all, deserving indeed of
its Latin name, the _agaricus deliciosus_, or orange-milk agaric, so
called because its flesh, when broken, exudes an orange-coloured juice.
It is easy to identify these and many other species with the help of a
handbook, and it therefore seems strange that Englishmen, as compared
with other races, should be prejudiced against the use of this valuable
form of food. As for the country-folk who live within easy reach of such
dainties, yet would rather starve than eat a "toadstool," what can one
say of them?

    _O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint!_[13]

[Footnote 13: Thrice blest, if they but knew what joys are theirs!]

From the south side of these fir-woods one formerly emerged, almost at a
step, on to the escarpment that overlooks the weald, and at one of the
finest viewpoints in Kent or Surrey; but the trees were felled during
the war by Portuguese woodmen imported for that lamentable purpose. The
spot is remembered by me for another reason; for there, in the years
before the madness of Europe, used to sit almost daily a very aged man,
whose home was on the hillside close by, and who was brought out, by his
own wish, that he might spend his declining days not in moping by a
kitchen fire, but in gazing across the wide expanse of weald, where all
the landmarks were familiar to him, and of which he seemed never to
weary. No more truly devout old age could have been desired; for there
was no mistaking his genuine love for what Richard Jefferies called "the
pageant of summer," the open-air panorama of the seasons, as observed
from that heathery watch-tower. The only cloud on his horizon, so to
speak, was the flock of aeroplanes which even then were beginning to mar
the sky's calmness: of these he would sagely remark that "if man had
been intended to fly, the Almighty would have given him wings." Had the
old philosopher known to what hellish uses those engines were presently
to be put, he might have wondered still more at such thwarting of the
divine intent.

Of sandpits there are several on the Common, and their disused borders
are favourite haunts for wildflowers. The "least" cudweed, a slender
wisp of a plant, is native there; the small-flowered crane's-bill, which
is liable to be confounded with the dove's-foot; also one or two curious
aliens, such as the Canadian fleabane, and the Norwegian _potentilla_,
which resembles the common cinquefoil but has smaller flowers.

But what most allured me to the spot was the sheep's scabious, or, as it
is more prettily named in the Latin, _Jasione montana_, a delightful
little plant, baffling alike in name, form, and colour. It is called a
scabious, yet is not one. It is classed as a campanula, and seen through
a lens is found to be not one but many campanulas, a number of tiny
bells united in a single head. Then its hue--was there ever tint more
elusive, more indefinable, than that of its many petals? Is it grey, or
blue, or lavender, or lilac, or what? We only know that the flower is
very beautiful as it blooms on sandy bank or roadside wall.

At the side of a small plantation that borders the heath there thrives
the alien small-flowered balsam, which, like some of its handsomer
kinsfolk, seems to be quickly extending its range. Near the same spot I
noticed several years ago, on a winter day, a patch of large soft
pale-green leaves, which at a hasty glance I took to be those of the
scented colt's-foot; but when I passed that way in the following spring
I was surprised to see that several long stalks, bearing bright yellow
composite flowers, had risen from the mass of foliage. It proved to be
the leopard's-bane, probably an "escape" from some neighbouring garden,
but already well established and thriving like any native.

But the Common does not consist wholly of dry ground; in one place, near
the centre of the golf-course, there is a marshy depression, and in it a
small pond where the water is a foot or two deep in winter, but in a hot
summer almost disappears. Here a double discovery awaits the inquirer.
The muddy pool is full of one of the rarer mints--pennyroyal--and with
it grows the curious _helosciadium inundatum_, or "least marsh-wort," a
small umbelliferous plant which has more the habit and appearance of a
water crowfoot, its lower leaves being cut in fine hair-like segments.

Nor do the fields and lanes that adjoin the heath lack their distinctive
charm. The orpine, or "live-long," a handsome purple stonecrop, is not
uncommon by the hedgeside; and the lovely _geranium striatum_, or
striped crane's-bill, an occasional straggler from gardens, has made for
itself a home; a hardy little adventurer it is, and one hopes it may yet
win a place among British flowers, as many a less desirable immigrant
has done. Poppies and corn-marigolds are a wonder of red and gold in the
cultivated fields, the poppies as usual looking their best (if
agriculturists will pardon the remark) when they have a crop of wheat
for a background. The queer little knawel springs up among spurrey and
parsley-piert; and in one locality is the lesser snapdragon, which
always commands attention, partly for its uncommonness, and partly as a
scion of the romantic race of _Antirrhinum_, which has a fascination not
for children only, but for all lovers of the quaint.

I have mentioned the golf-course. To many a Common the golfers are
becoming what the builders are to the Downs--invaders who, by the
trimming of grass and cutting down of bushes, are turning the natural
into the artificial, and appropriating for the use of the few the
possession of the many. To everyone his recreation ground; but are not
the golf clubs getting rather more than their portion?



XI

QUAINTNESS IN FLOWERS

    Throw hither all your quaint enamell'd eyes.

    MILTON.

I SPOKE just now of a love of the quaint. Quaintness, though it may
exist apart from beauty, is often associated with it, and, unlike
grotesqueness, has a pleasurable interest for the spectator. In flowers
it is usually suggested by some abnormality of shape, as in the
snapdragon; less frequently, as in the fritillary, by a singular effect
of colouring. Perhaps it is to the orchis group that one would most
confidently apply the word; for they arrest attention not so much by
their beauty as by their strangeness: one of them, indeed, the dwarf
orchis, is undeniably beautiful, while another, the bird's-nest, is as
ugly as a broom-rape; the others, if one tried to find a comprehensive
epithet, might fairly be described as quaint.

This quality in the orchids is not due solely to the odd likeness which
some of them present to certain insects; for, as far as British species
are concerned, the similarity, with a few exceptions, is somewhat
fanciful. If it be granted that the fly, the bee, and the spider orchis
are justly named--though even in these the resemblance is not always
recognized when pointed out--it is no less true that one looks in vain
for the semblance of a "butterfly," or of a "frog," in the plants that
are so entitled, and it takes some ingenuity to discover the "man" in
_aceras anthropophora_, or the "egg" in the white helleborine. But there
is a charming quaintness in nearly all members of the family, owing
largely to the peculiar structure of the lower lip of the corolla or the
unusual length of the spur.

The very name of the snapdragon is a proof of its hold upon the
imagination: what mediæval romance and unfailing charm for children--and
for adults--is conveyed in the word! The plant is at its best when clad
in royal hue of purple; the white robe also has its glory; but the
intermediate forms, striped and mottled, that are so fancied in gardens,
are degenerates from a noble type. Seen on the walls of some ancient
ruin, the snapdragon is a wonder and a delight; it is to be regretted
that its place is now so often usurped by the red valerian, in
comparison a mere upstart and pretender. The lesser snapdragon or
calf's-snout, with the toadflaxes and fluellens, shares in the
characteristic quaintness of its tribe.

I will next instance the "perfoliates," plants not confined to any one
order, but alike in having a stem which passes midway through the leaf
or pair of leaves, a most engaging curiosity of structure. It is by
this peculiarity that the yellow-wort, a gentian with glaucous foliage
and blossoms like "patines of bright gold," mainly wins its popularity.
But the quaintest of perfoliates is the hare's-ear, or "thorow-wax," as
it used to be called, of which, as Gerarde wrote, "every branch grows
thorow every leaf, making them like hollow cups or saucers." The
thorow-wax owes its attractiveness to these singular glaucous leaves,
which might be compared with an artist's palette; in some measure, also,
to the sharp-pointed bracts by which the minute yellow flowers are
enfolded--features that lend it a distinction which many much more
beautiful plants do not possess.

From no catalogue of quaint plants could the butterwort be omitted.
"Mountain-sanicle" was its old name; and all climbers are acquainted
with it, as it studs the wet rocks on the lower hillsides with pale
green or yellowish leaves like starfish on a seashore. Its
flowering-season is short, but full of interest, for lo! from its centre
there rise in June one or two long and dainty stems, each bearing at its
extremity a drooping purple flower that might at first glance be taken
for a violet--a violet springing from a starfish!

It is a long step from these conspicuous examples of the quaint to the
small and modest moschatel, a hedge-flower which is likely to go
unobserved unless it be made a special object of inquiry. _Adoxa_, "the
unknown to fame," is its Greek title; but if it has little claim to
beauty in the ordinary sense, there is no slight charm in its delicate
configuration, and in the whimsical arrangement of its five slender
flower-heads--a terminal one, facing upwards, supported by four lateral
ones, with a resemblance to the faces of a clock; whence its not
inappropriate nickname, "the clock-tower." A fairy-like little belfry it
is, whose chimes must be listened for, if at all, in the early spring,
for it hastens to get its flowering finished before it is overgrown by
the rank herbage of the roadside.

There are many other flowers that might claim a place in this chapter,
such as the sundews and the bladderworts; the mimulus and ground pine;
the samphire and sea-rocket; the mullein and the teazle; and not least,
the herb Paris, with that large quadruple "love-knot" into which its
leaves are fashioned. But it must suffice to speak of one more.

The fritillary, which shall close the list, is quaint to the point of
being bizarre: its various names bear witness to the freakishness of its
apparel--"guinea-flower," "turkey-hen," "chequered lily,"
"snake's-head," and so forth. It was aptly described by Gerarde as
"chequered most strangely. . . . Surpassing the curiousest painting that
art can set down"; and in addition to this gorgeous colouring, the
bell-like shape and heavy poise of its flower-heads contribute to the
striking effect. From Gerarde to W. H. Hudson, who has portrayed it
very beautifully in his _Book of a Naturalist_, the fritillary has been
fortunate in its chroniclers; in its name, which it shares with a
handsome family of butterflies, it can hardly be said to have been
fortunate. For apart from the consideration that it is no great honour
to a fine insect or flower to be likened to that instrument of human
folly, a dicebox (_fritillus_), there is the practical difficulty of
pronouncing the word as the dictionaries tell us it must be pronounced,
with the accent on the first syllable; and not the dictionaries only,
but the poets, as in Arnold's oft-quoted but very cacophonous line:

    I know what white, what purple fritillaries. . . .

Why must so quaintly charming a flower be so barbarously named that
one's jaw is well-nigh cracked in articulating it?



XII

HERTFORDSHIRE CORNFIELDS

    A gaily chequered, heart-expanding view,
    Far as the circling eye can shoot around,
    Unbounded tossing in a flood of corn.

    THOMSON.


THAT part of Hertfordshire where the Chiltern Hills, after curving
proudly round from Tring to Dunstable, and almost rivalling the South
Downs in shapeliness, die away at their north-east extremity, over
Hitchin, to a bare expanse of ploughland, has the aspect of a broad
plain swept by all winds of heaven, but is found, when explored, to be
by no means devoid of charm. There, by a paradox, the very extent of the
great hedgeless cornfields, reclaimed from the wild, gives the landscape
a sort of wildness; it is in fact the district whence the Royston crow
got its name, that hooded outlaw to whose survival a wide tract of open
country was indispensable; and there is a pleasure in wandering over it
which is unguessed by the traveller who rushes through in an express to
Cambridge, and marvels at the tameness of the land.

The wildflowers of cultivated fields are as distinctive as those of
heath or hillside. It would be difficult to name any two more beautiful
"weeds" than the succory and the corn "blue-bottle"--the light blue and
the dark blue; both have deservedly won their "blues"--and when to these
is added the corn-cockle (_lychnis githago_), the rich veined purple of
its petals set off by the long pointed green sepals and leaves, what
handsomer trio could be wished? Unhappily these flowers have become much
scarcer than they used to be; but in the Hertfordshire fields they are
still frequently to be admired.

The intensive culture of which we nowadays hear so much has this
drawback for the botanist, that it is robbing him of some plants which
he is very loth to lose. The most striking of these, perhaps, is that
quaint "perfoliate" of which I have already spoken, the thorow-wax or
hare's-ear, which in Gerarde's time was so plentiful in the wheatland as
to be what he calls its "infirmitie": now it is decidedly rare. I have
never been so fortunate (except in dreams) as to see it _in situ_; but I
have for several years grown it from the seed of a specimen gathered by
a friend in the cornfields near Baldock, and have always been impressed
by its elegance. It is a delicate and fastidious plant, thriving only,
as I have noticed, when the conditions are quite favourable: this may
account for its steady diminution in many counties, while coarser and
hardier weeds are legion.

A more abiding "infirmitie" of some Hertfordshire cornfields is the
crow-garlic, a wild onion whose pink umbels often surmount the crop in
hundreds. Wishing to learn their local name, I once asked a farm-hand at
Letchworth what he called the flowers. After gazing at them sternly, he
said to me: "They're _not_ flowers. They're a disease." I suggested that
whatever their demerits might be from the point of view of an
agriculturist, they must, strictly speaking, be regarded as flowers:
this he grudgingly conceded; but as if regretting to have made so large
an admission, he called after me, as I left him: "They're a disease."
His pertinacity on this point reminded me of the reaffirmations of Old
Kaspar, in Southey's poem, "After Blenheim":

    "Nay, nay" ... quoth he,
      "It was a famous victory."

The crow-garlic, as it happens, is rather a pretty plant; and the
opprobrious name "disease" might be much more suitably assigned to the
tall broom-rape, an unwholesome-looking parasite which lives rapaciously
at the expense of the great knapweed, and is occasionally met with in
the district of which I am speaking.

An extremely local umbellifer, said to have been formerly so abundant
about Baldock that pigs were turned out to fatten on its roots, is the
bulbous caraway, which looks like a larger edition of the common
earth-nut. None of the country-folk whom I questioned seemed to have any
knowledge of its uses; from which it would appear that its virtues,
like those of many once famous herbs, have been forgotten in these
sceptical modern times. It is well, perhaps, that _carum bulbocastanum_
should be saved from the pigs; for in that unlovely region its white
umbels serve to lighten up the monotony of the waysides.

An unexpected discovery is always welcome. In a waste field, about a
mile from Royston, I once found a tall branching plant with an abundance
of yellow cruciferous flowers, which I should not have recognized but
for the fact that a year or two previously my friend Edward Carpenter
had sent me a specimen from Corsica. It was the woad, famous as the
source of the blue dye with which the ancient Britons stained
themselves. A mere "casual" in Hertfordshire, it is said to be
established in a few chalk-quarries near Guildford and elsewhere.

Thus far I have spoken of none but field flowers; but the district does
not consist wholly of cultivated land, for even in that wilderness of
tillage there are oases which have never felt the plough, and where the
flora is of a different order. Therfield Heath, near Royston, is one of
them, a grassy slope where the handsome purple milk-vetch is plentiful,
and one may find, though in less abundance, the sprightly field
fleawort, which seems more familiar as an ornament of the high chalk
Downs.

Nor are water springs wanting in the bare ploughlands. The little river
Ivel, which leaps suddenly to light near Baldock, and thence races
northward to join the Bedfordshire Ouse, is a clear trout-stream by
whose banks it is pleasant (whatever the trespass notices may threaten)
to wander, and to watch the quick-glancing fish. At the hamlet of
Radwell, in a moist copse, there is a patch of the rare monk's-hood, a
poisonous flower of which later mention will be made. A joint tributary
of the Ouse, and not less inviting, is the oddly named Hiz, which has
its source on Oughton Common, a boggy flat near Hitchin, where both the
butterwort and the grass of Parnassus are recorded as having grown and
may perchance be growing still: as for the marsh orchis, one cannot
cross the Common without seeing it.

Then at Ickleford, a village on the banks of the Hiz, there is a pond
which has been "occupied" (to use a military term) by the water-soldier,
a stout aquatic which takes its name from the rigid swordlike leaves
enclosing the three-petaled flowers. Peculiar to the eastern counties,
this water-soldier is said to have been introduced at Ickleford over
half a century ago; and there it now makes a fine array, having thriven
wonderfully in spite of the worn-out pots and pans, and other refuse,
for which, in Hertfordshire as elsewhere, the nearest pool or stream is
thought a fit receptacle.

