The Victorians spoke the language of flowers, as they were instructed in the various popular publications of the day. One such book, The Language of Flowers, which expressed the meanings and symbols of flowers so eloquently, was published in 1846.
Below you’ll find an excerpt from this poetical resource of flower symbolism. The author, known only as “J.S.A.” gathered up the meanings of various flowers and coupled them with relevant quotes and poetry from literary sources.
Language of Flowers
We love the flowers. Not only do they please the eye, and gratify the sense, but to one of a reflective turn of mind they are the dispensers of instruction. Flowers add a charm to domestic life which nothing else can impart. What high encomiums have been lavishingly bestowed upon “vine-clad cottages”! and how often in our readings do we find notice taken of some beautiful geranium that sheds its sweet fragrance around the room!
After a dreary winter, with what pleasure we hail the little primrose, that, peering above the ground, whispers of the coming spring, telling us that Winter’s reign is over, that the time of flowers has come, and that Flora will soon hold her jubilee on earth! And as spring advances and retires, followed by summer, that season which more fully displays the beauties of Flora’s kingdom, with what light and joyous hearts we walk amid those beauties, watch the unfolding leaf, or gather to ourselves those gems with which the Queen of Flowers delights to deck her crown!
Flowers are the smiles of nature, and earth would seem a desert without them. How profuse is nature in the bestowment of her smiles! They are seen on every hill-side and in every valley; they cheer the traveler on his public way, and the hermit in his seclusion. Wherever the light of day reaches, you will find them, and none so poor they cannot possess them. They grew first in Paradise, and bring to our view more vividly than any thing else the beauties of Eden.
It is no new thing to attach sentiments to flowers. In Eastern lands, flowers have a language which all understand. It is that “still small voice” which is powerful on account of its silence. “It is one of the chief amusements of the Greek girls to drop these symbols of their esteem or scorn upon the various passengers who pass their latticed windows.” And the traveler can read upon Egyptian rocks accounts of the conquests of that ancient people, recorded by foreign plants.
The name which we have chosen for this little volume we deem most appropriate for a work of this kind. As long as sentiments have been attached to flowers, so long has Flora has kept an Album on the pages of which she has faithfully inscribed them We do not profess to have found this Album, as books have been found, on the dusty shelves of old and neglected libraries; but we found scattered here and there, leaves, which by the sentiments inscribed upon them we felt assured rightly belonged to such a work. We therefore collected them; and, when they were collected, we found we had in our possession a complete copy of “Flora’s Album.”
With these few words we introduce this volume to your notice, and trust that our endeavors to please will meet the approbation of the public.
J. B. A.
October 1st, 1846.
LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS.
Acacia, Yellow: means Concealed Love
“The acacia waves her yellow hair.” – Moore.
No searching eye can pierce the veil
That o’er my secret love is thrown;
No outward signs reveal its tale,
But to my bosom known.
Thus, like the spark, whose vivid light
In the dark flint is hid from sight,
It dwells within alone.
Do any thing but love; or, if thou lovest,
And art a woman, hide they love from him
Whom thou dost worship; never let him know
How dear he is; flit like a bird before him;
Lead him from tree to tree, from flower to flower;
But be not won; or thou wilt, like that bird,
When caught and caged, be left to pine neglected,
And perish in forgetfulness.
L. E. Landon
Acanthus: symbolizes Art
“Learned of Italy’s Acanthus, the arts
Which Cornith claims.” –Milton.
When, from the sacred garden driven,
Man fled before his Maker’s wrath,
And angel left her place in heaven,
And crossed the wanderer’s sunless path.
’T was Art! sweet Art! New radiance broke
Where her bright foot flew o’er the ground,
And thus with seraph voice she spoke:
”The curse a blessing shall be found.”
She led him through the trackless wild,
Where moontide’s sunbeam never blazed;
The thistle shrank, the harvest smiled,
And Nature gladdened as she gazed.
Earth’s thousand tribes of living things,
At Art’s command to him are given;
The village grows, the city springs,
And point their spires of faith to heaven.
Almond: symbolizes Heedlessness (Recklessness)
I knew a lady once
Who was very beautiful,
Very fair to look upon,
And very dutiful.
Yet in this she erred,
What was very needless;
She would do, and what is more,
Do it very heedless.
She received a letter
Full of tender sighs,
And she read it over
Till her little eyes
Filled with tears, and her heart
Was about to melt,
When suddenly she thought about
The paper that she felt.
It was coarse; and she said,
“He must be a liar;”
So she tore the letter up,
And put it in the fire.
But afterwards she did repent,
And said it was needless;
And vowed she never more would do
Any thing so heedless.
J. S. Adams.
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