Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

imparted to them for the purpose of delighting our senses, to the end that we might not only eat and live, but that our hearts might also be filled with love and gratitude to the Creator for his benevolence. These properties must, therefore, be considered moral, and consist principally of flavor, odor, color and form. While these delight and gratify our senses, they excite a desire to impart the same gratification to others: this is a feeling which every individual must have experienced, and establishes the con. nection of a moral with the physical uses of plants.

But of all the properties of plants, those of color and form are the most purely moral, and make the strongest impression upon the mind: the varied and delicate colors and forms of plants, of flowers, and of fruit, excite emotions of beauty: that

"Source of all delight
That kindles in each human breast

Love, and the wish of poets, when their tongue
Would teach to other bosoms what so charms

Their own."

The emotions of beauty are so identified with our moral emotions, that they invariably give rise to a desire of imparting them to others, that they may experience the same pleasing delight, and sympathise in our pleas ures. Where is the heart so selfish, and so void of sympathy, that it does not feel a desire to exhibit to others those objects which excite emotions of beauty in itself? Here, then, is one great source of moral and social action, flowing from the vegetable kingdom, and moving our hearts to acts of benevolence; and although the benefits may appear trivial, and be esteemed as of little worth by men of grosser minds, yet are these benefits diffused throughout the moral world, and although unperceived, enure to those who affect to despise them.

These moral properties of plants are so varied and abundant, that they are available to the whole human family; and the pleasures which they impart may be enjoyed by an indefinite number of individuals without in any way impairing their qualities: and they decay none the sooner from having thus contributed to our delight. In this respect they afford a happy illustration of the attribute of Divine Love which ever flows on without di

minishing the fountain whence it issues. But like every other gift of nature, man is required to qualify himself for its enjoyment by cultivating his taste. If we disregard these moral properties, and should look upon the vegetable kingdom as the source whence we derive our physical support merely; those vivid emotions of beauty which we experienced in childhood, will cease to arise from the exhibition of these interesting objects, and we shall be deprived of one of the most refined sources of pleasure which has been designed by a kind Providence for our enjoyment.

When we contemplate this boundless source of pleasurę which is common to all; the ordinary accidents of wealth and poverty lose their importance, and we should pity the individual who would exchange a refined and cultivated taste for flowers and plants for all the wealth which could be acquired by a life of labour and anxiety. The cultivation of such a taste however, would in no wise lessen the profits of labour; so far from doing so, it would be the means of improving our knowledge of the health and economy of plants, and enlighten our minds in regard to their culture; we therefore reap a two-fold harvest, the one of profit the other of pleasure.

The bright colors and beautiful forms of flowers and fruits are among the earliest objects which attract the attention of the infant mind. This is an important fact and deserves to be noted by the philosopher for the purpose of discovering its meaning; it would be little less than Atheism to conclude that a phenomenon soluniversally observed, should happen without a benevolent design, and from the universality and vividness of the emotions which children evince from the exhibition of color and form to their observation, we conclude that these emotions were designed for important purposes.

Then what are those purposes? We answer, these flowers and forms are designed as the pictures, and embellishments of the title pige to the Book of nature, to excite the mind to study the subject; and they plainly indicate that the vegetable kingdom is the first lesson in the book of human knowledge. Here the design of

the author is more obvious, and the illustrations more simple and practical than in any other part of Nature's works.

The infant mind is inquisitive and curious to know the cause of every thing which attracts its attention and is quite capable of understanding at an early age most of the important principles connected with plants as well their various uses.

We have learned to embellish the first books for children with pictures, for the purpose of interesting them on the subject which we desire to teach them; and also, for purposes of illustration: in this we have followed nature, but we have neglected to use the more interesting, and instructive symbols which she has designed as incentives to the young student in her own works.

Were children instructed in the economy and habits of plants, and were their minds enlightened in regard to their uses, and the intimate relations which they sustain to the human family, it would open to their minds a source of knowledge which could not fail to exert a most important and salutary influence upon their moral character. Such knowledge would give them a just idea of their physical and moral relations, and enable them to appreciate the necessity of physical employment, it would be the best field for intellectual exercise and improvement and unite the dignity, and refinement of science, with the exercise of labor, and harmonize the physical with their moral natures.