A mile or two west of the source of the Hiz at Oughton Head, stands High
Down, where begins or ends, according to the direction of the wayfarer,
the northern escarpment of the Chilterns, at this point crossed,
recrossed, and crossed again, by the curiously indented boundary-line
between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire; and here on the steep front of
the Pirton and Barton hills, in the one county or the other, may be seen
in early spring the most beautiful of English anemones, the
pasque-flower. On the few occasions when I have visited the place the
summer was well advanced, and I was too late for that gorgeous flower; I
had to content myself with the pyramidal orchis at the foot of the
hills, and with great blossoming sheets of white candytuft in the fields
above.

For all these excursions there is no better starting-point than
Letchworth, first of Garden Cities, which has sprung rapidly into being
from what was until recent years an unadorned expanse of agricultural
ground with Norton Common as its centre. This Common, originally a bit
of wild fen, now almost surrounded by cottages and gardens, is to the
nature-lover the most attractive feature of Letchworth; and though its
flora has inevitably suffered from the inroads of the juvenile
population, it can still show such plants as the marsh orchis, the small
valerian, and the rare sulphur-coloured trefoil. It is watered by a
diminutive river--the unceremonious might say ditch--known as the Pix,
whose current, like that of the Cam, would almost seem to be determined
by the direction of the wind, but is reputed to flow northward, to join
its fleeter brethren, the Hiz and the Ivel, in their course to the
Ouse.

I mention this rather forlorn stream, because it has sometimes occurred
to me that, as an attempt is made to protect the wild birds on Norton
Common, it might be expedient to lend a helping hand also to the
flowers, or even to embellish the banks of the Pix (and so to re-invite
the pixies to sport thereby), with a few hardy riverside plants, such as
comfrey, tansy, hemp-agrimony, purple loosestrife, and yellow
loosestrife, which were probably once native there, and would almost
certainly flourish in such a spot. Is it legitimate thus to come to the
rescue of wild nature? That is a question on which botanists are not
quite agreed, and its consideration shall therefore be reserved for the
following chapter.



XIII

THE SOWER OF TARES

    An enemy hath done this.


THE sowing of wildflowers is deprecated by some botanists, presumably as
an interference with natural processes, an unauthorized attempt to play
Providence in the vegetable kingdom; but the subject is one that seems
to call for fuller discussion than it usually receives.

We are told in the parable that the man who sowed tares among the wheat
was an enemy; and certainly if there was an intention to injure the crop
the expression was not too strong. But I have sometimes wondered whether
the reprehensible act may not have been that of some botanical
enthusiast, who, loving wildflowers not wisely but too well, was trying
to save from extinction some rare weed of the cornfields which was
disappearing under improved methods of culture.

That this way of augmenting the flora of a country is nowadays not
uncommon may be guessed from the frequent occurrence in botanical works
of the comment "probably planted." Only a few pages back, I referred to
the case of a pond in Hertfordshire now strongly held by a battalion of
water-soldiers, the descendants of imported plants. There is evidence,
too, that the practice has occasionally been indulged in by naturalists
of great distinction, an amusing instance being that of the venerable
and much-respected Gerarde, whose description of the peony as growing
wild near Gravesend drew from his editor, Johnson, the following remark:
"I have beene told that our author himselfe planted the peionie there,
and afterwards seemed to finde it there by accident; and I doe believe
it was so, because none before or since have ever seene or heard of it
growing wilde in any part of this kingdome."[14]

[Footnote 14: _The Herball_, by J. Gerarde. Enlarged and amended by
Thomas Johnson, 1636.]

Again, it is stated in Canon Vaughan's _Wild Flowers of Selborne_ that
Gilbert White himself "was once guilty of this misdemeanour." He sowed,
not tares in wheat, but seeds of the grass of Parnassus in the Hampshire
bogs, and sowed them according to his own statement unsuccessfully; it
would appear, however, from what Canon Vaughan discovered that White was
"more successful than he imagined." However that may be, the question
that arises is whether a judicious extension of the range of wildflowers
by the agency of man is really a thing to be censured. May not a
flower-lover occasionally sow his "wild oats"?

It must be admitted that the objections to such a practice are not
retrospective, for if it be a misdemeanour, it is one that is condoned,
perhaps hallowed, by time. For as it is impossible to draw a strict line
between flowers that were accidentally imported or "escapes" from
ancient gardens, and those that were planted deliberately, we wisely ask
no questions in the case of old-established plants of foreign origin,
but receive them into our flora as aliens that have become naturalized
and are honourably classed as "denizens"; when they have once made good
their tenure of the soil, it seems to matter little by what means they
arrived. Thus, for example, the starry trefoil, which colonized the
Shoreham shingles over a century ago, having apparently come as a
stowaway on board some foreign ship, was not only tolerated but highly
regarded by English botanists, and its recent destruction is felt to be
a national loss. Would it have detracted from its value, if, as indeed
may have happened, it had been purposely sown on the beach? On the
contrary, it seems desirable that it should now be restored in that
manner.

Such planting, of course, if done at all, should be done circumspectly,
and on a fixed principle, not as an amusement for irresponsible persons
or children. I know a flower-lover who, in a district where that
beautiful St. John's-wort, the tutsan, was dwindling through
depredations, or through some unexplained malady, carefully restored
the balance in a score or so of suitable spots; and surely such action
was much to be commended. But it is not desired that everyone should be
planting tutsan everywhere; nor is there any danger of such a fashion
arising, for there is much less tendency to plant than to pluck, to
create than to destroy; and for that reason it would be folly to
reintroduce any rare plant like the lady's slipper, where the collector
would quickly reap what the enthusiast had sown.

Such was the objection, it seems to me, to a proposal made some years
ago by Edward Carpenter and others, that the diminishing numbers of the
rarer butterflies should be reinforced by breeding. One would not
willingly repeat the comedy of the angling craze, which solemnly stocks
rivers with fish in order to pull them out again for pastime.

Nor, because _some_ planting of wildflowers may be unobjectionable, does
it follow that all such enterprises are deserving of praise. A recent
announcement that the Llanberis side of Snowdon, a locality rich in
British mountain flowers, was being sown by Kew experts with the seeds
of a number of "Alpines" from Switzerland, was likely to be more
agreeable to rock-gardeners than to mountain-lovers, who have a regard
for the distinctive character of Snowdon itself, and of its native
flora. A country which has allowed its finest mountain to be exploited
for commercial purposes, as Snowdon has been, is perhaps hardly in a
position to protest against a Welsh hillside being planted with alien
Swiss flowers, and even with Chinese rhododendrons; but nevertheless
such schemes are thoroughly incongruous and barbaric. What sort of
mountains do we desire to have? A piece of nature, or a nursery-garden?
A Snowdon, or a Snowdon-cum-Kew?

Be it understood, then, that the sowing of tares is by no means
recommended as a practice: all that is here urged is that a sweeping
condemnation of it is not warranted by the facts, inasmuch as
circumstances, not dogma, must in each case decide whether it be
blameworthy, or harmless, or beneficial. And apart from common sense,
there is one natural safeguard which will prevent any undue growth of
wildflowers, viz. the remarkable fastidiousness of the choicer plants in
regard to soil and conditions: they will flourish where it suits them to
flourish, not elsewhere. Certain auxiliaries, too, Nature has in the
rabbits, water-voles, and other wild animals that are herbivorous in
their tastes; for it is very interesting to observe how quickly the
appearance of a strange plant will attract the attention of such
gourmands.

I was once the owner of a sloping meadow in which there were some
springs; and thinking it would be pleasant to have a water-garden I had
a small pond made, into which I introduced some aquatic plants, and
among them, most accommodating of all, the water-violet, which grew
lustily and sent up a number of its graceful stalks with whorls of pink
blossoms. But just at that time a water-vole took up his residence
there, and developing a remarkable fondness for a new savour in his
salads, quickly made havoc of my _Hottonia palustris_. The neighbours
assured me I must trap him; but to treat a fellow-vegetarian in that way
was out of the question, especially as his confidence in me was so great
that he would sit nibbling my favourite aquatic, which seemed also to be
_his_ favourite, while I stood within a few yards. It was clear that if
the cult of the water-violet involved the killing of the water-vole it
had got to be abandoned.

In this way, among others, does Nature protect herself against an
excessive interference on man's part with the distribution of
wildflowers.



XIV

DALES OF DERBYSHIRE

    Deeper and narrower grew the dell;
    It seemed some mountain, rent and riven,
    A channel for the stream had given,
    So high the cliffs of limestone gray
    Hung beetling o'er the torrent's way.

    SCOTT.


THE limestone Dales of Derbyshire are narrow and deep, and their
streams, when visible (for they often lurk underground), are swift,
strong, and of crystal clearness. The sides of the glens are in some
places precipitous with bluffs and pinnacles of grey rock; in others,
ridged and streaked with terraces of alternate crag and turf; above the
cliffs there is often a tableland of bleak pastures divided by stone
walls, as dreary a scene as could be imagined, when contrasted with the
picturesque dales below.

The flowers of these limestone valleys immediately recall those of the
chalk: the marjoram, the basil, the great knapweed, the traveller's-joy,
the rock-rose, the musk-thistle--these and many other familiar friends
make us seem, at first sight, to be back in Sussex or Surrey. But in
reality we are a hundred and fifty miles nearer to the arctic zone, and
that difference is clearly reflected in the flora; for when we look
around, a number of new plants make their appearance, of which a dozen
or more are very rare, or quite unknown, in the south. I once lived for
several years on the hills above Chesterfield, a good way to the east of
this limestone country; and to visit the nearest of the Dales there was
a walk of seven miles, to and fro, across the intervening high moors
that form the southern buttress of the Pennines. Stoney Middleton is far
from being one of the pleasantest of Peakland villages; but such was the
interest of its flora that the fourteen-mile trudge, and more, was often
undertaken during the summer months.

After traversing the great heathery moors devoted to the cult of the
grouse, and descending from the rocky rampart of gritstone known as
Curbar Edge, one crosses the valley of the Derwent; and here a pause may
be made to notice a patch of sweet Cicely, one of the loveliest of the
umbelliferous tribe. It is a charming sight, as it stands up tall in the
sunshine, with its soft feathery cream-white masses of foliage and its
fernlike leaflets; too fair and fragile, it would seem, for human hands,
for it droops very soon if cut. Every part of it--stalk, leaves,
flowers, and fruit--has the same aromatic fragrance (its local name is
"anise"), and so gracious is it to sight, scent, and touch, that one
longs to bathe one's senses in its luxuriance.

Middleton Dale, naturally beautiful, but sadly deformed by lime-kilns,
is famous for a cliff known as the Lover's Leap, from which an enamoured
maiden is said to have thrown herself down. Had it been the love of
flowers, rather than of man, that tempted her to that dizzy verge, there
would have been no cause for surprise; for there are many alluring
plants on the ledges of the scarp, including a brilliant show of wild
wallflowers. In May and June there may be found along the northern side
of the dale the yellow petals of the spring cinquefoil (_potentilla
verna_), a gem of a flower, which, in Mr. Reginald Farrer's words,
"clings to the white cliff-face, and from far off you see a splash of
gold on the greyness." A month later the equally attractive Nottingham
catch-fly (_silene nutans_) will be abundant on the rocks; a plant of
nocturnal habits which expands its petals and becomes fragrant in the
evening, but "nods," as its Latin name avows, in the daytime, when it
wears a sleepy and somewhat dissipated look, like a wassailer--a white
campion that has been "on spree." By night its beauty is beyond cavil.

On the lower slopes is a colony of a still stranger-looking flower, the
woolly-headed thistle, whose involucre is so bulky, and its scales so
densely wrapped in white down, that it has an almost grotesque
appearance, as of a thistle with "swelled head." It is, however, a very
handsome plant; and when growing in vast numbers, as I have seen it in
one of its special haunts, near Wychwood Forest, in Oxfordshire, it
makes a glorious spectacle.

Of the three species of saxifrages--the rue-leaved, the meadow, and the
mossy--that thrive along the bottom of the dale, the two former are
southern as well as northern flowers; but the presence of the mossy
saxifrage is a sign that we are in a mountainous region, and as such it
is always welcome. With these grows the graceful vernal sandwort,
another flower of the hills, and so often the companion of saxifrages
that it is naturally associated with them in the mind.

But Middleton Dale, the nearest to my starting-point, and therefore the
most frequently visited by me, is much surpassed in floral wealth by the
long valley of the Wye, which in its course from Buxton to Bakewell
bears the names successively of Wye Dale, Chee Dale, Miller's Dale, and
Monsal Dale. In one or another of these four glens nearly all the rarer
limestone flowers have their station. You may find, for instance, three
very local crucifers: the two whitlow-grasses, _draba incana_ and _draba
muralis_, remarkable only as being scarce in other parts of the kingdom;
and the really beautiful little _Hutchinsia_, with its tiny white
blossoms and finely cut pinnate leaves. Jacob's-ladder, a handsome blue
flower, very uncommon in a wild state, is also native on the bluffs and
slopes in Chee Dale and elsewhere: in fact a stroll along almost any of
the limestone escarpments will bring new treasures to sight.

But the flower which I best love is one which grows by the
streamside--in Wye Dale it is in profusion--the modest water-avens,
often strangely undervalued by writers who describe it as "dingy." Thus
in Delamer's _The Flower Garden_ it is stated that this avens "is more
remarkable for having been one of the favourites, the whims, the
caprices of the great Linnæus, than for anything else: it is hard to say
what, in a British meadow-weed, could so take the fancy of the Master."
Was ever such blindness of eye, such hardness of heart? And the wiseacre
goes on to say that "it is impossible to account, logically, for
attachments and sympathies."

Logic, truly, would be out of place in such a connection; but it is not
difficult to understand Linnæus's feelings towards the water-avens.
There is a rare beauty in the droop of its bell-like head, and in its
soft and subdued tints--the deep rufous brown of the long sepals,
through which peep the silky petals in hues that range from creamy white
to vinous red, and all steeped in a quiet radiance as of some old
stained glass. I must own to thinking it the most tenderly beautiful of
all English wildflowers. The hybrid between the water-avens and the
common avens is occasionally found by the Wye: one which I saw in
Miller's Dale had green sepals and petals of pale yellow.

The Alpine penny-cress (_thlaspi alpestre_), a crucifer native on
limestone rocks, may be seen on the High Tor at Matlock, where it grows
with the vernal sandwort on débris at the mouth of caves; a graceful
little plant with white flowers and a smooth unbranched stem so closely
clasped by the narrow leaves as to give it the look of a perfoliate.

One other limestone district shall be mentioned; the hills round
Castleton. Cave Dale, approached by a narrow gorge close to the village,
is well worth the flower-lover's attention; for bleak and bare as it is,
its slippery sides harbour some interesting plants, such as the mountain
rue (_thalictrum minus_), and the scurvy-grass (_cochlearia alpina_),
both in considerable quantity. In the Winnatts, too, the steep ravine
which overhangs the road from Castleton to Chapel-en-le-Frith, one may
find Jacob's-ladder and other rarities on the rocks; and the gorgeous
mountain pansy (_viola lutea_) is not far distant on the upland heaths
and pastures.

The list is far from being exhausted; but enough has been said to show
that there is no lack of entertainment among these limestone dales. To
enter one of them, after crossing the moorland from the dreary coal
district of east Derbyshire, is like stepping from penury to plenty,
from wilderness to paradise: there is a change of colouring that
instantly attracts the eye. Even in early spring the little shining
crane's-bill decks the walls and lower rocks with its rose-petaled
flowers; and at midsummer the more showy stonecrop flings a veritable
cloth of gold over the crags and lawns. Few localities present so many
charming flowers in so limited a space.

