Erasmus Darwin

(12 December 1731 – 18 April 1802 / Elston / Nottinghamshire / England)

The Botanic Garden (Part V) - Poem by Erasmus Darwin

THE LOVES OF THE PLANTS.

CANTO I.

Descend, ye hovering Sylphs! aerial Quires,
And sweep with little hands your silver lyres;
With fairy footsteps print your grassy rings,
Ye Gnomes! accordant to the tinkling strings;
While in soft notes I tune to oaten reed
Gay hopes, and amorous sorrows of the mead.-
From giant Oaks, that wave their branches dark,
To the dwarf Moss, that clings upon their bark,
What Beaux and Beauties crowd the gaudy groves,
And woo and win their vegetable Loves.
How Snowdrops cold, and blue-eyed Harebels blend
Their tender tears, as o'er the stream they bend;
The lovesick Violet, and the Primrose pale
Bow their sweet heads, and whisper to the gale;
With secret sighs the Virgin Lily droops,
And jealous Cowslips hang their tawny cups.
How the young Rose in beauty's damask pride
Drinks the warm blushes of his bashful bride;
With honey'd lips enamour'd Woodbines meet,
Clasp with fond arms, and mix their kisses sweet.-
Stay thy soft-murmuring waters, gentle Rill;
Hush, whispering Winds, ye ruflling Leaves, be still;
Rest, silver Butterflies, your quivering wings;
Alight, ye Beetles, from your airy rings;
Ye painted Moths, your gold-eyed plumage furl,
Bow your wide horns, your spiral trunks uncurl;
Glitter, ye Glow-worms, on your mossy beds;
Descend, ye Spiders, on your lengthen'd threads;
Slide here, ye horned Snails, with varnish'd shells;
Ye Bee-nymphs, listen in your waxen cells!-
BOTANIC MUSE! who in this latter age
Led by your airy hand the Swedish sage,
Bad his keen eye your secret haunts explore
On dewy dell, high wood, and winding shore;
Say on each leaf how tiny Graces dwell;
How laugh the Pleasures in a blossom's bell;
How insect Loves arise on cobweb wings,
Aim their light shafts, and point their little stings.
First the tall CANNA lifts his curled brow
Erect to heaven, and plights his nuptial vow;
The virtuous pair, in milder regions born,
Dread the rude blast of Autumn's icy morn;
Round the chill fair he folds his crimson vest,
And clasps the timorous beauty to his breast.
Thy love, CALLITRICHE,
two
Virgins share,
Smit with thy starry eye and radiant hair;-
On the green margin sits the youth, and laves
His floating train of tresses in the waves;
Sees his fair features paint the streams that pass,
And bends for ever o'er the watery glass.

Two
brother swains, of COLLIN'S gentle name,
The same their features, and their forms the same,
With rival love for fair COLLINIA sigh,
Knit the dark brow, and roll the unsteady eye.
With sweet concern the pitying beauty mourns,
And sooths with smiles the jealous pair by turns.
Sweet blooms GENISTA in the myrtle shade,
And
ten
fond brothers woo the haughty maid.

Two
knights before thy fragrant altar bend,
Adored MELISSA! and
two
squires attend.
MEADIA'S soft chains
five
suppliant beaux confess,
And hand in hand the laughing belle address;
Alike to all, she bows with wanton air,
Rolls her dark eye, and waves her golden hair.
Woo'd with long care, CURCUMA cold and shy
Meets her fond husband with averted eye:

Four
beardless youths the obdurate beauty move
With soft attentions of Platonic love.
With vain desires the pensive ALCEA burns,
And, like sad ELOISA, loves and mourns.
The freckled IRIS owns a fiercer flame,
And
three
unjealous husbands wed the dame.
CUPRESSUS dark disdains his dusky bride,

One
dome contains them, but
two
beds divide.
The proud OSYRIS flies his angry fair,

Two
houses hold the fashionable pair.
With strange deformity PLANTAGO treads,
A Monster-birth! and lifts his hundred heads;
Yet with soft love a gentle belle he charms,
And clasps the beauty in his hundred arms.
So hapless DESDEMONA, fair and young,
Won by OTHELLO'S captivating tongue,
Sigh'd o'er each strange and piteous tale, distress'd,
And sunk enamour'd on his sooty breast.