How different from such a condition is that of him who, without such knowledge, and who with taste uncultivated, and blind to the operation of the laws of nature, is driven by necessity, or perhaps by parental command not less stern, to labor for the means of existence. Thus cast from the Eden of his childhood-uninstructed in all which could impart pleasure to his employment-he goes forth with the curse of ignorance upon his head, to eat of the herb of the field as doth the ox; and in the sweat of his face to dig for his bread. Such an one can find no pleasure in his employment. His heart is void of gratitude; all his aims are selfish, and tend to a state of moral degradation.

We invite those whose duty it is to give direction to the infant mind, to observe the delight which it takes in the colors and forms of flowers and fruits, that they may avail themselves of these early emotions for the purpose of giving tone to its moral character. If this season is permitted to pass without improvement, these objects will lose their interest, and give place to others less refined and less instructive; and having once departed from nature's pure fountain, where the gushing waters first meet the light, he can never return; and let him thirst as he may, he must ever after drink from the stream below, mingled with the impurities through which it has flowed.

The cultivation of flowers and plants from motives of taste and moral improvement, is the most refined of all the arts; and while it affords bodily exercise and health, it restrains the mind from vicious tendencies, and is calculated to impart a moral tone not less pure than the germ of the unblown flower. And although the most social of all pursuits, it is perhaps the best corrective of that heartless and demoralizing state of society which consists of personal associations without sympathy; of forms without affection; and of professions without sincerity;-where all have studied and practiced deception, until the vices of each are known, and falsehood can no longer conceal depravity.

There are, however, other uses, which plants possess, still more refined, and more purely moral, than those which we have noticed. We allude to their uses as symbols and memorials, in which they supply the place of articulate sounds and written records. These uses have doubtless been understood and appreciated from the carliest ages; and flowers or plants, when happily used as symbols, speak a language and convey a meaning, which are understood by all nations, and are in no danger of being perverted by translation. It is the living language of all mankind, and produces the same emotions, and imparts the same ideas now, that it did three thousand years ago. Solomon, the wise man of Israel, spoke of trees, from the Cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the Hyssop that springeth out of the wall; and he wove into song the Rose of Sharon and the Lilly of the Valley;

using these beautiful emblems-the one of love, and the other of purity-to symbolize the Christian Church. Since the days of Solomon, many languages have decayed, and all have suffered corruption; but the Rose of Sharon and the Lilly of the Valley, remain the same hright emblems of love and purity, as when they first unfolded their petals in the garden of Eden; and thus shall they remain until the end of time. And as each returning season shall display their bright colors, and as often as man shall pause to contemplate their beauty, he shall be reminded of the pure and universal love of the creator and author of his being.

Flowers and plants are among the things of our earliest observation, and are intimately associated with our first emotions of love, of joy, and of gratitude. The vivid emotions produced in the mind of the child by the bright colors and forms of flowers and fruits, as also by their grateful odor and flavor, are mingled with its filial affection, and become so blended that they ever remain united and inseparable. Therefore, the flowers which bloom, and the fruit which ripens around us each returning season, throughout our pilgrimage, remind us of a parent's love, the affectionate admonition, and of the fervent supplication, that we might be delivered from evil. Where else shall we find moral restraint so potent, or counsels so pure and disinterested?

The ardent passions of youth, or the absorbing pursuits of manhood, may perhaps for a time prevail, and repress these influences; and the flowers may fade, the fruit decay, and their forms perish, yet cach returning season shall restore them in all their primal freshness, bearing in this, their renewed state of existence, the same faithful records which were first engraved upon their predecessors. And when the ardor of youth, and the fierce struggle of manhood, shall have yielded to the calm philosophy of riper years, wearied with vain pursuits, and, haply, with a conscience not quite at ease, the man shall turn aside to seek these emblems, and purify his heart, and revive his affections, by refreshing his mind with early associations; then may he remember how oft in the days of his wanderings, when, beguiled by his passions,

« ForrigeFortsett »