And now let us turn from the limestone valleys to those of the millstone
grit.

The controversy as to which part of Derbyshire best deserves the name of
"The Peak" has always seemed a vain one, not merely because there is no
peak in the county at all, but because no connoisseur can doubt for a
moment that the district which alone has the true characteristics of a
mountain is the great triangular plateau of gritstone known as
Kinderscout. Less beautiful than the limestone dales, with their
beetling crags and wealth of flowers, the wilder region surrounding "the
Scout" has the advantage of being a real bit of mountain scenery, topped
as it is with black "tors" and "towers" that rise out of the heather,
and flanked with rocky "edges" from which its steep "cloughs" descend
into the valleys below.

Unfortunately, this great rocky tableland has of late years become
almost a _terra incognita_ to the nature-lover, as a result of the
agreement which was made, after prolonged controversy, between the Peak
District Society and the grouse-shooting landlords, inasmuch as, while
permitting the traveller to skirt the shoulders of the hill, it excluded
him wholly from its summit.

With the exception of the heather, the bilberry, and a few kindred
species, the plants of the gritstone hills are sparse; but there is
one, the cloudberry--so-called, according to Gerarde's rather
magniloquent description, because "it groweth naturally upon the tops of
high mountains ... where the clouds are lower than the tops of the same
all winter long"--which well repays a pilgrimage. It is a prostrate and
spineless bramble (_rubus chamæmorus_), highly valued in northern
countries for its rich orange-coloured fruit. It grows thickly on the
ground, making a dark-green patch in marked contrast to the coarse
herbage; and towards the end of June one may see a profusion of the
large white blossoms and a few early formed berries at the same time.
There is a good-sized plot of it near the summit of the pass that
crosses the shoulder of Kinderscout from Edale Head.

But of the plants that grow on the Scout itself I am unable to speak;
for my only visit to it--not reckoning an unsuccessful attempt when I
was turned back by a keeper--took place in the depth of a very snowy
winter. It was on the afternoon of a frosty January day, when the sun
was already low, that in the company of my friend Bertram Lloyd, and
armed with a passport, in the form of a letter of permission, given us
by the courtesy of one of the owners of the shooting, I climbed from
Edale, through the region of right-of-way into that of flagrant
trespass. We felt an unusual sense of legality, as we passed a
weather-beaten notice-board, with a half-obliterated threat that
trespassers would be "--cuted," whether executed, electrocuted, or
prosecuted was left to the imagination of the offender; and I think the
strangeness of his position was rather embarrassing to my companion, who
is such a confirmed trespasser that he feels as if something must be
amiss unless there is a gamekeeper to be reckoned with--like the
mountain ram, in Thompson-Seton's story, who was so accustomed to be
hunted that he became moody and restless when his pursuer was not in
sight.

But, at the time of our visit, no passport was demanded; for the
keepers, like the grouse themselves, appeared to have deserted the
heights for the valleys. Indeed, hardly any life at all was to be seen,
with the exception of a grey mountain hare, couched upon a stack of
rock, who regarded us with a mild and curious eye as we passed some two
hundred feet above him, and seemed to be satisfied that we were
harmless. Nor was this lack of life surprising, for a more desolate
scene could hardly be imagined--a great snow-clad "moss," intersected by
deep ruts, which, being choked with snow, had somewhat of the appearance
of crevasses, and punctuated here and there with the black masonry of
the tors. From the highest point that we reached, marked in the ordnance
map as 2,088 feet, there was a wonderful sunset view, though the
Manchester district that lies to the west of the Scout was hidden in
lurid fog. It is said that Snowdon, a hundred miles distant, has been
seen from this point. It was certainly not visible upon the occasion to
which I refer.

It is impossible to visit this high mountain plateau, lying as it does
at about an equal distance from Manchester and Sheffield, without
feeling that what is now a private grouse-moor must, before many years
have passed, become a nationalized park or "reservation"--a playground
for the dwellers in the great Midland cities, and a sanctuary for wild
animals and plants.

The time will assuredly come when the sport of the few will have to give
way to the health and recreation of the many.



XV

NO THOROUGHFARE!

    Trespassers will be prosecuted.


THE subject of trespassing mentioned in the preceding chapter, has a
very close and personal interest for the adventurous flower-lover; for
of all incentives to ignore the familiar notice-board with its hackneyed
words of warning, none perhaps is more potent than the possibility that
some rare and long-sought wildflower is to be found on the forbidden
land. The appeal is one that no explorer can resist. If "stout Cortez"
himself, when with eagle eyes he stared at the Pacific, had seen that
ocean labelled as "strictly private and preserved," could he have
desisted from his quest?

There is moreover a good deal to be said in extenuation of trespassing
as a summer recreation; and if landlords go on at their present rate, in
closing footpaths and excluding the public from green fields and
hedgerows, trespassing will perhaps establish itself as one of our
recognized national diversions. Hitherto, it must be confessed, it has
remained to some extent in disrepute; doubtless, through its being so
largely indulged in by poachers and other evil-doers, who have given a
bad name to a practice which in itself is innocent and blameless enough.
Most people, especially landlords and gamekeepers, have a fixed belief
that a trespasser's purpose must be a lawless and mischievous one. Why
so? Is it not possible that some trespassers may have other objects than
to steal pheasants' eggs or snare rabbits? If huntsmen when following
the hounds are permitted, not only to trespass, but to damage crops and
fences, why should the naturalist be molested when harmlessly following
his own inclinations in choice of a country ramble. Is the pursuit of
the fox a surer proof of honest intentions than the pursuit of natural
history? It appears that some landowners think so. "Trespassers will be
prosecuted," say the notices that everywhere stare us in the face.

Was there ever such a lying legend? Trespassers will _not_ be
prosecuted, for the sufficient reason that in English law trespassing is
not an offence. Of course, if any injury be done to property, the owner
can sue for damages, but a harmless trespasser can only be requested to
depart, though, if he be ill-advised enough to refuse to go, he may be
forcibly ejected. We see, therefore, that the threatened "prosecution"
of trespassers is in reality merely a _brutum fulmen_ launched by
landlords at a too credulous public, a pious fraud which has been far
more efficacious than such kindred notices as "Beware the dog," or
"Beware the bull," though these, too, have done good service in their
time. Trespassers will not be prosecuted, provided that they do no sort
of damage, and that if their presence is objected to they politely
retire. With these slight precautions and limitations, a trespasser may
go where he will, and enjoy the study of Nature in her most secluded and
"strictly private" recesses. He thus himself becomes, in one sense, a
lord of the soil; but his domain is far more extensive and unencumbered
than that of any actual landlord. He enjoys all that is best in park,
woodland, or mountain; and if he is "warned off" one estate he can
afford to smile at the prohibition, since many other regions are open to
him, and he can confidently look forward to a visit to fresh woods and
pastures new on the morrow.

In the course of these rambles the trespasser will probably, like
Ulysses, have some curious experiences of men and of notice-boards. It
is very instructive to observe the various types of the landlord class,
and their different methods of treating the intruder whom they meet on
their fields. There is the indignant landlord, who can scarcely conceal
his wrath at the astounding audacity of one who is deliberately crossing
his land without having come "on business." There is the despairing
landlord, who has been so broken by previous invasions that he is now
content with a shrug of the shoulders and a remark that the place is
"quite private, you know." There is the courteous landlord, who
politely assumes that you have lost your way, and naively offers to
conduct you to the high-road by the shortest cut; and there is the
mildly ironical, who, as in a case which I remember on a Surrey
hillside, remarks as he passes you: "There goes my heather."

I have heard it said that one can sometimes divine the character of a
landlord from the wording of his notice-boards, and I believe from my
own experiences that there is truth in the idea. Certainly the
notice-board is the landlord's favourite method of defending the privacy
of his estate, and for obvious reasons; for not only is it the least
troublesome and expensive way of conveying the desired warning to
would-be trespassers, but the salutary fiction regarding the
"prosecution" of offenders is thus publicly and permanently impressed on
the agricultural mind. There is not such entire uniformity in the
wording of notice-boards as might be supposed. Of course by far the
commonest form is the well-known "No thoroughfare. Trespassers will be
prosecuted as the law directs," in which the unconscious irony contained
in the last four words has always struck me as especially delightful. To
this is often added the words "and all dogs shot," in which the
experienced trespasser will detect signs of a certain roughness and
inhumanity of temperament on the part of the owner. More original forms
of expression are by no means uncommon. Sometimes the warning is
emphasized by the bold statement, indicating the possession by the
landlord of humorous or imaginative faculties, that "the police have
orders to watch." Sometimes, but more rarely, the personal element is
boldly introduced, as in the assertion, which might formerly be seen on
a notice-board in one of the most beautiful valleys of the Lake
District, "This is my land. Trespassers, etc." In some cases the wording
has evidently been left to the care of subordinates, and hence result
some curiosities of literary composition. "Private. Beware of dogs," is
an instance of this kind, in which the ambiguity of the allusion to
dogs, whether those of the landlord or the trespasser, seems almost
oracular. In these and other ways a certain zest is lent to the
excursions or rather the _in_cursions, of the trespasser, which lifts
them above the level of ordinary walking exercise.

In the case of wealthy landowners, the duty of warning off the
trespasser devolves on gamekeepers, who, being less emotional than their
employers, are a far less interesting study. Stolid and furry, and
apparently endowed with only the animal instincts of the victims whom
they delight in tracking and trapping, they are by far the least
intelligent people whom the trespasser encounters; they are, in fact, no
better than breathing and walking notice-boards, with the disadvantage
that they cannot be so absolutely disregarded. It is unwise to argue
with them; for reason is at a discount in such encounters and there is
the possibility, in some districts, of their having recourse to
personal violence, in the knowledge that if the matter should come
before local magistrates the keeper's word would be honoured in
preference to that of the trespasser. There is a sanctity in the word
"Preserve."

An experience of this sort actually befell a friend of mine, who himself
narrated it in print. A devoted botanist and nature-lover, he was twice
in the same day found trespassing by a gigantic gamekeeper, who, on the
second occasion, ended all parley in the manner described in the
following "Mystical Ballad," wherein the writer has ventured somewhat to
idealize the circumstances, though the story is based on the facts.

PRESERVED.

    A Poet through a haunted wood
      Roamed fearless and serene,
    Nor flinched when on his path there stood
      A Form in Velveteen.

    "Gaunt Shape, come you alive or dead,
      My footsteps shall not swerve."
    "You're trespassing," the Vision said:
      "This place is a preserve."

    "How so? Is some dark secret here
      Preserved? some tale of shame?"
    The Spectre scowled, but answered clear:
      "What we preserve is Game."

    Yet still the Poet's heart was nerved
      With Phantoms to dispute:
    "Then tell me, why is Game preserved?"
      The Goblin yelled: "To shoot."

    "But Game that's shot is Game destroyed,
      Not Game preserved, I ween."
    It seemed such argument annoyed
      That Form in Velveteen;

    For swift It gripped him, as he spake,
      And, making light the load,
    Upheaved, and flung him from the brake
      Into the King's high-road.

    And as that Bard, still arguing hard,
      High o'er the palings flew,
    He vows he heard this ghostly word:
      "We're not preserving _you_."

     *       *       *       *       *

    Long time he lay on that highway,
      Dazed by so weird a fall;
    Then rose and cried, as home he hied:
      "The Lord preserve us all!"

I have often thought it was an error on the part of the trespassing poet
not to explain to his assailant that he was a botanist; for "botanist,"
as I can testify, is a blessed word which has a soothing effect upon
many of the most irascible landowners or their satellites. Personally I
never presume to call myself botanist, except when I am found
trespassing, on which occasions I have rarely known it to fail. I recall
a Saturday afternoon when, as I was rambling in a Derbyshire dale with
Bertram Lloyd, and admiring the flowers, we were accosted by the owner
in person, who inquired with a sort of suppressed fury whether we knew
that we were on his estate. We said we were botanists, and the effect
was magical; in less than a minute we were courteously permitted to go
where we would and stay as long as we liked.

For botany is regarded as a scientific study; and even sportsmen do not
like to incur the reproach of being enemies to science. Their better
feelings may be conveyed in a familiar Virgilian line:

    _Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Poeni._[15]

[Footnote 15: Not so obtuse of heart we Tyrians are.]



XVI

LIMESTONE COASTS AND CLIFFS

    Where the most beautiful wildflowers grow, there man's
    spirit is fed.--THOREAU.


A LIMESTONE soil is everywhere rich in flowers--we have seen what the
midland dales can produce--but it is especially so in the close
neighbourhood of the sea. Two instances suggest themselves; one from a
Carnarvonshire promontory, the Orme's Head; the other from Arnside
Knott, in Westmorland.

Fifty years ago the Great Orme was a wild and picturesque headland,
girdled by a footpath which made a circuit of the beetling cliffs, and
crossed by a few other tracks leading to the telegraph station at the
summit, St. Tudno's Church, and elsewhere; but in most respects still in
a primitive and unimpaired condition. I knew almost every yard of it as
a boy; and I remember, among other attractions, a hermit who lived in a
cave, and better still a wild cat--probably a fugitive from some
Llandudno lodging-house--who had her home in a stack of rocks on the
western side of the Head. On the western shore of the isthmus there was
at that time only one house; it belonged to Dean Liddell, famous as
joint author of the Greek dictionary distressfully known to generations
of students as _Liddell and Scott._

But now, owing to the "development" of Llandudno, this once beautiful
foreland has become a place almost of horror, vulgarized by trams,
motor-roads, golf-links, and all the appurtenances of "civilization;"
and were it not for the wildflowers, it might well be shunned by those
who knew it in old days. Flowers, however, are very tenacious of their
established haunts, and the remark made in Mr. J. E. Griffith's _Flora
of Carnarvonshire_ still holds good, that "the flora of this district is
quite unique, in consequence of the number of species found here, and
the rarity of many of them." The luxuriance of the flowers is indeed a
sight which can almost make one forget the "improvements" that have
ruined the scenery.

Among the plants inhabiting the rocky banks above the shore are the blue
vernal squill, the sea stork's-bill, sweet alyssum, hound's-tongue,
hemlock, henbane, mullein, and tree-mallow: to these may be added what
constitutes a herb-garden readymade--fennel, wormwood, vervain, white
horehound, wild sage, succory, and Alexanders. On the higher cliffs are
the curious samphire, pink thrift, white scurvy-grass, and great tufts
of sea-cabbage, now rarer and more local than formerly, but here waving
its pale yellow pennons in abundance. Most charming of all, the
brilliant blood-red crane's-bill, together with two kinds of rock-rose
(the hoary dwarf species as well as the common one), makes rich splashes
of colour on the grey limestone ledges. A little back from the sea,
among the bluffs that overhang the town, you may light upon the
sleepy-looking catch-fly (_silene nutans_); the tiny Hutchinsia; and in
one or two places the shrub cotoneaster, which is said to be native only
upon the Great Orme. I have, however, seen it growing apparently wild at
Capel Curig, and at a greater distance from houses than in its Llandudno
station.

Nor is it only the Great Orme that shows this floral wealth: the Little
Orme has the rare Welsh stonecrop (_sedum Forsterianum_); and on another
height in the same district, the small circular hill known as Deganwy
Rocks, there is a profusion of flowers. When I revisited it a few years
ago, not having set foot on it for nearly half a century, I found that
the villas of Deganwy had crept up almost to the base of the rocks, and
on another side there was--still worse--a camp of German prisoners, with
armed sentries supervising their labours; yet even there, close above
such scenes, were growing plants which might mark a memorable day in the
annals of a flower-lover, notably the maiden pink and the
milk-thistle--the "holy" thistle, as it is not inaptly called. The
pinks, a lovely band, were sprinkled along the turf at the foot of the
rocks; the thistles were almost at the top; between them on a stony
ledge nestled a quantity of viper's bugloss, and with it some borage,
two kindred plants which I had never before seen in company.

