Flowers of Scotland Chapter VI. Marguerites and Poppies
May the daisies troop on to the links, so that golfers have often to
use a red ball, as after a fall of snow in December. In such a
dainty favourite, however, as in the case of forward but bright
children, much is tolerated that would be inexcusable in almost any
other wild flower; so that I cannot recall a single instance of a
golfer being out of temper, even after the loss of a second ball.
Enlarge a daisy many-fold; broaden its yellow disc to an inch in
diameter, surrounding it with correspondingly great rays, and you
get, at all events in appearance, a marguerite. The common idea of
the relation between the two is that of big and little sister.
Happily, the marguerites do not invade the links. Instead of a
carpet, we should then have a forest of white, scarce less lovely
perhaps, but more troublesome. And the same toleration might not be
extended to troops of the bigger sisters.
The marguerite is not without a historyhas found its way into
ecclesiastical legend, is even sacred to an apostle, all of which go
to show that its attractions were recognised very long ago.
We learn that in the Church of Remi, at Rheims, there exists a
coloured window of twelfth-century date. St. John and the Virgin
appear at different sides of the cross. The outer edges of the
aureoles encircling their heads are touched or rayed with
marguerites. Each open flower turns to the central figure as to a
That it was simply naturalised here, seems probable. In a sense,
this is true of very many of our wild flowers; only some date
further back than others. When the marguerite crossed the Channel,
it were hard to fix. It has the colonists liking for the nearness
of houses; and, taking into account the unlimited powers of
scattering in the order to which it belongs, is seldom found far
astray. It is not a woodland plant; it seldom climbs very high; it
abandons the wastes to the shabbier-looking scentless mayweed.
We ask- of a true native, that it belong to mountain, forest, swamp,
sea-coast, or some modification of the four ; for of these, ancient
Scotland, in the main, was made up. Now, the marguerite likes dry
and sunny places, of which in rude times there were few. Since the
soil is drier where the ground inclines, it seeks out sloping banks.
The slopes it mainly haunts are those of very recent formation.
Nothing it likes better than a railway embankment, probably because
of the greater dryness caused by the looseness of the soil, and the
very sharpness of the double incline.
Scarcely are the navvies out of sight, than it arrives, along with
or close on the trail of the earliest grasses. Once rooted, it loses
no time in spreading. It careers on its unimpeded way, through
cornfield, meadow, and marsh. Mile on mile of flat country, with few
signs of mans abode, save the solitary farm, or clump of cotter
houses, it crosses.
With a break, where the train descends to the level of the
surrounding country, it reappears beyond. Thus, during the bright
months of the year, it transforms what would otherwise be an eyesore
into an elevated gardena scene of great natural beauty. We forgive
the railway embankment, when it is there, for the sake of the
marguerite. No other device, especially
011 flat scenes, would serve as well.
It is not a daisy not a thing of the sun. Scarce would it be too
much to say that it is rather a thing of the twilight. It looks,
with its great open eyelarge enough to catch every ray out on the
luminous dark of the summer night. Those who go forth to see find it
loveliest on the softly shaded atmosphere. One who has not looked
then, does not know the marguerite.
Often in my summer wanderings have I approached the banks, long
after sunset, near enough to catch the dimly veiled glory; nearer
still, till I could make out the separate faces of the flowers, and
find that not one was asleep. One night, in particular, comes back
to my memory.
had been far afield, fishing, where the stream ran between high
banks of broom and whin, slackening towards the mill dam. The
biggest fish lay just where the current broke in upon the still
waters of the dam. The best time was just as the light became magic.
For company I had white-throats and sedge warblers, marsh buntings
and meadow pipits, agreeable, if only as a change from human
chatter. The charm, rather than the fish, held me.
It was late when I tore myself away and started back over a rough
country. I took as near a crow-line as the ripening grain fields
would allow. Distant objects had drawn over them a tender veil of
summer dark, too transparent for concealment.
The railway embankment was whiter than I remembered to have seen it.
There, all seemed to be just awakening from the drowse of day. I
approached till I could see the faint yellow discs with the great
expanded petals. Had I been more tired than I was, I could not have
The bank wooed me. I lay down on the slope. The fair heads bent over
to whisper to me. The light was magic. It was like spending an hour
among the fairies. It has seemed so ever since a dream of love,
purer and rarer than human!
This fair flower passed through a season of neglect. It is not so
very long, not much more than a decade, since the marguerite was
taken notice of in Scotland. Years had it grown on the same banks,
and in equal abundance; but gatherers passed by on the other side.
Nor would the plea for a place beside the others in their basket
have been listened to.
