Of course I had known for a long time that Mr. Gilbert was “quite a superior man”—that was the phrase in which the Rural Dean referred to him when recommending me to apply to him for information respecting a recalcitrant orchid which had refused one year to do what it had been doing the year before. He was indeed “quite a superior man,” but being a florist he could never be superior to his business. No man can be superior to a florist, when the florist is an orchidtect as well. I went to Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Gilbert came to me, and all was right. That was long ago. We talked orchids all through that year and then, by way of lightening our theme, we began to talk of roses and such like frivolities, but everything he said was said in perfect taste. Though naturally, living his life on terms of absolute intimacy with orchids, he could not regard roses seriously, yet I never heard him say a disrespectful word about them: he gave me to understand that he regarded the majority of rosarians as quite harmless—they had their hobby, and why should they not indulge in it, he asked. “After all, rosarians are God's creatures like the rest of us,” he said, with a tolerant smile. And I must confess that, for all my knowledge of his being a superior man, he startled me a little by adding,—

“The orchid is epic and the rose lyric, sir; but every one knows how an incidental lyric lightens up the hundred pages of an epic. Oh, yes, roses have their place in a properly organised horticultural scheme.”

“I believe you are right, now that I come to look at the matter in that light,” said I. “You find a relaxation in reading poetry?” I added.

“I have made a point of reading some verses every night for the past twenty-five years, sir,” he replied. “I find that's the only way by which I can keep myself up to the mark.”

“I can quite understand that,” said I. “Flowers are the lyrics that, as you say, lighten the great epic of Creation. Where would our poets be without their flowers?”

“They make their first appeal to the poet, sir; but the worst of it is that every one who can string together a few lines about a flower believes himself to be a poet. No class of men have treated flowers worse than our poets even the best of them are so vague in their references to flowers as to irritate me.”

“In what way, Mr. Gilbert?”

“Well, you know, sir, they will never tell us plainly just what they are driving at. For instance we were speaking of roses, just now—well, we have roses and roses by the score in poems; but how seldom do we find the roses specified! There's Matthew Arnold, for example; he wrote “Strew on her roses, roses”; but he did not say whether he wanted her to be strewn With hybrid teas, Wichuraianas, or poly-anthas. He does not even suggest the colour. Now, could anything be more vague? It makes one believe that he was quite indifferent on the point, which would, of course, be doing him a great injustice: all these funeral orders are specified, down to the last violets and Stephanotis. Then we have, “It was the time of roses”—now, there's another ridiculously vague phrase. Why could the poet not have said whether he had in his mind the ordinary brier or an autumn-flowering William Allen Richardson or a Gloire de Dijon? But that is not nearly so irritating as Tennyson is in places. You remember his “Flower in the crannied wall.” There he leaves a reader in doubt as to what the plant really was. If it was Saracta Hapelioides, he should have called it a herb, or if it was simply the ordinary Scolopendrium marginatum he should have called it a fern. If it was one of the Saxifrageo he left his readers quite a bewildering choice. My own impression is that it belonged to the Evaizoonia section—probably the Aizoon sempervivoides. though it really might have been the cartilaginea. Why should we be left to puzzle over the thing? But for that matter, both Shakespeare and Milton are most flagrant offenders, though I acknowledge that the former now and again specifies his roses: the musk and damask were his favourites. But why should he not say whether it was Thymus Scrpyllum or atropurpureus he alluded to on that bank? He merely says, “Whereon the wild thyme blows.” It is really that vagueness, that absence of simplicity—which has made poetry so unpopular. Then think of the trouble it must be to a foreigner when lie comes upon a line comparing a maiden to a lily, without saying what particular lilium is meant. An Indian squaw is like a lily—lilium Brownii; a Japanese may appropriately be said to be like the lilium sulphureum. Recovering from a severe attack of measles a young woman suggests lilium speciosum; but that is just the moment when she makes a poor appeal to a poet. To say that a maiden is like a lily conveys nothing definite to the mind; but that sort of neutrality is preferable to the creation of a false impression, so doing her a great injustice by suggesting it may be that her complexion is a bright orange picked out with spots of purple.”

That was what our Mr. Gilbert said to me more than a year ago; and now he comes to me before I have quite recovered from the effects of that discussion with Friswell, and after a few professional remarks respecting a new orchid acquisition, begins: “Might I take the liberty of reading you a little thing which I wrote last night as an experiment in the direction of the reform I advocated a year ago when referring to the vagueness of poets' flowers? I don't say that the verses have any poetical merit; but I claim for them a definiteness and a lucidity that should appeal to all readers who, like myself, are tired of slovenly and loose way in which poets drag flowers into their compositions.”

1 assured him that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to hear his poem; and he thanked me and said that the title was, The Florist to his Bride. This was his poem:—

Do you remember, dearest, that wild eve,

When March came blustering; o'er the land?

We stood together, hand in hand,

Watching the slate-gray waters heave—

Hearing despairing boughs behind us grieve.

It seemed as I, no forest voice was dumb.

All Nature joining in one cry;

The Ampélopsis Veitchii,

Giving gray hints of green to come,

Shrank o'er the leafless Prunus Avium.

Desolate seemed the grove of Comferia,

Evergreen as deciduous;

Hopeless the hour seemed unto us;

Helpless our beauteous Cryptomeria—

Helpless in Winter's clutch our Koelreuteria.

We stood beneath our Ulmus Gracilis,

And watched the tempest-tom Fitzroya,

And shaken than the stout Sequoia;

And yet I knew in spite of this,

Your heart was hopeful of the Springtide's kiss.

Yours was the faith of woman, dearest child.

Your eyes—Centaurea Cyavus—

Saw what I saw not nigh to us,

And that, I knew, was why you smiled,

When the Montana Pendula swung wild.

I knew you smiled, thinking of suns to come,

Seeing in snowflakes on bare trees

Solanum Jasminoïdes—

Seeing ere Winter's voice was dumb,

The peeping pink Mesembrianthium.

I knew you saw as if they flowered before us,

The sweet Rhoilora Canadensis,

The lush Wistaria Sinensis,

The Lepsosiphon Densifiorvs—

All flowers that swell the Summer's colour-chorus.

And, lightened by your smile, I saw, my Alice,

The modest Résida Odorata—

Linaria Reticulata—

I drank the sweets of Summer's chalice,

Sparkling Calendula Officinalis.

To me your smile brought sunshine that gray day,

The saddest Salex Babylonien

Became Anemone Japonica

And the whole world beneath its ray,

Bloomed one Escholtzia Californico.

Still in thy smile the summer airs caress us;

And now with thee my faith is sure:

The love that binds us shall endure—

Nay, growing day by day to bless us,

Ti'l o'er us waves Supervirens Cupressus.

“I hope I haven't bored you, sir. I don't pretend to be a poet; but you see what my aim is, I'm sure—lucidity and accuracy—strict accuracy, sir. Something that every one can understand.”

I assured him that he had convinced me that he understood his business: he was incomparable—as a florist.

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