Nearly all the members of the Borage group are interesting--lungwort,
alkanet, forget-me-not, hound's-tongue, and bugloss--but the borage
itself, a roadside weed in South Europe, and in this country merely an
immigrant and "casual," is to me the most precious of all. My earliest
recollections of it, I must own, are as an ingredient of claret-cup at
Cambridge, its silver-grey stems floating in the wine with a pleasant
roughness to the lip; but in those unregenerate days we did not know the
real virtue of the herb, famous from old time, as Gerarde says, for its
power "to exhilarate and make the mind glad, to comfort the heart, and
for driving away of sorrow." And certainly, in another and better use,
it _does_ comfort the heart and drive sorrow away; for its "gallant blew
flowers" are of all blues the loveliest, and the black anthers give it a
peculiarly poignant look which reminds one somehow of the wistfulness of
a Gainsborough portrait. In the list of my best-beloved flowers it ranks
among the highest.

Looking north-east from the Orme's Head, one may see on a clear day,
across some sixty miles of water, the limestone hills of Westmorland,
reckoned as part of Lakeland, but geologically, botanically, and in
general character a quite separate district. Arnside Knott, a bluff
overlooking the estuary of the river Kent where it widens into
Morecambe Bay, is the presiding genius of a tract of shore and forest to
which the name of "Lily-land" has been given by Mr. J. A. Barnes in a
sketch of Arnside, and which he describes as "a perfect paradise of
wildflowers." Let us suppose ourselves transported thither, and see how
the claim holds good.

The lily of the valley is one of those favoured plants which are
everywhere highly esteemed; even the man who in general cares but little
for wildflowers takes this one to his heart, or, what is worse, to his
garden. I have already quoted Mr. C. A. Johns's queer appreciation of
this native British wildflower as "a universally admired garden plant."
On the wooded hill known as Arnside Park the "May lily," as it used to
be called (and here it is certainly not "of the valley"), covers many
acres of ground, and justifies the title "Lily-land" as applied to the
Arnside neighbourhood. What I found still more interesting was an almost
equal abundance of the stone bramble (_rubus saxatilis_), which grows
intermixed with the lilies over a large portion of the wood.

On these Westmorland Cliffs, as in those of Carnarvonshire, the
blood-red crane's-bill is conspicuous, but it is much less plentiful,
nor are the outstanding flowers of the two localities the same. One of
the commonest at Arnside is the tall ploughman's spikenard, known
locally as "frankincense": and on the lawns that skirt the Knott one
often sees the mountain-cudweed or "cat's-foot," the gromwell or "grey
millet," and the beautiful little dwarf orchis. The district is rather
rich in orchids; among others, I found the rare narrow-leaved
helleborine (_cephalanthera ensifolia_) in the Arnside woods. The deadly
nightshade is frequent; so, too, is the four-leaved herb-Paris, which a
resident described to me as being here "almost a weed." But there are
two other flowers that demand more special mention.

In a lane near Arnside Tower, a ruin that lies below the Knott on its
inland side, there is a considerable growth of green hellebore,
apparently at the very spot where its presence was recorded two
centuries ago. Though not a very rare plant, it is extremely local; and
owing to its strongly marked features, the large palmate leaves and pale
green flowers, is not likely to go unnoticed.

But the rarest of Arnside flowers is, or was, another poisonous plant of
the _ranunculus_ order, the baneberry, for which the writer of
"Lily-land," as he tells us, "hunted for years without success; till its
exact locality was at last revealed to me by one who knew, in a
situation so obvious that I felt like a man who has hunted through every
room in the house for the spectacles on his own nose." Years later, on
my certifying that I was not a knight of the trowel, Mr. Barnes was so
kind as to confide to me this same secret that had been kept hidden from
the uninitiate; but I found that the small plantation which had been
the home of the baneberry, almost within Arnside itself, had recently
been cut down, and though a few of the plants were still growing along
the side of the field, they had ceased to flower, and possibly by this
time they have ceased to exist. Even as it was, I felt myself fortunate
to have seen the baneberry in one of its few native haunts. The pale
green deeply cut leaves are much handsomer than those of its relatives
the hellebore and the monk's-hood. Its raceme of white flowers and its
black berries are also known to me; but alas, only in a garden.

Where flowers are concerned, there is little truth in the saying that
"comparisons are odious"; on the contrary it is both pleasant and
profitable to compare not only plant with plant, but the flora of one
fertile district with that of another. The natural scenery of Arnside is
yet unspoilt, and for that reason it now offers greater attractions to
the nature-lover than the ruined charms of Llandudno; but if he were
asked, for botanical reasons only, to choose between a visit to the Orme
and a visit to the Knott, the decision might be a less easy one. "How
happy could I be with either!" would probably be his thought.



XVII

ON PILGRIMAGE TO INGLEBOROUGH

    It [rose-root] groweth very plentifully in the north of
    England, especially in a place called Ingleborough Fels.

    GERARDE.


THERE is a tale by Herman Melville which deals with the strangeness of a
first meeting between the inmates of two houses which face each other,
far and high away, on opposite mountain ranges, and yet, though daily
visible, have remained for years as mutually unknown as if they belonged
to different worlds. It was with this story in my mind that I approached
for the first time the moorland mass of Ingleborough, long familiar as
seen from the Lake mountains, a square-topped height on the horizon to
the south-east, but hitherto unvisited by me owing to the more imperious
claims of the Great Gable and Scafell. But now, at last, I found myself
on pilgrimage to Ingleborough; the impulse, long delayed, had seized me
to stand on the summit of the Yorkshire fell, and, looking
north-westward, to see the scene reversed.

Another of Ingleborough's attractions was that it is the home of
certain scarce and beautiful flowers, as has been pointed out in Mr.
Reginald Farrer's interesting books on Alpine plants. Such exceptional
rarities as the baneberry (_actæa spicata_), which grows among rocky
crevices high up on the fell--not to mention the _arenaria gothica_,
choicest of the sandworts--the mere visitor can hardly hope to discover;
but there are other and less infrequent treasures upon the hill, beyond
which my ambition did not aspire.

As I ascended the barren marshy slopes that form the eastern flank, I
realized once again how much more the labour of an ascent depends upon
the character of the ground than upon the actual height to be scaled.
Ingleborough is under 2,400 feet; yet it is far more toilsome to climb
than many a rocky peak in Wales or Cumberland that rises hundreds of
feet higher, and it is a relief at length to get a firm foothold on the
rocks of millstone grit which form the summit. Thence, from the edges
which drop sharply from the flat top, one looks out on the somewhat
desolate fells stretching away on three sides--Pen-y-ghent to the east,
Whernside to the north, and to the south the more distant forest of
Pendle--but westward there is the gleam of sand or water in Morecambe
Bay, and the eye hastens to greet the dim but ever glorious forms of the
Lakeland mountains.

In the affections of the mountain-lover Ingleborough can never be the
rival of one of these; indeed, in the strict sense, it is not a
mountain at all, but a high moor built on a base of limestone with a cap
of grit. Still, there is grandeur in the steep scarps that guard its
central stronghold; and its dark summit, when viewed from a distance
crowning the successive tiers of grey terraces, has a strength and
wildness of its own, and even suggests at points a likeness to the
massive tower of the Great Gable. To one looking down from the topmost
edges on the scattered piles of limestone below, the effect is very
curious. You see, perhaps, a mile or two distant, what looks at first
sight like a flock of sheep at pasture, but is soon discovered to be a
stone flock which has no mortal shepherd. In other parts are wide white
plateaux which, when visited, turn out to be a wilderness of low flat
rocks, everywhere weather-worn and water-worn, scooped and scalloped
into cells and basins, and so intersected by channels filled with ferns
and grasses that one has to walk warily over it as over a reef at low
tide.

But to return to the flowers. At the summit were mossy saxifrage and
vernal sandwort; and on the cliffs just below, to the western side, the
big mountain stonecrop, rose-root, not unhandsome with its yellow
blossoms, flourished in some abundance, even as it did when Gerarde
wrote of it, nearly three hundred years ago. The purple saxifrage, an
early spring flower, is also found on these rocks, but at the time when
I visited the spot, in late June, its blossoming season was over, and
nothing was visible but the leaves. There was little else but some
hawkweeds; I turned my attention, therefore, to the flowers of the lower
slopes.

There is nothing more delightful, in descending a mountain, than to
follow the leading of some rapid beck from its very source to the
valley; and it is rather disconcerting, in these limestone regions, that
the cavernous nature of the ground should make the presence of the
streams so intermittent, and that one's chosen companion should not
unfrequently disappear, just when his value is most appreciated, into
some "gaping gill" or pot-hole.

It is said of Walt Whitman that sometimes when a pilgrim was privileged
to walk with him, and was perhaps thinking that their acquaintance was
ripening to friendship, the good grey poet, with a curt nod and a
careless "good-bye," would turn off abruptly and be gone. Even so it is
with these wayward streams that course down the sides of Ingleborough.
Just when one is on the best of terms with them, they vanish and are no
more.

But with the bird's-eye primrose tinging hillsides and hollows with its
tender hue of pink, no other companionship was needed. A mountain
flower, it is the fairest of all the _Primulaceæ_, that band of fair
sisters to which it belongs--primrose, cowslip, pimpernel, loosestrife,
and money-wort--all beautiful and all favourites among young and old
alike, whereever there is a love of flowers. It was worth while to make
the pilgrimage to Ingleborough, if only to see this charming little
plant in perfection on its native banks.

Nor were other flowers lacking; the wild geraniums especially were in
force. The shining crane's-bill gleamed on the pale limestone ledges;
the wood crane's-bill, a local North-country species, gave a glint of
purple in the copses at the foot of the fell; and still further down,
below the village of Clapham, there were masses of the blue meadow
crane's-bill (_geranium pratense_), the largest and not least handsome
of the family. The water-avens was everywhere by the stream sides; and
on a bank above the road the gladdon, or purple iris, was opening its
dull-tinted flowers.



XVIII

A BOTANOPHILIST'S JOURNAL

     He was the attorney of the indigenous plants, and owned to a
     preference of the weeds to the imported plants, as of the Indian to
     the civilized man.--EMERSON.


I HAVE referred several times to Henry Thoreau, of Concord, in whose
_Journal_ a great deal is said about wildflowers; and as the volumes are
not easily accessible to English readers it may be worth while to select
therefrom a few of the more interesting passages. In all that he wrote
on the subject Thoreau appears less as the botanist than the
flower-lover; indeed, he expressly observes that he himself comes under
the head of the "Botanophilists," as Linnæus termed them; viz. those who
record various facts about flowers, but not from a strictly scientific
standpoint. "I never studied botany," he said, "and do not to-day,
systematically; the most natural system is so artificial. I wanted to
know my neighbours, if possible; to get a little nearer to them." So
great was his zest in cultivating this floral acquaintance that, as he
tells us, he often visited a plant four or five miles from Concord half
a dozen times within a fortnight, in order to note its time of
flowering.

Books he found, in general, unsatisfactory. "I asked a learned and
accurate naturalist," he says, "who is at the same time the courteous
guardian of a public library, to direct me to those works which
contained the more particular popular account, or _biography_, of
particular flowers--for I had trusted that each flower had had many
lovers and faithful describers in past times--but he informed me that I
had read all; that no one was acquainted with them, they were only
catalogued like his books." It was the human aspect of the flower that
Thoreau craved; and he was therefore disappointed when he saw "pages
about some fair flower's qualities as food or medicine, but perhaps not
a sentence about its significance to the eye; as if the cowslip were
better for 'greens' than for yellows." Thus he complained that botanies
are "the prose of flowers," instead of what they ought to be, the
poetry. He made an exception, however, in favour of old Gerarde's
_Herball_.

     His admirable though quaint descriptions are, to my mind, greatly
     superior to the modern more scientific ones. He describes not
     according to rule, but to his natural delight in the plants. He
     brings them vividly before you, as one who has seen and delighted
     in them. It is almost as good as to see the plants themselves. His
     leaves are leaves; his flowers, flowers; his fruit, fruit. They are
     green, and coloured, and fragrant. It is a man's knowledge added to
     a child's delight. . . . How much better to describe your object
     in fresh English words rather than in these conventional
     Latinisms!"

Linnæus, too, "the man of flowers," as he calls him, is praised by
Thoreau. "If you would read books on botany, go to the fathers of the
science. Read Linnæus at once, and come down from him as far as you
please. I lost much time in reading the florists. It is remarkable how
little the mass of those interested in botany are acquainted with
Linnæus."

Thoreau's manner of botanizing was, like most of his habits, somewhat
singular. His vasculum was his straw-hat. "I never used any other," he
writes, "and when some whom I visited were evidently surprised at its
dilapidated look, as I deposited it on their front entry-table, I
assured them it was not so much my hat as my botany-box." With this
vasculum he professed himself more than content.

     I am inclined to think that my hat, whose lining is gathered in
     midway so as to make a shelf, is about as good a botany-box as I
     could have; and there is something in the darkness and the vapours
     that arise from the head--at least, if you take a bath--which
     preserves flowers through a long walk. Flowers will frequently come
     fresh out of this botany-box at the end of the day, though they
     have had no sprinkling.

The joy of meeting with a new plant, a sensation known to all searchers
after flowers, is more than once mentioned in the _Journal_: the
discovery of a single flower hitherto unknown to him makes him feel as
if he were in a wealth of novelties. "By the discovery of one new plant
all bounds seem to be infinitely removed." He notes, too, the not
uncommon experience, that a flower, once recognized, is likely soon to
be re-encountered. Seeing something blue, or glaucous, in a swamp, he
approaches it, and finds it to be the _Andromeda polifolia_, which had
been shown him, only a few days before, in Emerson's collection; now he
sees it in abundance. At times he adopts the method of sitting quietly
and looking around him, on the principle that "as it is best to sit in a
grove and let the birds come to you, so, as it were, even the flowers
will come."

Swamps were among Thoreau's favourite haunts: he thinks it would be a
luxury to stand in one, up to his chin, for a whole summer's day,
scenting the sweet-fern and bilberries. "That is a glorious swamp of
Miles's," he remarks; "the more open parts, where the dwarf andromeda
prevails. . . . These are the wildest and richest gardens that we have."
The fields were less trustworthy, because of the annual vandalism of the
mowing. "About these times," he writes in June, "some hundreds of men,
with freshly sharpened scythes, make an irruption into my garden when in
its rankest condition, and clip my herbs all as close as they can; and I
am restricted to the rough hedges and worn-out fields which had little
to attract them."

Among Thoreau's best-beloved flowers, if we may judge by certain
passages of the _Journal_, was the large white bindweed (_convolvulus
sepium_), or "morning-glory." "It always refreshes me to see it," he
writes; "I associate it with holiest morning hours. It may preside over
my morning walks and thoughts." Not less worthily celebrated by him, in
another mood, are the wild rose and the water-lily.

     We now have roses on the land and lilies on the water--both land
     and water have done their best--now, just after the longest day.
     Nature says, "You behold the utmost I can do." The red rose, with
     the intense colour of many suns concentrated, spreads its tender
     petals perfectly fair, its flower not to be overlooked, modest yet
     queenly, on the edges of shady copses and meadows.... And the
     water-lily floats on the smooth surface of slow waters, amid
     rounded shields of leaves, bucklers, red beneath, which simulate a
     green field, perfuming the air. The highest, intensest colour
     belongs to the land; the purest, perchance, to the water.

