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The Mexicans, as Bernal Diaz informs us, acknowledged a goddess of flowers in their theological vocabulary. This goddess (Coatlicua) had a temple, where a festival was held, every year, by the makers of nosegays; whose offerings consisted of braids of flowers, wove with much art and delicacy.
Floating gardens, those miniature resemblances of the Isle of Delos, are very common in New Spain. Of these there are two kinds. Those, that glide upon the water, at the caprice of the winds; and those, which are attached to the shore. The principal flowers and roots, consumed in the city of Mexico, are raised in these small gardens. It is a most interesting spectacle, as we learn from the Baron de Humboldt, and the Abbé Clavigero, every morning, at sun-rise, to see the provisions brought in by Indians in boats, descending the canals of Chalco and Istacalco. In them are cultivated beans, artichokes, and cauliflowers; while the edges are ornamented with rose bushes. The promenade in boats, around these little islands, is represented as being the most agreeable in the environs of Mexico. When the proprietor of one of these floating gardens finds, that he has a disagreeable neighbour, he unties the chain, that fixes his little property to the shore; and with his hut and his tree, growing in the middle, floats wherever he pleases. In China they are formed on the surface of canals and rivers; and at Canton alone, more than 40,000 persons live in boats, floating on the Tigris'. In 'describing these wandering gardens, and their proprietors, the mind naturally recurs to the history and the habits of the grey squirrel. This animal abounds in North America, and is very numerous in Lapland. When they come to a lake, they search for a piece of pine-bark; drag it to the water; get upon it; elevate their brushes for sails, and land whereever the winds direct them.
Islic gardens are not unfrequently seen in other countries and climates. Herodotus mentions one in Egypt, called Chemmis?; and the Greeks believed, that the Cyclades had once been all floating islands 3. In the lake Cutilia, there was one, the appearance of which the Romans attributed to a miracle. This is now lost in beds of weeds. He also mentions two floating islands, in the Lake Bolsena; which sometimes formed themselves into circles, and sometimes into triangles; but never into quadrangles. Seneca mentions several in Italy. There were two, also, in the lonian Sea, anciently called Plotæ. They are now fixed, have good springs, and a fertile soil.
On the Guayaguil, in the kingdom of Quito; in the
In Banca * there is an order of persons, called Rayads, who live with their families in small vessels, and enjoy perpetual summer; for they navigate their covered boats from island to island, with the variations of the monsoons. In Borneo † are vast swamps; and whole villages are built on rafts, which are moved about, according to the will or interest of the proprietors.
Euterpe, c. xlvi. 3 The Cyanæ were once believed to have been floating islands; and thence occasionally called Planetæ. vid. Plin. vi. c. 12. Pomp. Mela. ii. c. 7.
* Vid. Asiat. Journ. i. 345.
+ Vid. Pennant's Outlines, iv. 52.
river Congo', on the western coast of Africa; in the lake of Tivoli, near the hot baths of Agrippa ; and in the lake, near St. Omers, floating islands are found. The last move at the will of the neighbouring farmers; who draw them near the shore, to drive their cattle upon; and having done so, they unloose the cords, and let them float at the discretion of the winds. A similar island exists in Loch Dochart among the Grampian mountains ; 'while a most remarkable one has, within these thirty years, three times emerged from the bottom of the Derwent, in the county of Cumberland. It is formed by a decomposition of aquatic plants. Browne observed several in the Nile; and Pallas gives an interesting account of the rising and sinking of one in the sea of Azof. And in 1818 reappeared a small island in the Lake Wallenstadt, which sunk about a century ago. Fêtes were given, on this occasion, by all the cantons of Switzerland.
The poets have not neglected to embellish their pages with references to floating islands. Gama was attacked near the shore of Anchediva?, in the Indian seas, by a body of Moorish pirates, in boats, holding large boughs of trees; so that, being fastened together, they appeared like a floating island. The cannon of Gama, however, soon dispersed them. Camoens », also, describes the island of Venus, as a floating island, which became fixed on the approach of the adventurous Portuguese. His description is surpassed by none of the poets, if we except Milton. Delille, too, in his Episode of Egeria, imagines her father to possess a floating island, in one of the Scottish lakes, which he gives her for a portion. Of this incident the poet has made an elegant use; and the episode forms, in consequence, the most interesting part of his L'homme des Champs ?.
· The Congo is said to carry floating islands sixty or seventy miles out to sea : vid. Maxwell's Letter to William Keir, Esq. July 20, 1804. .
2 Vid. Mickle's Dissert. on Discov. India. Bacchus, in his expedition to the same country, made use of lances, wrapped with vine-leaves, to deceive the unpractised Indians into a belief, that no hostilities were intended. Perhaps Shakespeare might have remembered this, when he covered the soldiers of Macduff with branches of trees.
3 B. ix.
The designs, that flowers have afforded to painting, sculpture, and architecture, with their effects upon the mind, are beautifully touched upon by the author of the Spectacle de la Nature. In the manufacture of silks, as well as in the fine arts, flowers are adopted, as giving the greatest variety, and the most vivid expression to a shawl, a robe, or a mantle. The practice is of great antiquity. Equally so is the custom of presenting silk ornaments, in which flowers are interwoven or embroidered, to friends and persons of high consequence and rank. It prevailed in ancient Syria? and Persia ; and is still observed in India, Turkey, and Ethiopia. The passage in the Eneid, where Andromache presents to Ascanius a robe, wrought with flowers of golden tissue, and requests him to accept it, as a friendly gift from the wife of Hector to a youth, in whom appeared the charms and graces of her lost Astyanax, is exceedingly beautiful 1. Nothing can be more affecting than the whole passage.
Canto ii. The Egyptians fabled, that Butis received Horus from Isis, and concealed him in a floating island. Herod. lib. ii.
i 1 Sam. xviii. 4. Esther, vi. 7, 8.
Flowers are inwoven in the shawls of Cashmire; and the Chinese embroider all their works with the flowers and foliage of the shrub, called Hai-Tang, much celebrated by their poets. The practice is imitated in the Gobelin tapestry and the Dresden china : and when Mons. de Boisgelin was in Denmark, a service of porcelain was preparing, on which were delineated all the plants of the Flora Botanica, classed and arranged according to the system of Linnæus. In nothing do the Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, and Persian porcelain yield to those of Dresden and Worcester, more, than in the selection of natural colours and subjects.
II. . The songs of the Hungarian peasantry frequently conclude with the wish, “ Oh that I had a large garden, well stocked with fruit; a farm well stocked with cattle; and a young and beautiful wife.” In the city of Toulouse prevailed a custom, which is as agreeable to the imagination, as any we read of in the history of ancient manners.
· Accipe, et bæc, manuum tibi quæ monumenta mearum
Eneill, lih, ii, 1. 486.