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An account of this custom is preserved in the archives of that city, and is to the following effect. Seven persons of condition, having resolved to do honour to the cause of poesy, formed themselves into a society, and wrote to all the Troubadours, in the south of France, requesting them to meet on the first of May at Toulouse; and there to rehearse any poem, they might chose to recite. Intimating, at the same time, that a golden violet should be awarded to the author of the poem, which should be esteemed the best. In consequence of this invitation, a vast assemblage of Troubadours entered Toulouse; and the whole ceremony gave so much delight to the ladies and gentry of that city, that they took charge of the future meetings; and appointed a chancellor, and secretary to the institution. These meetings were continued every year, and three other prizes added. The winner of the first enjoyed the violet; the second an eglantine; the third a carnation; and the fourth a pansy. Whoever bore away the four together was admitted doctor of poetry. · In distributing rewards, and in conferring honours, nature is most commonly appealed to. The poets were crowned with bays, and conquerors with laurel. Of the ten kinds of bearings, into which the art of heraldry is divided, seven consist of signs, drawn from the natural world. The fleur-de-lis of France is a lily; that of England a rose; and while the coronets of earls and marquisses are composed chiefly of points and flowers, and those of dukes are floral, the principal decorations of the higher descriptions of honour are stars, eagles, and crescents. When we would welcome a hero, or a monarch, to his home, boughs are scattered in his path; and many of our own ancient festivals were celebrated under an oak: The young women with nosegays in their hands ; and the young men with oak-leaves in their hats.
In Salency, a small village in Picardy, there still remains an interesting custom. It is called “ the festival of the rose.” On a certain day of every year the young women of the village assemble. After a solemn trial before competent judges, that young woman, who has conducted herself the most discreetly, and gives the most affecting proofs of the general innocence and simplicity of her character, is decorated with a crown, which thenceforward becomes an object of pride to all her family. The crown is a hat covered with roses. It frequently constitutes the whole wealth of the wearer; but the instances are far from unfrequent, in which it has been esteemed the most honourable recommendation to a wealthy suitor. This custom was instituted by St. Medard, in the fifteenth century. He was the sole proprietor of the village ; and his sister the fortunate winner of the original prize. To the time of the revolution, this festival was observed with all the circumstances of preparation and solemnity, that marked its primary institution, thirteen centuries before. Madam de Genlis has written a comedy, in two acts, upon this subject : “ The Queen of the Rose of Salency.” Louis XIII despatched the Marquis de Gordes from Varennes to Salency, with presents of a blue ribbon and a white ring, for the Queen of the Rose; and in 1766 Mons. Morfontaine made a settlement of 120 livres upon the annual winner.
The Samnites, too, had a fine custom amongst them. It was that of convening the youth into one place every
year; where they underwent a trial of virtue; and the one, who was declared to have the most merit, had the privilege of selecting the most beautiful and most virtuous maiden from among the entire republic, for a wife?.
The association between flowers and poetry is well preserved by Lucretius.
- Juvatque novos decerpere flores : Insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam, Unde prius nulli velârunt tempora musæ '.
De Nat. Rer. lib. i. 927. From this association it is, that all collections of poems were anciently called Anthologies. The “ flower of the
1 Montesquieu reasons with his usual ingenuity upon this law, preserved among the fragments of Nicolaus Damascenus. Spirit of Laws, b. vii. ch. 16.
· Seneca compares lessons to grains of seeds. The quality of the fruit, says he, depends entirely on the soil, in which they have been sown. Epist. xxxviii. Nature, says Pliny the naturalist, has some flowers for pleasure: these last but a day: she has trees for use, which last for years; as if she intended to intimate, that whatever is splendid passes away, and soon loses its lustre. Nat. Hist. xxi. c. 1.- Rollin contrasts gardens of art with scenes of general Nature, in an excellent passage, too long to quote. It is formed upon a passage in Cicero and another in Juvenal t. It compares the former with the florid style of eloquence—the latter with the grand and sublime. It will repay a reader for the trouble of referring to it t.-In Javanese poetry S is a passage, which forcibly recals a similar one in a speech of Pericles, in respect to the cypress. “Melancholy is it to see a young man of condition unacquainted with the sacred writings; for be he ever so gracefully formed, or elegant in his manners, he still remains defective. like the wurawari flower, which, notwithstanding its fine appearance and bright red colour, emits no fragrance whatever." * De Natur. Deorum. ii.
† Lib. i. Sat. 3. Belles Lettres, ii. 88. § Vide Rafles’ Java, i. f. 260. VOL. II.
flock,” too, has been a proverbial expression in all ages. The Emperor of China assumes the titles of “the Flower of Courtesy;" the “ Nutmeg of Consolation ;” and the “ Rose of Delight.” In some parts of his empire a virgin, when she has attained a marriageable age, places in the window of her apartment a set of flower-pots. The Afghauns employ them as tokens, by which one friend, living at a distance, may send a verbal message to another.
Thus a servant begins a message _“ If you and my master were sitting by yourselves in a garden ; and he told you, that he had counted thirty-four different kinds of flowers, within a few yards, in the hills of Caubul, that is to be a sign to you, that what I say comes from him.” The tales of the East have frequent allusions, relative to the intercourse, carried on by the interchange of fruits, buds, flowers, spices, leaves, and petals. Davies, in his Celtic Researches, describes a similar custom among the ancient Britons.
In some parts of Spain, lovers, during the seasons of spring, summer, and early autumn, never fail to accompany their serenades with large bouquets of flowers; which, when practicable, they throw into their mistress's window, singing songs or striking their instruments, with all the delicacy they are master of. Flowers, too, in ancient times were supposed to contain so much virtue, that Uriel ?, the angel, with a view of making Esdras more pure, and therefore less unworthy of searching into the
· The Javans call poetry sekar, “ flowers of the language :” vide Raffles' Hist. Java, i. p. 398. And orators speak of “ flowers of rhetoric;" an association first used by Cicero. Vide De Oratore.
2 Esdras ii. ch. ix. v. 24.
ways of Providence, desires him to go into the fields, and to eat of herbs and flowers for the space of seven days. Hence, perhaps, the origin of the romance, in respect to the birth of Apollonius of- Tyana. When his mother, says Philostratus 1, was near her time, she was desired, in a dream, to go into the meadows, and gather flowers there. When she awaked, she went with her maids into the meadows; and while they were amusing themselves, she fell asleep on the grass. A flock of swans, feeding in the same field, came and sung a chorus round her; the noise of which causing her to awake, the alarm brought on a premature labour; and Apollonius of Tyana was born.
In Solomon's pastoral, floral allegories are perpetual. “ Whither is my beloved gone, thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside, that we may seek him with thee? My beloved is gone to the beds of spices ; to feed in the gardens; and to gather lilies. ?" “ I went into the garden of nuts; to see the fruits of the valley; and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranate budded 3.”
A French writer has an illustration too much perhaps in the school of Shaftesbury, but not on that account wholly unworthy of attention. “ His virtues made him known to the public; and produced that first flower of reputation, which spreads an odour more agreeable, than perfumes over every part of a glorious life.”
In Moschus the allusion is complete, but the argument, unsound. The paraphrase is admirable !
Vide Philost, in Vit. Apol. lib. i. c. 7.–Berwick.