It was not Thoreau's practice to pluck many flowers; he preferred, as a
rule, to leave them where they were; but he speaks of the fitness of
having "in a vase of water on your table the wildflowers of the season
which are just blossoming": thus in mid-June he brings home some
rosebuds ready to expand, "and the next morning they open and fill my
chamber with fragrance." At another time the grateful thought of the
calamint's scent suffices him: "I need not smell it; it is a balm to my
mind to remember its fragrance."

It was characteristic of Thoreau that he loved to renew his outdoor
pleasures in remembrance, by pondering over the beautiful things he had
witnessed, whether through sight or sound or scent. His mountain
excursions were not fully apprehended by him, until he had afterwards
meditated on them. "It is after we get home," he says, "that we really
go over the mountain, if ever. What did the mountain say? What did the
mountain do?" So it was with his flowers: even in the long winter
evenings they were still his companions and friends.

    I have remembered, when the winter came,
    High in my chamber in the frosty nights,

     *       *       *       *       *

    How, in the shimmering noon of summer past,
    Some unrecorded beam slanted across
    The upland pastures where the johnswort grew.

On a January date we find him writing in his _Journal_: "Perhaps what
most moves us in winter is some reminiscence of far-off summer. How we
leap by the side of the open brooks! What life, what society! The cold
is merely superficial; it is summer still at the core." Thus, by memory,
his winters were turned into summers, and his flower-seasons were
continuous.



XIX

FELONS AND OUTLAWS

    The poisoning henbane, and the mandrake dread.

    DRAYTON.


THAT there are felonious as well as philanthropic flowers, plants that
are actively malignant in their relation to mankind, has always been a
popular belief. The upas-tree, for example, has given rise to many
gruesome stories; and the mandrake, fabled to shriek when torn from the
ground, has played a frequent part in poetry and legend; not to mention
the host of noxious weeds, the "plants at whose names the verse feels
loath," as Shelley has it:

    And thistles, and nettles, and darnels rank,
    And the dock, and henbane, and hemlock dank.

The felons, however, of whom I would now speak are not the plants that
seem merely foul and repulsive, such as the docks and nettles, the
broom-rapes, toothworts, and similar ill-looking parasites, but rather
the bold bad outlaws and highwaymen, the "gentlemen of the road," who,
however deleterious to human welfare, have a sinister beauty and
distinction of their own, and are thus able to fascinate us. Prominent
among these is the clan of the nightshades, to which the mandrake itself
belongs, and which has several well-known representatives among British
flowers; above all, the deadly nightshade, or dwale, as it is better
named, to distinguish it from smaller relatives that are wrongly
described as "the deadly." So poisonous is the dwale that Gerarde three
centuries ago exhorted his readers to "banish these pernicious plants
out of your gardens, and all places near to your houses, where children
do resort;" and modern writers tell us that the plant is "fortunately"
of rare occurrence. But threatened plants, like threatened men, live
long; and the dwale, though very local, may still be found in some
abundance: there are woods where it grows even in profusion, and, _pace_
Gerarde, rejoices the heart of the flower-lover, for in truth it has a
strange and ominous charm, this massive grave-looking plant with the
large oval leaves, heavy sombre purple blossoms, and big black
"wolf-cherries."[16]

[Footnote 16: Rabbits eat the leaves without harm to themselves, but
their flesh becomes injurious to human beings. A case of poisoning of
this sort was lately reported from Oxted.]

Next to the dwale in the nightshade family must rank the henbane, a
fallen angel among wildflowers; for its beauty is of the sickly and
fetid kind, which at once attracts and repels. It is curious that in the
lines from Shelley's "Sensitive Plant" the epithet "dank" should be
given to the hemlock, to which it is quite unsuited, rather than to the
henbane, where its appropriateness could not be questioned; for the
stalk, leaves, and flowers of the henbane are alike clammy to the touch.
Presumably this uncertain and sporadic herb has become rarer of late
years; for whereas it is frequently stated in books to be "common in
waste places," one may visit hundreds of waste places without a glimpse
of it. In the _Flora of the Lake District_ (1885) Arnside is given as
one of its localities; but I was told by a resident that he had only
once seen it there, and then it had sprung up in his garden.

It is in similar places that the thorn-apple, another cousin to the
nightshade, is apt to make its un-invited appearance; less a felon,
perhaps, than a sturdy rogue and vagabond among flowers of ill repute. A
year or two ago, I was told by the holder of an allotment-garden that a
great number of thorn-apples were springing up in his ground; and
knowing my interest in flowers he sent me a small basketful of the young
plants, which, rather to my neighbours' surprise, I set out in a row,
like lettuces, in a corner of my back-yard. There they flourished well,
and in due course made a fine show with their trumpet-shaped white
flowers and the big thorny capsules whence the plant takes its name. It
is not a bad-looking fellow, but awkward and hulking, and quite devoid
of the sickly grace of the henbane or of the bodeful gloom of the
dwale.

Passing now to the handsome but acrid tribe of the _ranunculi_, and
omitting the poisonous but interesting baneberry, of which I have
already spoken, we come to two formidable plants, the hellebore and the
monk's-hood, which have been famous from earliest times for their
dangerous propensities. The green hellebore, though in Westmorland named
"felon grass," is a less felonious-looking flower than its close kinsman
the fetid hellebore, whose general appearance, owing to the crude pale
green of its purple-tipped sepals, and the reluctance of its globe-like
buds to expand themselves fully, is one of insalubrity and unripeness.
But it is a plant of distinction, some two or three feet in height; and
as it flowers before the winter is well past, it can hardly fail to
arrest attention in the few places where it is to be found: in Arundel
Park, in Sussex, it may be seen growing in close conjunction with the
deadly nightshade--a noteworthy pair of desperadoes.

The other malefactor of the ranunculus family is the aconite, or
monk's-hood, a poisonous but very picturesque flower with deep blue
blossoms, which takes its name from the hood-like appearance of the
upper sepal. "It beareth," Gerarde tells us, "very fair and goodly blew
floures in shape like an helmet, which are so beautiful that a man would
thinke they were of some excellent vertue." A traitor, a masked bandit
it is, of such evil reputation that, according to Pliny, it kills man,
"unless it can find in him something else to kill," some disease, to
wit; and thus it holds its place in the pharmacopoeia.

The umbellifers include a number of outlaws such as the water-dropworts
and cowbane; but among the dangerous members of the tribe there is only
one that attains to real greatness, and that of course is the hemlock, a
poisoner of old-established renown, as witness the death of Socrates.
"Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark" is one of the ingredients in the
witches' cauldron in _Macbeth_, and the hemlock's name has always been
one to conjure with, which may account for the fact that several
kindred, but less eminent plants unlawfully aspire to it, and are
erroneously thus classed. But the true hemlock is unmistakable: the
stout bloodspotted stem distinguishes it from the lesser crew; its
finely cut fernlike leaves are exceedingly beautiful; and it is of
stately habit--I have seen it growing to the height of nine feet, or
more, in places where the surrounding brushwood had to be overtopped.

Let us give their due, then, to these outlaws of whom I have spoken,
these Robin Hoods of the floral world. Bandits and highwaymen they may
be; but after all, our woods and waysides would be much duller if they
were banished.



XX

SOME MARSH-DWELLERS

    Here are cool mosses deep.

    TENNYSON.


WHAT Thoreau wrote of his Massachusetts swamps is hardly less true of
ours; a marsh is everywhere a great allurement for botanists. By a road
which crosses a certain Sussex Common there is a church, and close
behind the church a narrow swampy piece of ground known as "the great
bog," which has all the appearance of being waste and valueless; yet
whenever I visit the place I think of Thoreau's words: "_My_ temple is
the swamp." For that bog, ignored or despised by the dwellers round the
Common, except when a horse or a cow gets stuck in it and has to be
hauled out with ropes, is sacred ground to the flower-lover, as being
the home not only of a number of characteristic plants--lesser
skull-cap, sun-dew, bog-bean, bog-asphodel, marsh St. John's-wort, and
the scarcer species of marsh bedstraw--but of one of our rarest and most
beautiful gentians, the Calathian violet, known and esteemed by the old
herbalists as the "marsh-felwort."

The attention of anyone whose thoughts are attuned to flowers must at
once be arrested by the colouring of this splendid plant, for its large
funnel-shaped blossoms are of the rich gentian blue, striped with green
bands, and as it grows not in the bog itself, but on the close-adjoining
banks of heather, it is easily accessible. Yet fortunately, in the
locality of which I am speaking, it seems to be untouched by those who
cross the Common. On the afternoon in early September when I first found
the place, a number of children were blackberrying there, and I dreaded
every moment to see them turn aside to pick a bunch of the gentians,
which doubtless would soon have been thrown aside to wither, as is the
fate of so many spring flowers; but though the blue petals were
conspicuous in the heather they were left entirely unmolested. For this
merciful abstinence there were probably two reasons: one that the
flower-picking habit is exhausted before the autumn; the other that the
gentians, however beautiful, are not among the recognized
favourites--daffodils, primroses, violets, forget-me-nots, and the
like--that by long custom have taken hold of the imagination of
childhood. Had it been otherwise, this rare little annual could hardly
have survived so long.

In botanical usage there seems to be no difference between the terms
"marsh" and "bog," nor need we, I think, follow the rather strained
distinction drawn by Anne Pratt, a writer who, though belonging to a
somewhat wordy and sentimental school, and indulging in a good deal of
what might be called "Anne-prattle," had so real a love of her subject
that her best book, _Haunts of the Wild Flowers_, affords very agreeable
reading. "The distinction between a bog and a marsh," she says, "is
simply that the latter is more wet, and that the foot sinks in; while on
a bog the soft soil, though it yields to the pressure of the foot, rises
again." The definition itself seems hardly to be based on _terra firma_;
but we can fully agree with the writer's conclusion that, at the worst,
an adventurous botanist "is often rewarded for the temporary chill by
the beauty of the plant which he has gathered." That is a consolation
which I have not seldom enjoyed.

But a pleasanter name, in my opinion, than either "marsh" or "bog," is
one which is common in the Lake District, and in the northern counties
generally, viz. "a moss." It sounds cool and comforting. I recall an
occasion when, in the course of a visit to the Newton Regny moss, near
Penrith, "the foot sank in," and a good deal more than the foot; but the
acquaintance then made for the first time with that giant of the
_ranunculus_ order, the great spearwort, was sufficient recompense, for
who would complain of a wetting when he met with a buttercup four feet
in stature?

It so happened, however, that the plant in whose quest I had ventured on
the precarious surface of the Newton Regny moss--the great
bladderwort--was not to be found on that occasion, though it is
reported to make a fine show there in August; possibly, in an early
season, it had already finished its flowering, and had sunk, after the
inconsiderate manner of its tribe, to the bottom of the pools. Nor did I
see its rarer sister, the lesser bladderwort; with whom indeed I have
only once had the pleasure of meeting, and that was in a rather awkward
place, a deep pond lying close below a railway-bank, and overlooked by
the windows of the passing trains, so that I not only had to swim for a
flower, but to consult a time-table before swimming, in order to avoid
having a "gallery" at the moment when seclusion was desired.

Our North-country "mosses" are indeed temples to the flower-lover, by
virtue both of the rarer species that inhabit them, and of the unbroken
succession of beautiful plants that they maintain, from the rich gold of
the globe-flower in early summer to the exquisite purity of the grass of
Parnassus in autumn. Among these bog-plants there is one which to me is
very fascinating, though writers are often content to describe its
strange purple blossoms as "dingy"--I allude to that wilder relative of
the wild strawberry, the marsh-cinquefoil, which, though rather local,
is in habit decidedly gregarious. For several years it had eluded me in
a Carnarvonshire valley; until one day, wandering by the riverside, I
came upon a swampy expanse where it was growing in hundreds, remarkable
both for the deep rusty hue of its petals, and for the large
strawberry-like fruit that was just beginning to form.

Apart from the more extensive "mosses," the lower slopes of the
mountains, both in Cumberland and Wales, are often rich in flowers
unsuspected by the wayfarer, who, keeping to some upland track, sees
nothing on either side but bare peaty moors that appear to be entirely
barren. And barren in many cases they are. You may wander for miles and
not see a flower; then suddenly perhaps, on rounding a rock, you will
find yourself in one of these natural gardens in the wilderness, where
the ground is pink with red rattle growing so thickly as to hide the
grass; or white with spotted orchis, handsomer and in greater abundance
than is dreamed of in the south; or, a still more glorious sight, tinged
over large spaces with the yellow of the bog-asphodel, a plant which is
beautiful in its fruit as well as its flower, for when the blossoms are
passed the dry wiry stems turn to deep orange. Sun-dews are everywhere;
the quaint and affable butterwort is plastered over the wet rocks; and
the marsh St. John's-wort, so unlike the rest of its family that the
relationship is not always recognized, is frequent in the spongy pools.

Here and there, a small patch of pink on the grey heath, will be seen
the delicate bog-pimpernel, which might take rank as the fairest flower
of the marsh, were it not that the diminutive ivy-leaved campanula is
also trailing its fairy-like form through the wet grasses, among which
it might wholly escape notice unless search were made for it. To realize
the perfection of its beauty--the exquisite structure of its small green
leaves, slender thread-like stems, and bells of palest blue--you must go
down on your knees to examine it, however damp the ground; a fitting act
of homage to one of the loveliest of Flora's children.

Better cultivation, preceded by improved drainage, is ceaselessly
encroaching on our marshlands and lessening the number of their flowers.
The charming little cranberry, for instance, once so plentiful that it
came to market in wagonloads from the fens of the eastern counties, is
now far from common; and our cranberry-tarts have to be supplied from
oversea. But much more ravishing than the red berries are the
rose-coloured flowers, though they are known to scarcely one in a
thousand of the persons familiar with the fruit. I always think with
pleasure of the day when I first saw them, on the Whinlatter pass, near
Keswick, their small wiry stems creeping on the surface of the swamp, a
feast for an epicure's eye. It is under the open air, not under a
pie-crust, that such dainties are appreciated as they deserve.

These, then, being some of the many attractions offered by our "mosses,"
is it surprising that the lover of flowers should play the part of a
modern "moss-trooper," and ride out over the border in search for such
imperishable spoil? His part, indeed, is a much wiser one than that of
the old freebooters; for who would risk life in the forcible lifting of
other persons' cattle, when at the slight expense to which Anne Pratt
alluded--the temporary chill caused by the sinking of his foot in a
marsh--he can enrich himself far more agreeably in the manner which I
have described?



XXI

A NORTHERN MOOR

    Where Tees in tumult leaves his source,
    Thundering o'er Caldron and High Force.

    SCOTT.


A FIRST glance at the bleak and inhospitable moorland of Upper Teesdale
would not lead one to suppose that it is famous for its flora. No more
desolate-looking upland could be imagined; the great wolds stretch away
monotonously, broken only by a few scars that overhang the course of the
stream, and devoid of the grandeur that is associated with mountain
scenery. No houses are visible, except a few white homesteads that dot
the slopes--their whiteness, it is said, being of service to the farmers
when they return in late evening from some distant market and are faced
with the difficulty of finding their own doors. Its wildness is the one
charm of the place; in that it is unsurpassed.

But this bare valley, botanically regarded, is a bit of the far North,
interpolated between Durham, Westmorland, and Yorkshire, where the
Teesdale basalt or "whinstone" affords an advanced station for many
rare plants of the highland type as they trend southward; and there, for
five or six miles, from the upper waterfall of Caldron Snout to that of
High Force, the banks of the Tees, with the rough pastures, scars, and
fells that form its border, hold many floral treasures.