Two
gentle shepherds and their sister-wives
With thee, ANTHOXA! lead ambrosial lives;
Where the wide heath in purple pride extends,
And scatter'd furze its golden lustre blends,
Closed in a green recess, unenvy'd lot!
The blue smoak rises from their turf-built cot;
Bosom'd in fragrance blush their infant train,
Eye the warm sun, or drink the silver rain.
The fair OSMUNDA seeks the silent dell,
The ivy canopy, and dripping cell;
There hid in shades
clandestine
rites approves,
Till the green progeny betrays her loves.
With charms despotic fair CHONDRILLA reigns
O'er the soft hearts of
five
fraternal swains;
If sighs the changeful nymph, alike they mourn;
And, if she smiles, with rival raptures burn.
So, tun'd in unison, Eolian Lyre!
Sounds in sweet symphony thy kindred wire;
Now, gently swept by Zephyr's vernal wings,
Sink in soft cadences the love-sick strings;
And now with mingling chords, and voices higher,
Peal the full anthems of the aerial choir.

Five
sister-nymphs to join Diana's train
With thee, fair LYCHNIS! vow,-but vow in vain;
Beneath one roof resides the virgin band,
Flies the fond swain, and scorns his offer'd hand;
But when soft hours on breezy pinions move,
And smiling May attunes her lute to love,
Each wanton beauty, trick'd in all her grace,
Shakes the bright dew-drops from her blushing face;
In gay undress displays her rival charms,
And calls her wondering lovers to her arms.
When the young Hours amid her tangled hair
Wove the fresh rose-bud, and the lily fair,
Proud GLORIOSA led
three
chosen swains,
The blushing captives of her virgin chains.-
-When Time's rude hand a bark of wrinkles spread
Round her weak limbs, and silver'd o'er her head,

Three
other youths her riper years engage,
The flatter'd victims of her wily age.
So, in her wane of beauty, NINON won
With fatal smiles her gay unconscious son.-
Clasp'd in his arms she own'd a mother's name,-
'Desist, rash youth! restrain your impious flame,
'First on that bed your infant-form was press'd,
'Born by my throes, and nurtured at my breast.'-
Back as from death he sprung, with wild amaze
Fierce on the fair he fix'd his ardent gaze;
Dropp'd on one knee, his frantic arms outspread,
And stole a guilty glance toward the bed;
Then breath'd from quivering lips a whisper'd vow,
And bent on heaven his pale repentant brow;
'Thus, thus!' he cried, and plung'd the furious dart,
And life and love gush'd mingled from his heart.
The fell SILENE and her sisters fair,
Skill'd in destruction, spread the viscous snare.
The harlot-band
ten
lofty bravoes screen,
And frowning guard the magic nets unseen.-
Haste, glittering nations, tenants of the air,
Oh, steer from hence your viewless course afar!
If with soft words, sweet blushes, nods, and smiles,
The
three
dread Syrens lure you to their toils,
Limed by their art in vain you point your stings,
In vain the efforts of your whirring wings!-
Go, seek your gilded mates and infant hives,
Nor taste the honey purchas'd with your lives!
When heaven's high vault condensing clouds deform,
Fair AMARYLLIS flies the incumbent storm,
Seeks with unsteady step the shelter'd vale,
And turns her blushing beauties from the gale.-

Six
rival youths, with soft concern impress'd,
Calm all her fears, and charm her cares to rest.-
So shines at eve the sun-illumin'd fane,
Lifts its bright cross, and waves its golden vane;
From every breeze the polish'd axle turns,
And high in air the dancing meteor burns.

Four
of the giant brood with ILEX stand,
Each grasps a thousand arrows in his hand;
A thousand steely points on every scale
Form the bright terrors of his bristly male.-
So arm'd, immortal Moore uncharm'd the spell,
And slew the wily dragon of the well.-
Sudden with rage their
injur'd
bosoms burn,
Retort the insult, or the wound return;

