Botany-Bay Flowers - Poem by Barron Field
GOD of this Planet! for the name best fits
The purblind view, which men of this "dim spot"
Can take of THEE, the GOD Of Suns and Spheres!
What desert forests, and what barren plains,
Lie unexplor'd by European eye,
In what our Fathers call'd the Great South Land!
Ev'n in those tracts, which we have visited,
Tho' thousands of thy vegetable works
Have, by the hand of Science (as 'tis call'd)
Been gather'd and dissected, press'd and dried,
Till all their blood and beauty are extinct;
And nam'd in barb'rous Latin, men's surnames,
With terminations of the Roman tongue;
Yet tens of thousands have escap'd the search,
The decimation, the alive-impaling,
Nick-naming of GOD'S creatures -- 'scap'd it all.
Still fewer (perhaps none) of all these Flowers
Have been by Poet sung. Poets are few.
And Botanists are many, and good cheap.
When first I landed on AUSTRALIA'S Shore,
(I neither Botanist nor Poet truly,
But less a Seeker after Facts than Truth),
A Flower gladden'd me above the rest,
Shap'd trumpet-like, which from palmy stalk
Hung clust'ring, hyacinthine, crimson red
Melting to white. Botanic Science calls
The plant epacris grandiflora, gives
Its class, description, habitat, then draws
A line. The Bard of Truth would moralize
The Flower's beauty, which caught first my eye;
But, having liv'd the circle of the year,
I found (and then he'd sing in Beauty's praise)
This the sole plant that never ceas'd to bloom.
Nor here would stop: -- at length first love and fair,
And fair and sweet, and sweet and constant, pall,
(Alas, for poor Humanity!) and then
Then new, the pretty, and the unexpected,
Ensnare the fancy. Thus it was with me,
When first I spied the Flowret in the grass,
Which forms the subject of this humble Song,
And (treason to my wedded Flower) cried: --
Th' Australian "fringed Violet"
Shall henceforward be my pet!
Oh! had this Flow'r been seen by him
Who call'd Europa's "violets dim
Sweeter than lids of juno's eyes,"
He had not let this touch suffice,
But had pronounc'd it (I am certain)
Of Juno's eye the "fringed curtain" --
Pick'd phrase for eye-lid, which the Poet
Has us'd elsewhere; and he will know it
Who in his dramas is well vers'd:
Vide The Tempest, Act the First. --
But I am wand'ring from my duty,
First to describe my frige-ey'd Beauty.
'Tis then a floss-edg'd lilac Flower,
That shuts at early ev'ning's hour,
When the Sun has lost his power,
Like a Fairy's parasol
(If Fairies walk by day at all);
Or, it may quicker gain belief,
To call it her silk neckerchief,
Dropt before she blest the place
With her last night's dancing grace:
For surely Fairies haunt a land,
Where they may have the free command
Of beetles, flowers, butterflies,
Of such enchanting tints and dyes:
Not beetles black (forbidden things),
But beetles of enamel'd wings,
Or rather, coats of armour, boss'd
And studded till the ground-work's lost:
Then, for all other insects, -- here
Queen Mab would have no cause to fear
For her respectable approach,
Lest she could not set up her coach.
Here's a fine grub for a coach-maker,
Good as in Fairy-land Long-Acre;
And very-long-indeed-legg'd spinners,
To make her waggon-spokes, the sinners!
And here are winged grasshoppers;
And, as to gnats for waggoners,
We have mosquitoes will suffice
To drive her team of atomies.
If therefore she and her regalia
Have never yet been in Australia,
I recommend a voyage to us,
On board the Paper Nautilus;
But I incline to the opinion
That we are now in her dominion;
For we dream all those self-same dreams,
Which (from Mercutio) it seems
We owe to her deliv'rancy,
As midwife and queen faery.
Puck talks of putting round the earth,
In forty minutes time, a girth:
Ob'ron, tho' he "the groves may tread
Till th'eastern gate, all fiery red,
Open on Neptune with fair beams,
And turn to gold his salt green streams."
Yet chuses he, "in silence sad,
To trip after the night's shade:
He the globe can compass soon,
Swifter than the wand'ring moon:"
And Queen Titania's made to say
That she had been in India;
And had a mortal vot'ress there;
As I hope too, among the Fair
Of this young land of Shakespeare's tongue,
That she has here: -- I've else judgy'd wrong.
Enough then of the Fairies and the Flower;
And, as mistaking Puck I must sure have squeez'd
The juice of that same little purple flower,
(Why may it not, ye Botanists, be call'd
A species of Love in Idleness?
Only because perhaps Jussieu would say
It is no violet), and dropt the liquor
Into my sleeping eyes, to make me change
My love, as erst Lysander did to Helen
From Hermia: so may the Fairy King,
Just Oberon, see good to break the spell
With the epacris' juice, of virtuous might
To take from eyes all error, that when next
They wake, all this may seem a fruitless dream.
"My heart with that but as guest-wise sojourn'd,
And now to this flow'r is at home return'd,
Be as thou was wont to be;
See as thou wast wont to see:
Dian's bud o'er Cupid's flower
Hath such force and blessed power."
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