The first flower to attract attention on these wild lawns is that queen
of violets, the mountain pansy (_viola lutea_), not uncommon on many
midland and northern heaths, but nowhere else growing in such
prodigality as here, or with such rich mingling of colours--orange
yellow, creamy white, deep purple, and velvet black--till the eye of the
traveller is sated with the gorgeous tints. To the violet tribe this
pansy stands in somewhat the same relation as does the bird's-eye
primrose to the _primulas_; it is a mountain cousin, at once hardier and
more beautiful than its kinsfolk of wood and plain. Seeing it in such
abundance, we can understand why Teesdale has been described as "the
gardener's paradise;" but the expression is not a fitting one, for
"gardener" suggests "trowel," and the nurseryman is the sort of Peri to
whom the gates of this paradise ought to be for ever closed.

But perhaps the first stroll which a visitor to Upper Teesdale is likely
to take, is by the bank of the river just above High Force; and here the
most conspicuous plant is a big cinquefoil, the _potentilla fruticosa_,
a shrub about three feet in height, bearing large yellow flowers. Rare
elsewhere, it is in exuberance beside the Tees; and I remember the
amused surprise with which a dalesman regarded me, when he saw my
interest in a weed that to him was so familiar and so cheap.

But the smaller notabilities of the district have to be personally
searched for; they do not obtrude themselves on the wayfarer's glance.
On the Yorkshire side of the stream stands Cronkley Scar, a buttress of
the high moor known as Mickle Fell; and here, in the wet gullies, may be
found such choice northern plants as the Alpine meadow-rue; the Scottish
asphodel (_Tofieldia_), a small relative of the common bog-asphodel; and
the curious viviparous bistort, another highland immigrant, bearing a
spike of dull white flowers and small bulbs below.

The fell above the scar is a desolate tract, frequented by golden plover
and other moorland birds. On one occasion when I ascended it I was
overtaken by a violent storm of wind and rain, which compelled me to
leave the further heights of Mickle Fell unexplored, and to retreat to
the less exposed pastures of Widdibank on the opposite side of the Tees,
here a broad but shallow mountain stream, which in dry weather can be
forded without difficulty but becomes a roaring torrent after heavy
rains. In the course of two short visits, one in mid-July, the other in
the spring of the following year, I twice had the opportunity of seeing
the river in either mood, first in unruffled tranquillity, then in
furious spate.

It is in May or early June that Teesdale is at the height of its glory;
for the plant which lends it a special renown is the spring gentian,
perhaps the brightest jewel among all British flowers, small, but a true
Alpine, and of that intense blue which signalizes the gentian race. Here
this noble flower grows in plenty, not in wide profusion like the
pansies, but in large and thriving colonies, not confined to one side of
the stream. It was on the Durham bank that I first saw it--one of those
rare scenes that a flower-lover cannot forget, for the blue gentians
were intermingled with pink bird's-eye primroses, only less lovely than
themselves, and close by were a few spikes of the Alpine bartsia, whose
sombre purple was in marked contrast with the brilliant hues of its
companions.

Of this rare bartsia I had plucked a single flower on my previous visit
to the same spot, but then in somewhat hurried circumstances. I had been
crossing the wide pastures near Widdibank farm in company with a friend,
who, having heard rumours of the temper of Teesdale bulls, had unwisely
allowed his thoughts to be somewhat distracted from the pansies. We were
in the middle of a field of vast extent, when I heard my companion
asking anxiously: "Is _that_ one?" It certainly _was_ one; not a pansy,
but a bull; and he was advancing towards us with very unfriendly noises
and gestures. We therefore retired as quickly as we could, without
seeming to run--he slowly following us--in the direction of the river;
and there, under a high bank, over which we expected every moment the
bulky head to reappear, I saw the Alpine bartsia, and stooped to pick
one as we fled, my friend mildly deprecating even so slight a delay.

Now, however, on my second visit, I was able to examine the bank at my
leisure, and to have full enjoyment of as striking a group of flowers as
could be seen on English soil--gentian, bird's-eye primrose, Alpine
bartsia--and as if these were not sufficient, the mountain pansy running
riot in the pasture just above.

So far, I have spoken only of the plants which I myself saw; there are
other and greater rarities in Teesdale which the casual visitor can
hardly expect to encounter. The yellow marsh-saxifrage (_S. hirculus_)
occurs in two or three places on the slopes of Mickle Fell; so, too, in
limestone crevices does the mountain-avens (_dryas octopetala_), and the
winter-green (_pyrola secunda_); while on Little Fell, which lies
further to the south-west, towards Appleby, the scarce Alpine
forget-me-not is reported to be plentiful. I was told by a botanist
that, in crossing the moors from Teesdale to Westmorland, he once picked
up what he took for a fine clump of the common star-saxifrage, and
afterwards found to his surprise that it was the Alpine snow-saxifrage
(_S. nivalis_), which during the past thirty years has become
exceedingly rare both in the Lake District and in North Wales.

The haunts of the rarer flowers are not likely to be discovered in a day
or two, nor yet in a week or two: it is only to him who has gone many
times over the ground that such secrets will disclose themselves; but
even the passing rambler must be struck, as I was, by the number of
noteworthy plants that Teesdale wears, so to speak, upon its sleeve. The
globe-flower revels in the moist meadows; so, too, do the water-avens
and the marsh-cinquefoil, nor is the butterfly orchis far to seek; and
though the yellow marsh-saxifrage may remain hidden, there is no lack of
the yellow saxifrage of the mountain (_saxifraga aizoides_), to console
you, if it can, for the absence of its rarer cousin. The cross-leaved
bedstraw (_galium boreale_), another North-country plant, luxuriates on
low wet cliffs by the river.

Last, but not least, in the later months of summer, is the mountain
thistle (_carduus heterophyllus_), or the "melancholy thistle" as it is
often called--a title which seems to have small relevance, unless all
plants of a grave and dignified bearing are to be so named. Do men
expect to gather figs of thistles, that they should demand the simple
gaiety of the cowslip or the primrose from such a plant as this, whose
rich purple flowers, spineless stem, and large parti-coloured
leaves--deep green above, white below--mark it as one of the most
handsome, as it is certainly the most gracious and benevolent of its
tribe?

As I walked down the valley, on a wet morning in July, to take train at
Middleton, twenty-four hours of rain had turned the river through which
I had easily waded on the previous day, into a flood that was terrifying
both in aspect and sound. It was no time for flower-hunting; but even
then the wonders of the place were not exhausted; for along the
hedgerows I saw in plenty that same stately thistle, which in most
districts where it occurs is viewed with some interest and curiosity,
but in Teesdale is a roadside weed--subject, I was shocked to observe,
to the insolence of the passers-by, who, knowing not what they do,
maltreat it as if it were some vulgar pest of the fields, a thing to be
hacked at and trampled on. Even so, I saw in it a discrowned king, who
"nothing common did or mean."



XXII

APRIL IN SNOWDONIA

     It is Easter Sunday . . . the hills are high, and stretch away to
     heaven.--DE QUINCEY.


SO wrote De Quincey in one of his finest dream-fugues. There seems, in
truth, to be a certain fitness in the turning of men's thoughts at the
spring season to the heights of the mountains, where, as nowhere else,
the cares and ailments of the winter time are forgotten; and it is a
noticeable fact that these upland districts are now as thronged with
visitors during Easter week as in August itself. As I write, I am
sitting by a wood fire under a high rock in a sheltered nook at Capel
Curig, with a biting north-easter blowing overhead and an occasional
snow-squall whitening the hillsides around, while the upper ridges are
covered in places with great fields and spaces of snow, which at times
loom dim and ghostly through the haze, and then gleam out gloriously in
the interludes of sunshine. The scenery at the top of Snowdon, the
Glyders, Carnedd Llewelyn, and the other giants of the district has been
quite Alpine in character. The wind has drifted the snow in great
pillowy masses among the rocks, or piled it in long cornices along the
edges, and on several days when the air was at its keenest, the snow
fields have been crisp and firm, and have afforded excellent footing as
a change from the rough "screes" and crags; at other times, when the sun
has shone out warmly, the snow has been soft and treacherous, and the
spectacle has often been seen of the too trustful tourist struggling
waistdeep.

Mid-April in Snowdonia, when March has been cold and wet, shows scarcely
an advance from midwinter as far as the blossoming of flowers is
concerned. Down by the coast the land is gay with gorse and primroses,
but in the bleak upland dales that radiate from the great mountains
hardly a bloom is to be seen; nor do the river banks and marshy pastures
as yet show so much as a kingcup, a spearwort, or a celandine. The
visitors have come in their multitudes to walk, to climb, to cycle, to
motor, to take photographs, or to take fish, as the case may be; but if
one of them were to confess that he had come to look for flowers he
would indeed surprise the natives--still more if he were to point to the
upper ramparts of the mountains, among the rocks and snows and clouds,
as the place of his design.

Yet it is there that we must climb, if we would see the pride of the
purple saxifrage, the earliest of our mountain flowers, blest by
botanists with the cumbrous name of _saxifraga oppositifolia_, and
often grown by gardeners, who know it as a Swiss immigrant, but not as a
British native. A true Alpine, it is not found in this country much
below 2,000 feet, and in Switzerland its range is far higher, for it is
a neighbour and a lover of the snows. Small and slight as it may seem,
when compared with some of its more splendid brethren of the Alps, it
has the distinction of a high-bred race, the character of the genuine
mountaineer. It is a wearer of the purple, in deed as well as in name.

But our approach to the home of the saxifrage is not to be accomplished
without toil, in weather which is a succession of boisterous squalls.
Under such a gale we have literally to push our way in a five-mile walk
to the foot of the hills, and as we climb higher and higher up the
slopes we have a ceaselesstussle with the strong, invisible foe who
buffets us from every side in turn, while he hisses against the sharp
edges of the crags, or growls with dull subterranean noises under the
piles of fallen rocks. As for the streams, they are blown visibly out of
their steep channels and carried in light spray across the hillside,
while sheets of water are lifted from the surface of the lake. Not till
we reach the base of the great escarpment which forms the north-east
wall of the mountain are we able to draw breath in peace; for there,
under the topmost precipices, flecked with patches of snow, is a strange
and blissful calm. But now, just when our search begins, the mists,
which have long been circling overhead, creep down and fill the upland
hollow where we stand, cutting off our view not only of the valley below
but of the range of cliffs above, and confining us in a sequestered
cloudland of our own. Still climbing along a line of snowdrifts which
follows a ridge of rocks, and which serves at once as a convenient route
for an ascent and a safe guide for a return, we scan the likely-looking
corners and crevices for the object of our pilgrimage. At first in vain;
and then fears begin to assail us that we may be doomed to
disappointment. Can we have come too early, even for so early a plant,
in a backward season? Or have some wandering tourists or roving knights
of the trowel (for such there are) robbed the mountain-side of its
gem--for this saxifrage, owing to the brightness of its petals on the
grey and barren slopes, is so conspicuous as to be at the mercy of the
passer-by.

But even as we stand in doubt there is a gleam of purple through the
mist, and yonder, on a boss of rock, is a cluster of the rubies we have
come not to steal but to admire. What strikes one about the purple
saxifrage, when seen at close quarters, its many bright flowerets
peering out from a cushion of moss, is the largeness of the blossoms in
proportion to the shortness of the stems; a precocious, wide-browed
little plant, it looks as if the cares of existence at these wintry
altitudes had given it a somewhat thoughtful cast. At a distance it
makes a splash of colour on the rocks, and from the high cliffs above
it hangs out, here and there, in tufts that are fortunately beyond
reach.[17]

[Footnote 17: For a charming description of the purple saxifrage, see
_Holidays in High Lands_, by Hugh Macmillan (1869).]

Having paid our homage to the flower, we leave it on its lofty throne
among the clouds, and descend by snow-slopes and scree-slides to the
windy, blossomless valley beneath. A month hence, when the season of the
Welsh poppy, the globe-flower, and the butterwort is beginning, the
reign of the purple saxifrage will be at an end. To be appreciated as it
deserves, it must be seen not as a poor captive of cultivation, but in
its free, wild environment, among the remotest fastnesses of the
mountains.

The wild animal life on the hills, so noteworthy in the later spring,
seems as yet to have hardly awakened. We saw a white hare one afternoon
on Carnedd Llewelyn, but that was the only beast of the mountains that
crossed our path during eight days' climbing, nor were the birds so
numerous as might have been expected. The croak of the raven was heard
at times, in his high breeding-places, and on another occasion there was
a triple conflict in the air between a raven, a buzzard, and a hawk. On
the lower moorlands the curlew was beginning to arrive from his winter
haunts by the seashore, and small flocks of gulls, driven inland by the
winds, were hovering over the waters of Llyn Ogwen, where we saw several
of them mobbing a solitary heron, who seemed much embarrassed by their
onslaught, until he succeeded in getting his great wings into motion.

But if bird-life is still somewhat dormant in these lofty regions, there
have been plenty of human migrants on the wing. From our high
watch-tower, we saw daily, far below us, the long line of
motorists--those terrestrial birds of prey--speeding along the white
roads, and flying past a hundred entrancing spots, as if their object
were to see as little as possible of what they presumably came to see.
Flocks of cyclists, too, were visible here and there, avoiding the cars
as best they could, and drinking not so much "the wind of their own
speed," in the poet's words, as the swirl and dust of the motors; while
on the bypaths and open hillsides swarmed the happier foot-travellers,
pilgrims in some cases from long distances over the mountains, or
skilled climbers with ropes coiled over their shoulders and faces set
sternly towards some beetling crag or black gully in the escarpment
above. In one respect only are they all alike--that they are birds of
passage and are here only for the holiday. Soon they will be gone, and
then the ancient silence will settle down once more upon the hills, and
buzzard and raven will be undisturbed, until July and August bring the
great summer incursion.



XXIII

FLOWER-GAZING _IN EXCELSIS_

    I gazed, and gazed, but little thought
    What wealth the show to me had brought.

    WORDSWORTH.


THERE is no more inspiring pastime than flower-gazing under the high
crags of Snowdon. The love of flowers reveals a new and delightful
aspect of the mountain life, and leads its votaries into steeps and
wilds which, as they lie aloof from the usual ways of the climber, might
otherwise escape notice. It must be owned that our Cumbrian and Cambrian
hills are not rich in flowers as Switzerland is rich; one cannot here
step out on the mountain-side and see great sheets of colour, as on some
Alpine slope; and not only must we search for our treasures, but we must
know _where_ to search. They do not grow everywhere; much depends on the
nature of the soil, much on the altitude, much on the configuration of
the hills. There are great barren tracts which bear little but heather
and bilberry; but there are rarer beds of volcanic ash and calcareous
rock which are a joy to the heart of the flower-lover.[18]

[Footnote 18: See _The Flora of Carnarvonshire_, by John E. Griffith,
and _A Flora of the English Lake District_, by J. G. Baker, two books
which are of great value in showing the localities of mountain plants.]

Again, one is apt to think that on those heights, where the winter is
long and severe, it is the southern flanks that must be the haunt of the
flowers; in reality, it is the north-east side that is the more
favoured, owing to the fact that the hills, in both districts, for the
most part rise gently from the south or the south-west, in gradual
slopes that are usually dry and wind-swept, while northward and eastward
they fall away steeply in broken and water-worn escarpments. It is here,
among the wet ledges and rock-faces, constantly sprayed from the high
cliffs above, where springs have their sources, that the right
conditions of shade and moisture are attained; and here only can the
Alpines be found in any abundance. The precipices of Cwm Idwal and Cwm
Glas, in Wales, and in the Lake District the east face of Helvellyn, may
stand as examples of such rock-gardens.

The course of a climber is usually along the top of the ridge, that of
the botanist at its base; his paradise is that less frequented region
which may be called the undercliff, where the "screes" begin to break
away from the overhanging precipice, and where, in the angle thus
formed, there is often a little track which winds along the hillside,
sometimes rising, sometimes falling, but always with the cliff above
and the scree-slope below. Following this natural guidance he may
scramble around the base of the rocks, or along their transverse ledges,
and feast his eyes on the many mountain flowers that are within sight,
if not within reach.