Unwrong'd
, as gentle as the breeze that sweeps
The unbending harvests or undimpled deeps,
They guard, the Kings of Needwood's wide domains,
Their sister-wives and fair infantine trains;
Lead the lone pilgrim through the trackless glade,
Or guide in leafy wilds the wand'ring maid.
So WRIGHT's bold pencil from Vesuvio's hight
Hurls his red lavas to the troubled night;
From Calpè starts the intolerable flash,
Skies burst in flames, and blazing oceans dash;-
Or bids in sweet repose his shades recede,
Winds the still vale, and slopes the velvet mead;
On the pale stream expiring Zephyrs sink,
And Moonlight sleeps upon its hoary brink.
Gigantic Nymph! the fair KLEINHOVIA reigns,
The grace and terror of Orixa's plains;
O'er her warm cheek the blush of beauty swims,
And nerves Herculean bend her sinewy limbs;
With frolic eye she views the affrighted throng,
And shakes the meadows, as she towers along,
With playful violence displays her charms,
And bears her trembling lovers in her arms.
So fair THALESTRIS shook her plumy crest,
And bound in rigid mail her jutting breast;
Poised her long lance amid the walks of war,
And Beauty thunder'd from Bellona's car;
Greece arm'd in vain, her captive heroes wove
The chains of conquest with the wreaths of love.
When o'er the cultured lawns and dreary wastes
Retiring Autumn flings her howling blasts,
Bends in tumultuous waves the struggling woods,
And showers their leafy honours on the floods,
In withering heaps collects the flowery spoil,
And each chill insect sinks beneath the soil;
Quick flies fair TULIPA the loud alarms,
And folds her infant closer in her arms;
In some lone cave, secure pavilion, lies,
And waits the courtship of serener skies.-
So, six cold moons, the Dormouse charm'd to rest,
Indulgent Sleep! beneath thy eider breast,
In fields of Fancy climbs the kernel'd groves,
Or shares the golden harvest with his loves.-
But bright from earth amid the troubled air
Ascends fair COLCHICA with radiant hair,
Warms the cold bosom of the hoary year,
And lights with Beauty's blaze the dusky sphere.

Three
blushing Maids the intrepid Nymph attend,
And
six
gay Youths, enamour'd train! defend.
So shines with silver guards the Georgian star,
And drives on Night's blue arch his glittering car;
Hangs o'er the billowy clouds his lucid form,
Wades through the mist, and dances in the storm.
GREAT HELIANTHUS guides o'er twilight plains
In gay solemnity his Dervise-trains;
Marshall'd in
fives
each gaudy band proceeds,
Each gaudy band a plumed Lady leads;
With zealous step he climbs the upland lawn,
And bows in homage to the rising dawn;
Imbibes with eagle-eye the golden ray,
And watches, as it moves, the orb of day.
Queen of the marsh, imperial DROSERA treads
Rush-fringed banks, and moss-embroider'd beds;
Redundant folds of glossy silk surround
Her slender waist, and trail upon the ground;

Five
sister-nymphs collect with graceful ease,
Or spread the floating purple to the breeze;
And
five
fair youths with duteous love comply
With each soft mandate of her moving eye.
As with sweet grace her snowy neck she bows,
A zone of diamonds trembles round her brows;
Bright shines the silver halo, as she turns;
And, as she steps, the living lustre burns.
Fair LONICERA prints the dewy lawn,
And decks with brighter blush the vermil dawn;
Winds round the shadowy rocks, and pansied vales,
And scents with sweeter breath the summer-gales;
With artless grace and native ease she charms,
And bears the Horn of Plenty in her arms.

