Abbildungen der Seite

cumber a garden? It makes the better hedge; where, if it chance to prick the owner, it will tear the thief; "* though in this sense the term is not confined among the Saxon writers to the Blackberry plant, but applied to others which are ragged and thorny. For instance :

"Swete as is the bramble floure

That beareth the red hepe. "+

in which the wilding rose is "the bramble floure," and not our own true Blackberry: though in another use of the word there is no doubt but the Black-berry is referred to :

"One of hem was a tre

That beareth a fruit of sauour wicke,

Full croked was that foule sticke,

And knottie here and their also,

And blacke as berry or any slo."

The Bramble was as much esteemed as an important article in the materia medica of antiquity as it is with us for the juicy coolness of its fruit. "The berries," says Pliny, "are the food of man, and have a dessicative and astringent virtue, and serve as a most appropriate remedy for the gums and inflammation of the tonsils." I think it is in Hippocrates cited as a grand specific against the bite of serpents, and both berries and blossoms were used in such cases. Pliny also says the young shoots, pressed and reduced to the consistence of honey by standing in the sun, is a singular medicine,

* Grew, Cosmologia, III. c. 2.

+ Chaucer, Rime of Sir Thopas, v. 13. Chaucer, Rom. Rose.

taken inwardly, for all the diseases of the mouth and eyes, as well as for the quinsy. The roots, boiled in wine, were used by the Romans for all infirmities of the mouth, for which astringents were necessary; and the young shoots were eaten as a salad to fasten loose teeth. This was not a mere fancy of the old doctors, for all the rubus tribe are eminently astringent; and Withering assigns the same use to the raspberry as the ancients did to the bramble. He says, "the fruit is extremely grateful as nature presents it; but made into a sweetmeat, with sugar, or fermented with wine, the flavour is improved. It is fragrant, sub-acid, and cooling. It dissolves the tartarous concretions of the teeth, and for this purpose it is superior to the strawberry."* I imagine it is the astringency of the leaves of the bramble that renders it such a favourite food of goats. On a bank where there is a thorough good mixture of brushwood and wild stuff, goats will invariably crop first the brambles, and next the shoots that crowd about the roots of elms. Withering says of the raspberry, "the fresh leaves are the favourite food of kids;" and Virgil-keen rustic as he was-had observed the same thing, for he says

"On shrubs they browse, and on the bleaky top

Of rugged hills the thorny brambles crop."†

Another note from classic sources is worth making here. Pliny says the propagation of trees by layers, was taught the ancients by the bramble bush, which fre

* British Plants, Ed. 1801, Vol. iii., p. 459.

† Dryden's Virgil, Georgics iii. p. 489.

quently forms roots from joints along the stem, when these trail on the ground, or arch over, so as to have their tops entangled with moist herbage.


Now a right good plant is this our wayside bramble, and one deserving a nobler vindicator than we. grows bravely and endures all weathers; it sits beside the old oaks, and sees age come down and whiten their brows, keeping ever youthful and jovial itself. Renowned in story, from the time when it caught the garments of Demosthenes, as he fled, coward-like, from the field;* or when it alleviated, with its rich mellowness, the asperity of the Baptist's "locusts and wild honey;" or was strewed over the graves of Spartan heroes; or wove tassels of leaves and rose-shaped blossoms over the skeletons of Alexander's frozen army; or over the ghastly remains of humanity in Odin's Wood. Fair and welcome art thou, O humble and unambitious bramble, as when thou wert mingled with the earliest offerings of herbs, or scattered on the green altars of the ancient Gauls! Beautiful still, as when mingled with Æsop's happy gift,† when covered with elegies in deification of Rosalind, or when nodding a response to Wordsworth, when he so sweetly sang,

"I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sat reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

*Holland's " Plutarch," p. 765.

† Esop made an offering of flowers to the god Mercury, and was rewarded with the gift of inventing fables.


To her fair work did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts in that sweet bower

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes."

But, alas! the learned in the lore of flowers attach to thy blossoms the idea of remorse. There is no cup so pure but dregs may be found at the bottom; and thou, with thy "gauzy satin frill," and tempting harvest of juicy blackness, art armed from head to foot with thorns,— thorns which lacerate and pierce the flesh, and, like the bitter draughts along the path of pleasure, too often bid us taste of one before we reach the other. Why art thou girded round with thorns? is it that man may not pluck all the fruit, and thus some be left for the little birds who fear not brambles? or is there some lurking medicine in thy many lancets, such as the Indians seek while rubbing their bodies with the prickly sela, or the old Romans pined for, when they sowed nettles to rub themselves?* Heaven knows! perhaps we may get a blessing when we smart the most, and if God wills it, so let it be.

If all this availed not to make the bramble precious, and teach the true glory of the Land of Blackberries, what shall avail against the fact (which we have intentionally deferred till now), that they were the only food of the poor "Children in the Wood," and that

* Camden's "Britannia."

from day to day as they wandered through the dreary wilderness-unwatched by men, but cared for by Godhe, with his arm round her little neck, she looking up in his face with a tear in her eye, and amid the occasional fears and alarms which beset them, feeling still safe while guarded by her boy. Who could pluck a Blackberry and think of this without letting fall a tear, and again thanking God that he dwells in a land where the lives and liberties of babes are so sacred, that that old story never yet failed to move a heart, unless it were a heart of stone; thanking God that it is the land of baby love, of boyish glee, and of Blackberries. Ah! the robin comes now, year by year, and strews leaves upon the graves of innocence, and the bramble of the hedgerows is historically consecrated to the precious dust of the departed. See the old grave-digger busy in the country churchyard making a new grave "comfortable," with sods of grass bound in their places with hoops of bramblerods. Some of those will take root hereafter in the rich earth of "God's acre," and as Tennyson foresaw that the ashes of his friend would nourish the "violet of his native land," so we may see the far off likeness of the lost in the delicate blossom of the brambles-unless we rest there too before the summer comes. Jeremy Taylor uses this fact finely in a passage on the uncertainty of the life of man :-"The autumn, with its fruits, prepares disorders for us, and the winter's cold turns them into sharp diseases; and the spring brings flowers to strew upon our hearse; and the summer gives green turf and brambles to bind upon our graves." This reminds me that the blossom of our

« ZurückWeiter »