It is a fine sport, this flower-gazing; not only because all the plants
are beautiful and many of them rare, but because it demands a certain
skill to balance oneself on a steep declivity, while looking upward,
through binoculars, at some attractive clump of purple saxifrage, or
moss-campion, or thrift, or rose-root, or globe-flower, as the case may
be.[19] To the veteran rambler especially, this flower-cult is
congenial; for it supplies--I will not say an excuse for not going to
the top, but a less severe and exacting diversion, which still takes him
into the inmost solitudes of the mountain, and keeps him in unfailing
touch with its character and genius.

[Footnote 19: In Parkinson's _Theatrum Botanicum_ (1640) it is remarked
of rose-root that it grows "oftentimes in the ruggiest places, and most
dangerous of them, scarce accessible, and so steepe that they may soon
tumble downe that doe not very warily looke to their footing."]

I have spoken of Snowdonia in the spring; let us view it now in the
fulness of June or July, when its flora is at its richest. It is not
till you have climbed to a height of about two thousand feet that the
true joys of the mountains begin. At first, perhaps, as you follow the
course of the stream you will see nothing more than a bunch of white
scurvy-grass or a spray of golden-rod; but when you reach the region
where the thin cascade comes sliding down over the moist rocks, and the
topmost cliffs seem to impend, then you will have your reward, for you
have entered into the kingdom of the Alpines.

Suppose, for example, that you stand at the foot of the narrow ridge of
Crib-y-Ddysgl, a great precipice which overhangs the upper chambers of
Cwm Glas on the northern side of Snowdon, with an escarpment formed of
huge slabs of rock intersected by wet gullies, narrow niches, and
transverse terraces of grass. Looking up, to where the Crib towers
above, you will see a goodly array of plants. Thrift is there, in large
clumps as handsome as on any sea-cliffs; rose-root, the big
mountain-stonecrop; cushions of moss-campion, which bears the local name
of "Snowdon pink"; lady's-mantle, intermixed with the reddening leaves
of mountain-sorrel; Welsh poppy, not so common a flower in Wales as its
name would suggest; and at least three kinds of beautiful white
blossoms--the starry saxifrage, the mossy saxifrage, and the shapely
little sandwort (_arenaria verna_), as fair as the saxifrages
themselves, and what higher praise could be given? The flower-lover can
scarcely hope for greater delight than that which the starry saxifrage
will yield him. It has been well said that "one who has not seen it
growing, say, in some rift of the rock exposed by the wearing of the
mountain torrent, cannot imagine how lovely it is, or how fitly it is
named. White and starry, and saxifrage--how charming must that which has
three such names be!"[20]

[Footnote 20: _Wild Flowers of Scotland_, by J. H. Crawford.]

Another lofty rock-face, similar in its flora to that of Snowdon, is the
precipice at the head of Cwm Idwal, near the point where it is broken by
the famous chasm of the Devil's Kitchen. Hereabouts is the chief station
of the _Lloydia_, or spiderwort, a rather rare and pretty Alpine, a
delicate lily of the high rocks, bearing solitary white flowers veined
with red, and a few exceedingly narrow leaves that resemble the legs of
a spider. Unlike most mountain plants, it has a considerable local
reputation; and during its short flowering season in June one may
observe small parties of enthusiasts from Bangor or Carnarvon,
diligently scanning the black cliffs above Llyn Idwal, in the hope of
spying it. The place where I first saw the _Lloydia_ in blossom was Cwm
Glas; but I had previously noticed its long thin leaves in two or three
places around the Devil's Kitchen.

The haunts of the Alpine meadow-rue (_thalictrum alpinum_) are similar
to those of the spiderwort; and a most elegant little plant it is, its
gracefully drooping terminal cluster of small yellowish flowers being
borne on a simple naked stem, whereas its less aristocratic relative,
the smaller meadow-rue (_t. collinum_), which is much commoner on these
rocks, is bushier and more branched. I had many disappointments, before
I rightly apprehended the true Alpine species; once distinguished, it
cannot again be mistaken.

It was to a chance meeting in Ogwen Cottage, at the foot of Cwm Idwal,
with Dr. Lloyd Williams, a skilled botanist who had brought a party of
friends to visit the home of the _Lloydia_, that I owed my introduction
to another very beautiful inhabitant of those heights, the white
mountain-avens, known to rock-gardeners as _dryas octopetala_. Happy is
the flower-gazer who has looked on the galaxy, the "milky way," of those
fair mountain nymphs--for the plant is in truth an oread rather than a
dryad--where they shed their lustre from certain favoured ledges in a
spot which it is safer to leave unspecified. I must have passed close to
the place many scores of times, in the forty or more years during which
I had known the mountain; yet never till then did I become aware of the
treasure that was enshrined in it!

But of all the glories of Cwm Idwal--rarities apart--the greatest, when
the summer is at its prime, is the array of globe-flowers. This splendid
buttercup usually haunts the banks of mountain streams, or the sides of
damp woods, in the West country and the North; its range is given in the
_Flora of the Lake District_ as not rising above nine hundred feet; but
in Snowdonia, not content to dwell with its cousins the kingcups and
spearworts in the upland valleys, it aspires to a far more romantic
station, and is seen blooming in profusion at twice and almost three
times that height on the most precipitous rock-ledges.[21] One may gaze
by the hour, enraptured, and never weary of the sight.

[Footnote 21: In the Cairngorm mountains, the globe-flower ascends to a
height of 3,000 feet (see Mr. Seton Gordon's _Wanderings of a
Naturalist_); in the Alps to 8,000.]

I have by no means exhausted the list of notable Snowdonian flowers that
are native in the two localities of which I have spoken, or in a few
other spots that are similarly favoured by geological conditions: the
sea-plantain, the mountain-cudweed, the stone-bramble, the queer little
whitlow-grass with twisted pods (_draba incana_), its still rarer
congener the Alpine rock-cress, and the _Saussurea_, or Alpine
saw-wort--all these, and more, are to be found there by the pilgrim who
devotedly searches the scriptures of the hills. But of the _Saussurea_
some mention will have to be made in the next chapter; for it is now
time to turn from Cambria to Cumbria, from the "cwms" and "cribs" of
Snowdon to the "coves" and "edges" of Helvellyn.



XXIV

COVES OF HELVELLYN

    I climbed the dark brow of the mighty Helvellyn.

    SCOTT.


SO far I have spoken more of the Welsh mountain flowers than of those
belonging to Lakeland; but the difference between the two districts, in
regard to their respective floras, is not very great, and with a few
exceptions the plants that are native on the one range may be looked for
on the other. The _Lloydia_ is found in Snowdonia only; and Wales can
boast, not a monopoly, but a greater plenty of the moss-campion and the
purple saxifrage. On the other hand, the Alpine lady's-mantle and the
yellow mountain-saxifrage, both abundant in Cumberland, are absent from
Carnarvonshire; and this is somewhat of a loss, for the common
lady's-mantle, charming though it is, lacks the beauty of the Alpine,
and the yellow saxifrages, as they hang from the rocks like a phalanx of
tiny golden shields--each with bright petals and pale green sepals
radiating from a central boss--are among the greatest ornaments of the
fells.

Again, the lovely little bird's-eye primrose is a North-country plant
which is not found in Wales; against which may be set, perhaps, that gem
of the damp mosses on certain Welsh streamsides, the ivy-leaved
bell-flower. More characteristic of Lakeland than of Snowdonia, though
not peculiar to it, are those two very beautiful flowers, the one a
child of the swamp, the other of the high pastures, the grass of
Parnassus, and the mountain-pansy; and to conclude the list, the
snow-saxifrage and the mountain-avens are about equally rare in both
countries--the avens, indeed, is confined to one or two stations, where
fortunately it is little known.

Helvellyn, as a mountain, is very inferior to Snowdon, nor indeed can it
compete in grandeur with its own Cumbrian neighbours, the Great Gable
and Scafell; but among visitors to the Lakes it has nevertheless an
enduring reputation, largely due to the poems in which Scott and
Wordsworth have sung its praises. Accordingly, during the tourist
season, the anxious question: "Is that Helvellyn?" may often be
overheard; and on a fine day all sorts of incongruous persons may be
seen making their way up the weary slopes that lead from Grasmere to its
crest. I once observed a gentleman in a top-hat toiling upward in the
queue; on another occasion I witnessed at the summit a violent quarrel
between a married couple, the point of dispute (on which they appealed
to me) being whether their little dog was, or was not, in danger of
being blown over the cliffs. As the west wind was certainly very strong,
and Helvellyn had already been associated with the story of a dog's
fidelity, I ventured to advise a retreat.

On the east side, however, where its "dark brow" overlooks the Red Tarn,
and throws out two great lateral ridges--on the right, in De Quincey's
words, "the awful curtain of rock called Striding Edge," and Swirrel
Edge on the left--Helvellyn is a very fine mountain, and what is more to
the present purpose, is botanically the most interesting of all the
Lakeland fells. From Grisedale Tarn to Keppelcove, a distance of full
three miles, that great escarpment, with the several "coves" that nestle
beneath it, is the home of many rare Alpine flowers, corresponding in
that respect with the Welsh rock-faces of Idwal and Cwm Glas; and though
it does not offer so conspicuous a display, or such keen inducements to
flower-gazing, a search along its narrow ledges, and under the impending
crags, home of the hill fox, will seldom disappoint the adventurer.

Some years ago I spent a week of July, in two successive seasons, at
Patterdale, for the purpose of becoming better acquainted with the
mountain flowers, but on both occasions the weather was very stormy and
made it difficult to be on the fells. At first I searched chiefly under
Striding Edge and the steep front of Helvellyn, among the rocks that
lie behind the Red Tarn, and in similar places above Keppelcove Tarn in
the adjoining valley, hoping with good luck to light on the
snow-saxifrage. In this I was unsuccessful; but I twice found a plant I
had not hitherto met with--in appearance a small spineless thistle, with
a cluster of light-purple scented flowers--which proved to be the Alpine
saw-wort, or _Saussurea_, and which in later years I saw again on
Snowdon. A blossom which I picked and kept for several months was so
little affected by its separation from the parent stem that it continued
its vital processes in a vase, and passed from flowering to seeding
without interruption. Like the orpine, it was a veritable "live-long,"
or as the politicians say, "die-hard."

At Patterdale I was so fortunate as to make the acquaintance of Mr.
Robert Nixon, a resident who has had a long and intimate knowledge of
the local flora; and he very kindly devoted a day to showing me some of
his flower-haunts on Helvellyn. In the course of this expedition, one of
the pleasantest in my memory, a number of interesting plants were noted
by us: among them the mountain-pansy; the cross-leaved bedstraw; the
vernal sandwort; the Alpine meadow-rue; the moss-campion; the purple
saxifrage, now past flowering; the mountain willow-herb (_epilobium
alsinifolium_), not the true Alpine willow-herb, but a native of similar
places among the higher rills; and the _salix herbacea_, or "least
willow," the smallest of British trees, which when growing on the bare
hill-tops is not more than two inches in height, though in the clefts of
rock at the edge of the main escarpment we found it of much larger size.

The moss-campion (_silene acaulis_) is especially associated with the
locality of which I am speaking--the neighbourhood of Grisedale
Tarn--and is mentioned in the "Elegiac Verses," composed by Wordsworth
"near the mountain track that leads from Grasmere through Grisedale":

    There cleaving to the ground, it lies,
    With multitude of purple eyes,
    Spangling a cushion green like moss.

To this the poet added in a note: "This most beautiful plant is scarce
in England. The first specimen I ever saw of it, in its native bed, was
singularly fine, the tuft or cushion being at least eight inches in
diameter. I have only met with it in two places among our mountains, in
both of which I have since sought for it in vain." The other place may
have been the hill above Rydal Mount; for a contributor to the _Flora of
the Lake District_ states that it was there shown to him by Wordsworth.
The poet's knowledge of the higher mountains, and of the mountain flora,
was not great. The moss-campion though local, is much less rare than he
supposed, and its "cushions" grow to a far larger bulk than that of the
one described by him. In his _Holidays on High Lands_ (1869), Hugh
Macmillan, paying tribute to the beauty of this flower, remarks that "a
sheet of it last summer on one of the Westmorland mountains measured
five feet across, and was one solid mass of colour." I have seen it
approaching that size in Wales.

Another plant which I was anxious to see was the Alpine _cerastium_
(mouse-ear chickweed), said to grow "sparingly" on the crags of Striding
Edge and in a few other places. I failed to find it; but when Mr. Nixon
had pointed out to me, in a photograph of the Edge, a particular crag on
which he had noticed the flower in a previous summer, I determined to
renew the search. This the weather prevented; but in the following year,
happening to be in Borrowdale in June, I walked from Keswick to the top
of Helvellyn, and thence descended to Striding Edge, where, on the very
rock indicated by Mr. Nixon, I found the object of my journey--not yet
in flower, for I was somewhat ahead of its season, but authenticated as
_cerastium alpinum_ by the small oval leaves covered with dense white
down. I have several times seen, high up on Carnedd Llewelyn, a form of
_cerastium_ with larger flowers than the common kind; this I think must
have been what is called _c. alpestre_ in the _Flora of Carnarvonshire_;
but the true _alpinum_, though frequent in the Scottish highlands, is
decidedly rare in Wales.

Even when the summer is far spent, there is hope for the flower-lover
among these mountains, especially if he penetrate into one of those
deep fissures--more characteristic of the Scafell range than of
Helvellyn--known locally as "gills": I have in mind the upper portion of
Grain's Gill, near the summit of the Sty Head Pass, where, on an autumn
day, one may still see, on either bank of the chasm, a goodly array of
flowers. Most prevalent, perhaps, are the satiny leaves of the Alpine
lady's-mantle, which is extraordinarily abundant in this part of the
Lake District, and forms a thick green carpet on many of the slopes.
Against this background stand out conspicuously tall spires of
golden-rod, rich cushions of wild thyme, and clumps of white
sea-campion, a shore plant which, like thrift, sea-plantain, and
scurvy-grass, seems almost equally at home on the heights. There, too,
are the mountain-sorrel, and rose-root; butterworts, with leaves now
faded to a sickly yellow; tufts of harebell, northern bedstraw and
hawkweed; stout stalks of angelica; and, best of all, festoons of yellow
saxifrages, beautiful even in their decay.



XXV

GREAT DAYS

    I hearing get, who had but ears,
      And sight, who had but eyes before;
    I moments live, who lived but years.

    THOREAU.


IN flower-seeking, as in other sports and sciences, the unexpected is
always happening; there are rich days and poor days, surprises and
disappointments; the plant which we hailed as a rarity may prove on
examination to be but a gay deceiver; and contrariwise, when we think we
have come home empty-handed, it may turn out that the vasculum contains
some unrecognized treasure; as when, after what seemed to be a barren
day on Helvellyn, I found that I had brought back with me the Alpine
saw-wort.

That in the study of flowers, as in all natural history, we should be
more attracted by the rare than by the common is inevitable; it is a
tendency that cannot be escaped or denied, but it may at least be kept
within bounds, so that familiarity shall not breed the proverbial
contempt, nor rarity a vulgar and excessive admiration.[22] The quest
for the rare, provided that it does not make us forget that the common
is often no less beautiful, or lead to that selfish acquisitiveness
which is the bane of "collecting," is a foible harmless in itself and
even in some cases useful, as inciting us to further activities.

[Footnote 22: "This [herb] was choice, because of prime use in medicine;
and that, more choice, for yielding a rare flavour to pottage; and a
third choicest of all, because possessed of no merit but its extreme
scarcity."--Scott's _Quentin Durward_.]