Five
rival Swains their tender cares unfold,
And watch with eye askance the treasured gold.
Where rears huge Tenerif his azure crest,
Aspiring DRABA builds her eagle nest;
Her pendant eyry icy caves surround,
Where erst Volcanos min'd the rocky ground.
Pleased round the Fair
four
rival Lords ascend
The shaggy steeps,
two
menial youths attend.
High in the setting ray the beauty stands,
And her tall shadow waves on distant lands.
Stay, bright inhabitant of air, alight,
Ambitious VISCA, from thy eagle-flight!-
--Scorning the sordid soil, aloft she springs,
Shakes her white plume, and claps her golden wings;
High o'er the fields of boundless ether roves,
And seeks amid the clouds her soaring loves!
Stretch'd on her mossy couch, in trackless deeps,
Queen of the coral groves, ZOSTERA sleeps;
The silvery sea-weed matted round her bed,
And distant surges murmuring o'er her head.-
High in the flood her azure dome ascends,
The crystal arch on crystal columns bends;
Roof'd with translucent shell the turrets blaze,
And far in ocean dart their colour'd rays;
O'er the white floor successive shadows move,
As rise and break the ruffled waves above.-
Around the nymph her mermaid-trains repair,
And weave with orient pearl her radiant hair;
With rapid fins she cleaves the watery way,
Shoots like a diver meteor up to day;
Sounds a loud conch, convokes a scaly band,
Her sea-born lovers, and ascends the strand.
E'en round the pole the flames of Love aspire,
And icy bosoms feel the
secret
fire!-
Cradled in snow and fann'd by arctic air
Shines, gentle BAROMETZ! thy golden hair;
Rooted in earth each cloven hoof descends,
And round and round her flexile neck she bends;
Crops the grey coral moss, and hoary thyme,
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime;
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
Or seems to bleat, a
Vegetable Lamb
.
-So, warm and buoyant in his oily mail,
Gambols on seas of ice the unwieldy Whale;
Wide-waving fins round floating islands urge
His bulk gigantic through the troubled surge;
With hideous yawn the flying shoals He seeks,
Or clasps with fringe of horn his massy cheeks;
Lifts o'er the tossing wave his nostrils bare,
And spouts pellucid columns into air;
The silvery arches catch the setting beams,
And transient rainbows tremble o'er the streams.
Weak with nice sense, the chaste MIMOSA stands,
From each rude touch withdraws her timid hands;
Oft as light clouds o'er-pass the Summer-glade,
Alarm'd she trembles at the moving shade;
And feels, alive through all her tender form,
The whisper'd murmurs of the gathering storm;
Shuts her sweet eye-lids to approaching night;
And hails with freshen'd charms the rising light.
Veil'd, with gay decency and modest pride,
Slow to the mosque she moves, an eastern bride;
There her soft vows unceasing love record,
Queen of the bright seraglio of her Lord.-
So sinks or rises with the changeful hour
The liquid silver in its glassy tower.
So turns the needle to the pole it loves,
With fine librations quivering as it moves.
All wan and shivering in the leafless glade
The sad ANEMONE reclined her head;
Grief on her cheeks had paled the roseate hue,
And her sweet eye-lids dropp'd with pearly dew.
-'See, from bright regions, borne on odorous gales
The Swallow, herald of the summer, sails;
'Breathe, gentle AIR! from cherub-lips impart
Thy balmy influence to my anguish'd heart;
Thou, whose soft voice calls forth the tender blooms,
Whose pencil paints them, and whose breath perfumes;
O chase the Fiend of Frost, with leaden mace
Who seals in death-like sleep my hapless race;
Melt his hard heart, release his iron hand,
And give my ivory petals to expand.
So may each bud, that decks the brow of spring,
Shed all its incense on thy wafting wing!'-
To her fond prayer propitious Zephyr yields,
Sweeps on his sliding shell through azure fields,
O'er her fair mansion waves his whispering wand,
And gives her ivory petals to expand;
Gives with new life her filial train to rise,
And hail with kindling smiles the genial skies.
So shines the Nymph in beauty's blushing pride,
When Zephyr wafts her deep calash aside;
Tears with rude kiss her bosom's gauzy veil,
And flings the fluttering kerchief to the gale.
So bright, the folding canopy undrawn,
Glides the gilt Landau o'er the velvet lawn,
Of beaux and belles displays the glittering throng;
And soft airs fan them, as they roll along.
Where frowning Snowden bends his dizzy brow
O'er Conway, listening to the surge below;
Retiring LICHEN climbs the topmost stone,
And 'mid the airy ocean dwells alone.-
Bright shine the stars unnumber'd
o'er her head
,
And the cold moon-beam gilds her flinty bed;
While round the rifted rocks hoarse whirlwinds breathe,
And dark with thunder sail the clouds
beneath
.-
The steepy path her plighted swain pursues,
And tracks her light step o'er th' imprinted dews,
Delighted Hymen gives his torch to blaze,
Winds round the craggs, and lights the mazy ways;
Sheds o'er their
secret
vows his influence chaste,
And decks with roses the admiring waste.
High in the front of heaven when Sirius glares,
And o'er Britannia shakes his fiery hairs;
When no soft shower descends, no dew distills,
Her wave-worn channels dry, and mute her rills;
When droops the sickening herb, the blossom fades,
And parch'd earth gapes beneath the withering glades.
-With languid step fair DYPSACA retreats;
'Fall gentle dews!' the fainting nymph repeats;
Seeks the low dell, and in the sultry shade
Invokes in vain the Naiads to her aid.-