It was known as the horse-gowan. Horse is used for all coarse
overgrown things, where there is another and daintier of the same
kind. The go wan was the daisy; and the horse-gowan was fit only to
be cut down with the scythe, and, together with the national
emblemthe thistle presented to the jackass. It may be that some
Maud Muller picked it out from amid the confusion of green stems at
the haying-time ; but that was only her rustic taste. It may be that
some strangers passing on horseback paused to look; but that was
only at the pretty face.
It is quite wonderful how rapidly the aesthetic element progresses
when once it gets a start, or is affected when once it becomes
fashionable. One is sometimes not unreasonably disposed to doubt the
genuineness of the admiration, even when the thing admired deserves
it all. The banks where it grew are invaded ; and even its great
abundance, so seldom the case, is not sufficient to make it vulgar.
Rich and poor meet when there is no need for search and no excuse
for competition. Coarse hands pluck it and put it into the broken
jug in the kitchen. Dainty hands pluck it and put it in the shapely
vase in the drawing-room, with a few grasses to give lightness. What
could be more exquisite? Where else could it be matched, were one to
wander over all the summer fields? Perhaps an edging of dog-roses !
No ! they are better by themselves. What a pretty name too!
As if that had not been given by people with better eyes in their
heads, when it was only the horse-gowan here. One wonders how the
marguerite likes it.
And what a perfect massing and combination of two simple colours!
As if this, too, had not been found out ages ago. There is a
disposition to laugh at the long classic
names given to flowers. This one is even exceptionally long. But it
happens to have a meaning, which more than redeems its lengthChrysanthemum
The former word simply means golden-flowered, the latter
white-flowered. The two together say the white and golden
flowered. What could be simpler and more expressive than this? It
is no more than a description of what one sees, such as a child
might givethe white rays, the golden disc.
More refined than horse-gowans, more poetic than ox-eye daisy, it
only yields in sweetness, though not in expressiveness, to
The rage is, perhaps, not so great as it was; that is only what one
expects of all such sudden fancies. The love of change is universal,
and prevents one favourite reigning for many seasons with those who,
without inherent tastes, affect what others admire. But nothing can
ever again wholly close the senses against the unadorned loveliness
of this flower. Many will continue to visit its haunts, and bring it
back with them to purify and beautify their rooms.
The main association in my mind, between the poppy and the
marguerite, is their common preference for a railway embankment.
Sometimes they grow together. . The red mingles with the white in
natures own unstudied way, which never errs on the side of bad
taste. Sometimes poppy and marguerite divide the space between them,
and even choose different embankments, as if each wished its own
share of admiration; so that one train may speed through poppy-land
and another through marguerite-land. Not only does the poppy appear
before the marguerite, but it lingers after; and then we get a reign
of pure white, and another of pure red.
Poppies do not mass like marguerites. However manyand often they
may be gathered in dozens without moving from the spotthey are
scattered among, and separated by the grasses.
The wanderer in the summer twilight they do not lure from the same
distance. They cannot send a signal so far. One must cross the
paling before he knows that they are there, and then the charm
begins to work. One must kneel among them to catch the dusky glow,
and the shadows lurking within the crimson lids. They are no longer
pale but dark - eyed beauties, with a witchery more subtle and all
their own. They are said to lull mortals to sleep. Many at least
have been known to go to sleep while they watchedI among the
restand have suffered no evil fate, such as they would not be
willing to dare again.
Unlike the marguerite, they rebel against being taken from their
haunts. They will not be abducted and carried over field, fence, and
burn, whether they will or no, and petted and enslaved in a vase.
They break away at the crossing of the dyke, shake their petals free
during the leap over the ditch, or the stumble on the boulder; and
all that appears at the end is that which raised them from the
ground. Of gipsy birth, and bred in the open, they pine within the
There is no pleasanter feature in modern railway management than the
encouragement given to good taste. This goes a little way to redeem
the frequent vandalism which offended the aesthetic sense of Euskin,
and to soothe the irritation of those who would have the rarer
haunts of nature, with their wild creatures and wild flowers, left
Stations, which were wont to be such ugly breaks, are now more or
less bright with gardens. Nature has done the resthas taken charge
of the track, and changed raw piles of soil into flowery ways.
But there are limits in this direction. Nor, for the benefit of lazy
tourists, should fresh scenes be needlessly invaded, in the hope
that the eye will get accustomed to the outrage; and, in time, the
unsightliness will be hidden away under the white and crimson robe
of marguerite and poppy.
When the chrysanthemum leaves the railway embankment, it follows the
dry compact turf in search of some natural slope to scatter down. It
pauses on the edge of the fields to hail its goldenhaired sister
over the heads of ripening grain.
The poppy parts with its fair companion at the fence and takes
another way. Turning aside from the turf, it crosses the dyke, or
passes through the hedge among the corn. There, in the later weeks,
we shall find the crimson glowing against the straw colour, and
gaily floating on the shadow billows, along with the golden-haired
sister of the chrysanthemum.
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