The sulphur-wort, or "sea hog's-fennel," for instance, is not especially
attractive--a big coarse plant, five feet in stature, with a solid stem,
uncouth masses of grass-like leaves, and large umbels of yellow
flowers--yet I have a gratifying recollection of a visit which I once
paid to its haunts on the Essex salt marshes near Hamford Water. Again,
the twisted-podded whitlow-grass is a rather shabby-looking little
crucifer; but the day when I found it under the crags of Snowdon in Cwm
Glas stands out distinguished and unforgotten. It is natural that we
should observe more closely what there are fewer opportunities of
observing.

Let me speak first of the barren days. An old friend of mine who is of
an optimistic temperament once assured me for my comfort, that the
flower-seeker must not feel discouraged if he fail in his pursuit; since
it is not from mere success, but from the effort itself, that benefit is
derived. The text should run, not "Seek, and ye shall find," but,
"Seek, and ye shall not _need_ to find." This may be a true doctrine,
but it seems rather a hard one; certainly it is not easy, at the time,
to regard with entire complacency the result of a blank day; and that
there will be blank days is beyond doubt, for it is strange how long
some of the "wanted" plants, the De Wets of the floral world, will evade
discovery. I have looked into the face of many hundreds of
star-saxifrages on the hills of Wales and Cumberland, but have never yet
set eyes upon its rare sister, the snow or "clustered" saxifrage. In
like manner among the innumerable flowers of the chalk fields, in the
South, that elusive little annual, the mouse-tail, has hitherto remained
undetected. So, too, with many other rarities: the list of the found may
increase year by year, but that of the _un_found is never exhausted.

It is well that it is so, and that satiety cannot chill the ardour of
the flower-lover, but like Ulysses, "always roaming with a hungry
heart," he has ever before him an object for his pursuit. "Wretched is
he," says Rousseau, "who has nothing left to wish for." Nor is the
reward a merely figurative one, such as that of the husbandmen in the
fable, who, after digging the ground in search of a buried treasure,
were otherwise recompensed; for the lean days are happily interspersed
with the fat days, and to the botanist there is surely no joy on earth
like that of discovering a flower that is new to him; it is a thrilling
event which compensates tenfold for all the failures of the past.

Very remarkable, too, is the freakishness of fortune, which often, while
denying what you crave, will toss you something quite different and
unlooked for: I remember how when searching vainly for the spider orchis
at the foot of the Downs in Kent, I stumbled on an abundance of the
"green man." Or perhaps, just at the moment when you are relinquishing
the quest as hopeless, and have put it wholly from your mind, you will
be startled to see the very flower that you sought.

    Burningly it came on me all at once!

     *       *       *       *       *

    Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
    After a life spent training for the sight!

As Thoreau expressed it: "What you seek in vain for, half your life, one
day you come full upon, all the family at dinner."

But the great days! I have sometimes fancied that in those enterprises
which are to mark the finding of a new flower, one has an inner
anticipation, a sense of hopefulness and quiet satisfaction that on
ordinary occasions is lacking. But this assurance must be an instinctive
one; it is useless to affect a confidence that does not naturally arise;
for though perseverance is essential, any presumptuous attempt to
forestall a favourable issue will only lead to discomfiture. Then at
last, when the goal is reached, comes the devotee's reward--the
knowledge that is won only by attainment, the ecstasy, the moments that
are better than years. In this, as in much else, the search for flowers
is symbolic of the search for truth.

Nothing, as they say, succeeds like success; and there are times, in
this absorbing pursuit, when one piece of good fortune is linked closely
with another. I shall not easily forget that day on Snowdon, when, after
meeting for the first time with the Alpine meadow-rue, I almost
immediately saw my first spiderwort some ten feet above me on the rocky
cliff, and reached it by building a cairn of stones against the foot of
the precipice to serve me as a ladder.

Among the great days that have fallen to my lot while following the call
of the wildflower, one other shall be mentioned--a fair September
afternoon when I had wandered for miles about the wide pastures that
border the Trent, in what seemed to be a fruitless search for the
meadow-saffron. Already it was time to turn on my homeward journey, when
I struck into a field from which hay had been carried in the summer; and
there, scattered around in large clusters of a score or more together,
some lilac, some white, all with a satiny translucence in the warm
sunshine which gave them an extraordinary and fairy-like charm, were
hundreds of the leafless "autumn crocuses," as they are called, though
in fact the flower is more lovely and ethereal than any crocus of the
garden. Not the day only, but the place itself was glorified by them;
and now of all those spacious but rather desolate Nottinghamshire
river-meadows, I remember only that one spot:

    I crossed a moor, with a name of its own,
      And a certain use in the world, no doubt;
    Yet a hand's-breath of it shines alone,
      'Mid the blank miles round about.

Nor are all the great days necessarily of that strenuous sort where
success can only be achieved by effort; for there are some days which
may also be called great, or at least memorable, when one attains by
free gift of fortune to what might long have been searched for in vain.
I refer to those happy occasions when a friend says: "Look here! I'd
like to show you that field where the elecampane grows," or, it may be,
the habitat (the only one in England) of the spring snowflake; or the
place on Wansfell Pike where the mountain-twayblade lies hidden beneath
the heather. Such things have befallen me now and then; nor am I likely
to forget the day when Bertram Lloyd took me to the haunt of the
creeping toadflax in Oxfordshire; or when, with Sydney Olivier for
guide, I emerged from the aisles of Wychwood Forest on to some rough
grassy ground, where in company with meadow crane's-bill, clustered
bell-flower, and woolly-headed thistle, the blue _salvia pratensis_ was
flourishing in glorious abundance.

For recollection plays a large part in the flower-lover's enjoyment.
Wordsworth and his daffodils are but a trite quotation; yet many hearts
besides Wordsworth's have filled with pleasure at the memory of a brave
array of flowers, or even of a single gallant plant seen in some wild
locality by mountain, meadow, or shore. The great days were not born to
be forgotten.



XXVI

THE LAST ROSE

    And summer's lease hath all too short a date.


THE great days were not born to be forgotten. It is well that memory
should come to the aid of the flower-lover; for none is more deserving
of such comfort than he, keeping constant watch as he does over the
transitoriness of the seasons, and having prescience of the summer's
departure while summer is still at its height.

    Sometimes a late autumnal thought
    Has crossed my mind in green July.

It is in the prime of the year that such intimations of mortality are
keenest; when the "fall" itself has arrived, there is less of regret
than of resignation. I do not know where the tranquil grief for parted
loveliness is so tenderly expressed as in a fragmentary poem of
Shelley's, "The Zucca," which, though little known by the majority of
readers, contains some of the most poignant, most Shelleyan verses ever
written. The poet relates how when the Italian summer was dead, and
autumn was in turn expiring, he went forth in grief for the decay of
that ideal beauty--"dim object of my soul's idolatry"--of which he,
above all men, was the worshipper, and in this mood of sadness found the
withered gourd which was the subject of his song.

    And thus I went lamenting, when I saw
      A plant upon the river's margin lie,
    Like one who loved beyond his Nature's law.
      And in despair had cast him down to die.

There is a fitness in such imagery; for flowers seem to serve naturally
as emblems of human emotions. Who has not felt the pathos of a faded
blossom kept as a memorial of the past? Many years ago I was given a
beautifully bound copy of Moxon's edition of _Shelley_; and when I
noticed that opposite that loveliest of poems, "Epipsychidion," were a
few pink petals interleaved, I was sure that their presence at such a
page was not merely accidental; and it has since been a whim of mine
that those tokens of some bygone incident in the life of a former owner
of the book should not be displaced.

There are vicissitudes in human lives with which flowers become
associated in our thoughts. I recall a calm autumn day spent in company
with a friend upon the Surrey Downs, when the marjoram and other
fragrant flowers of the chalk were still as beautiful as in summer, but
the sadness of a near departure from that familiar district lay heavy
on my mind; and that day proved indeed to be the end of many happy
years, for long afterwards, when I returned to those hills, all was
changed for _me_, though Nature was kindly as before. Thus a date, not
greatly heeded at the time, may be found to have marked one of life's
turning-points, and the flowers connected with it may hold a peculiar
significance in memory.

It is a sad moment for a flower-lover when he sees before him "the last
rose of summer" ("rose" is a term which may here be used in a general
sense for any sweet and pleasing flower), and realizes that he is now
face to face with the season's euthanasia, "that last brief resurrection
of summer in its most brilliant memorials, a resurrection that has no
root in the past, nor steady hold upon the future, like the lambent and
fitful gleams from an expiring lamp." Yet so gradual is this change, and
the resurrection of which De Quincey speaks so entrancing, that one is
comforted even while he grieves.

For example, there are few sights more cheering on a late September day
than to find by some bare tidal river a colony of the marsh-mallow. The
most admired member of the family is usually the muskmallow; and
certainly it is a very pretty flower, with its bright foliage and the
pink satiny sheen of its corolla; but far more charming, though less
showy in appearance, is its modest sister of the salt marshes, whose
leaves, overspread with hoary down, are soft as softest velvet, and her
petals steeped in as tender and delicate a tint of palest rose-colour
as could be imagined in dreams. There is something especially gracious
about this _althæa_, or "healer"; and her virtues are not more soothing
to body than to mind.

It was from the Sussex shingles that I started, and from the same shore
my concluding picture shall be drawn--a quaint sea-posy that I picked
there on an October afternoon, not so romantic, certainly, as one of
violets or forget-me-nots, but in that sere season not less heartening
than any nosegay of the spring. It held but three flowers, samphire,
sea-rocket, and sea-heath. The samphire, at all times a singular and
attractive herb, was now in fruit, and had faded to a wan yellow; the
rocket was still in flower, its lilac blossoms crowning the solid
glaucous stalk, and its thick fleshy leaves rivalling the texture of
seaweed; the small sea-heath, with wiry reddish stems and dark-green
foliage, lent itself by a natural contrast for twining around its
bulkier companions. Thus grouped they stood for weeks in a vase on my
mantel, until the time for wildflowers was overpast, and the "black and
tan" days of winter were already let loose on the earth. And even when
the year is actually at its lowest, the sunnier times can be revived and
re-enacted in thought; for memory is potent as that wizard in Morris's
poem, who in the depth of a northern Christmastide could so wondrously
transform the season,

    That through one window men beheld the spring,
    And through another saw the summer glow,
    And through a third the fruited vines a-row;
    While still unheard, but in its wonted way,
    Piped the drear wind of that December day.

Such flowery scenes has the writing of this little book brought back to
me, and has robbed at least one winter of many cheerless hours.



INDEX

    Alpine bartsia, 154;
      forget-me-not, 155;
      lady's-mantle, 177;
      meadow-rue, 153, 168, 174, 182;
      mouse-ear, 176;
      penny-cress, 107, 108;
      saw-wort, 170, 174, 178
    Amberley Wild Brooks, 35, 36
    Arnside, 124-7
    Arundel Park, 35, 142
    Avens, mountain, 155, 169, 172;
      water, 107, 132, 156

    Baneberry, 126, 127, 129
    Bellflower, ivy-leaved, 48, 148, 149, 172
    Bladderwort, 34, 146, 147
    Borage, 124
    Butterwort, 87, 148, 177

    Carpenter, Edward, 15, 45, 93, 100
    Castleton, 108
    Chiltern Hills, 16, 90, 94, 95
    Cinquefoil, marsh, 147, 148, 156;
      shrubby, 152, 153;
      vernal, 105
    Cloudberry, 110
    Crabbe (quoted), 30, 78
    Cranberry, 149
    Crow-garlic, 92
    Cuckmere Haven, 26
    Cwm Glas, 165, 167-70
    Cwm Idwal, 168-70

    Dwale, 140

    Farrer, Reginald, 66, 105, 129
    Fritillary, 88, 89
    Fungi, 80

    Gentian, 72; marsh, 144, 145;
       vernal, 66, 154, 155
    Gerarde, John, 49, 87, 88, 91, 98, 110, 124, 130, 134, 140, 142
    Globe-flower, 147, 169, 170
    Gorse, 51, 52

    Hare's-ear, "common," 46, 56, 87, 91;
       slender, 26, 27
    Hellebore, 126, 142
    Hemlock, 143
    Henbane, 140, 141
    Hound's-tongue, 55, 71
    Hudson, W. H., 12, 53 (note), 57, 88, 89
    Hutchinsia, 47, 106, 123

    Jefferies, Richard, 40, 81
    Johns, C. A., 38, 61, 125
    Jupp, W. J., 15

    Kinderscout, 109-12

    Lady's-mantle, 167, 171;
      Alpine, 177
    Letchworth, 92, 95, 96
    Lewes brooks, 30-4
    Lily of the valley, 41, 61, 125
    Lloyd, E. Bertram, 16, 110, 111, 119, 183

    Macmillan, Hugh, 162 (note), 175, 176
    Marjoram, 69, 76, 103, 180
    Marsh-cinquefoil, 147, 148
    Marsh-mallow, 187
    Meadow-rue, Alpine, 153, 168, 174, 182;
      lesser, 108
    Meadow-sage, 64, 183
    Monk's-hood, 94, 142
    Morris, William, 42 (note), 78, 188, 189
    Moschatel, 87, 88
    Moss-campion, 167, 171, 175, 176
    Mouse-ear, Alpine, 176

    Nightshade, deadly, 72, 74, 140
    Nixon, Robert, 174, 176
    Norton Common, 95, 96
    Nottingham catch-fly, 105, 123

    Olivier, Sir Sydney, 183
    Orchis, 53-6, 70, 71, 85, 86, 126, 148;
      bee, 53;
      man, 74;
      musk, 55;
      spider, 53-5
    Orme's Head, 121, 124

    Pagham Harbour, 27
    Pansy, mountain, 108, 152, 155, 172, 174
    Perfoliates, 86, 87, 108
    Pevensey, shingles, 25;
      levels, 30, 34
    Pilgrim's Way, 73
    Pink, proliferous, 27;
      Deptford, 79;
      maiden, 123
    Pratt, Anne, 11, 38, 60, 145, 150
    Primrose, 64, 65, 131;
      bird's-eye, 131, 152, 172;
      water "violet," 31, 101, 102

    Rampion, 53, 56, 74
    Rock-rose, 53, 56, 72, 76, 103, 123

    Saffron, meadow, 182
    St. John's-worts, 11, 39, 79, 99, 148
    Salmon, C. E., 17
    Samphire, 24, 122, 188
    Sandwort, vernal, 106, 108, 130, 167
    Saw-wort, Alpine, 170, 174, 178
    Saxifrages, 15, 22, 106, 167;
      mossy, 106, 130, 167;
      purple, 41, 130, 159-62;
      snow, 155, 174, 180;
      starry, 155, 167, 168, 180;
      yellow, 156, 171, 177
    Sheep's scabious, 82
    Shelley (quoted), 25, 36, 139-41, 185, 186
    Shoreham shingles, 22-4
    Snapdragon, 84, 86
    Snowdon, 158, 164-70
    Spiderwort, 168, 171, 182
    Squinancy-wort, 45, 72
    Stitchwort, 20, 37
    Sweet Cicely, 104

    Teesdale, Upper, 66, 151-7
    Thistle, "melancholy," 156, 157
    Thoreau, H. D., 12, 71, 144, 181;
       his _Journal_, 133-8
    Thorn-apple, 141
    Trefoils, 22, 23, 39, 40;
      starry-headed, 23, 99

    Vaughan, Canon J., 12 (note), 98
    Vetches, 22, 23, 72
    Viper's bugloss, 22, 71
    Virgil, 69, 80

    Water-soldier, 94, 98
    White, Gilbert, 51, 77, 98
    Wordsworth, 11, 42, 175, 184
    Wye valley, 106, 107

    Yellow-wort, 72, 87

_Printed in Great Britain by_

UNWIN BROTHERS THE GRESHAM PRESS, LONDON AND WOKING





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