Four
silvan youths in crystal goblets bear
The untasted treasure to the grateful fair;
Pleased from their hands with modest grace she sips,
And the cool wave reflects her coral lips.
With nice selection modest RUBIA blends,
Her vermil dyes, and o'er the cauldron bends;
Warm 'mid the rising steam the Beauty glows,
As blushes in a mist the dewy rose.
With chemic art
four
favour'd youths aloof
Stain the white fleece, or stretch the tinted woof;
O'er Age's cheek the warmth of youth diffuse,
Or deck the pale-eyed nymph in roseate hues.
So when MEDEA to exulting Greece
From plunder'd COLCHIS bore the golden fleece;
On the loud shore a magic pile she rais'd,
The cauldron bubbled, and the faggots blaz'd;--
Pleased on the boiling wave old ÆSON swims,
And feels new vigour stretch his swelling limbs;
Through his thrill'd nerves forgotten ardors dart,
And warmer eddies circle round his heart;
With softer fires his kindling eye-balls glow,
And darker tresses wanton round his brow.
As dash the waves on India's breezy strand,
Her flush'd cheek press'd upon her lily hand,
VALLISNER sits, up-turns her tearful eyes,
Calls her lost lover, and upbraids the skies;
For him she breathes the silent sigh, forlorn,
Each setting-day; for him each rising morn.-
'Bright orbs, that light yon high etherial plain,
Or bathe your radiant tresses in the main;
Pale moon, that silver'st o'er night's sable brow;-
For ye were witness to his parting vow!-
Ye shelving rocks, dark waves, and sounding shore,-
Ye echoed sweet the tender words he swore!-
Can stars or seas the sails of love retain?
O guide my wanderer to my arms again!'-
Her buoyant skiff intrepid ULVA guides,
And seeks her Lord amid the trackless tides;
Her
secret
vows the Cyprian Queen approves,
And hovering halcyons guard her infant-loves;
Each in his floating cradle round they throng,
And dimpling Ocean bears the fleet along.-
Thus o'er the waves, which gently bend and swell,
Fair GALATEA steers her silver shell;
Her playful Dolphins stretch the silken rein,
Hear her sweet voice, and glide along the main.
As round the wild meandering coast she moves
By gushing rills, rude cliffs, and nodding groves;
Each by her pine the Wood-nymphs wave their locks,
And wondering Naiads peep amid the rocks;
Pleased trains of Mermaids rise from coral cells,
Admiring Tritons sound their twisted shells;
Charm'd o'er the car pursuing Cupids sweep,
Their snow-white pinions twinkling in the deep;
And, as the lustre of her eye she turns,
Soft sighs the Gale, and amorous Ocean burns.
On DOVE'S green brink the fair TREMELLA stood,
And view'd her playful image in the flood;
To each rude rock, lone dell, and echoing grove
Sung the sweet sorrows of her
secret
love.
'Oh, stay!-return!'-along the sounding shore
Cry'd the sad Naiads,-she return'd no more!-
Now girt with clouds the sullen Evening frown'd,
And withering Eurus swept along the ground;
The misty moon withdrew her horned light,
And sunk with Hesper in the skirt of night;
No dim electric streams, (the northern dawn,)
With meek effulgence quiver'd o'er the lawn;
No star benignant shot one transient ray
To guide or light the wanderer on her way.
Round the dark craggs the murmuring whirlwinds blow,
Woods groan above, and waters roar below;
As o'er the steeps with pausing foot she moves,
The pitying Dryads shriek amid their groves;
She flies,-she stops,-she pants-she looks behind,
And hears a demon howl in every wind.
-As the bleak blast unfurls her fluttering vest,
Cold beats the snow upon her shuddering breast;
Through her numb'd limbs the chill sensations dart,
And the keen ice bolt trembles at her heart.
'I sink, I fall! oh, help me, help!' she cries,
Her stiffening tongue the unfinish'd sound denies;
Tear after tear adown her cheek succeeds,
And pearls of ice bestrew the glittering meads;
Congealing snows her lingering feet surround,
Arrest her flight, and root her to the ground;
With suppliant arms she pours the silent prayer;
Her suppliant arms hang crystal in the air;
Pellucid films her shivering neck o'erspread,
Seal her mute lips, and silver o'er her head,
Veil her pale bosom, glaze her lifted hands,
And shrined in ice the beauteous statue stands.
-DOVE'S azure nymphs on each revolving year
For fair TREMELLA shed the tender tear;
With rush-wove crowns in sad procession move,
And sound the sorrowing shell to hapless love.'
Here paused the MUSE,-across the darken'd pole
Sail the dim clouds, the echoing thunders roll;
The trembling Wood-nymphs, as the tempest lowers,
Lead the gay Goddess to their inmost bowers;
Hang the mute lyre the laurel shade beneath,
And round her temples bind the myrtle wreath.
-Now the light swallow with her airy brood
Skims the green meadow, and the dimpled flood;
Loud shrieks the lone thrush from his leafless thorn,
Th' alarmed beetle sounds his bugle horn;
Each pendant spider winds with fingers fine
His ravel'd clue, and climbs along the line;
Gay Gnomes in glittering circles stand aloof
Beneath a spreading mushroom's fretted roof;
Swift bees returning seek their waxen cells,
And Sylphs cling quivering in the lily's bells.
Through the still air descend the genials showers,
And pearly rain-drops deck the laughing flowers.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010



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