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Once in my garden as alone I lay,
Some solitary hours to pass away,
My flowers most fair and fresh within my view,
diamoned2, watered o’er with
Their names in order I
ere4long will mention—
There happened amongst them this contention:
Which of them did their fellows all excel
virtue5, color, beauty, fashion, smell;
And me they chose for umpire in this play.
Then up I rose, sad thoughts I laid away,
And unto them I instantly replied
That this their controversy I’d decide,
So6they would stand to my
They, smiling, answered they were all content.
I gave them leave their virtues to declare
That I the better might their worth compare.
And now I humbly do implore the aid
Of that most
Erato10, crowned with fragrant flowers,
Who with her virgin sisters spend their hours
Helicon or Tempe’s flowery green13:
Thespian14ladies, all I ask of you,
Is that I give to every flower her due.
First spoke the
Double Woodbine15wondrous fair,
Whose aromatic breath perfumed the air,
Saying: “I am confident all that can smell
Or see will say that I the rest excel.
Why am I placed else ’bout princely
arbors17and their stately towers?
I did about
Her bower of love, when youthful blood did flow
Anchises’s19veins; there he did rest
His rosy cheeks upon her lily breast,
Whose love produced the happy
Therefore (of all) give me the chiefest place.
Diana21underneath my shade
To enrich some fountain
her unready made22,
Disclosing then to my admiring eye
Those beauties which whoso doth pry
Into, let him—O let him—still beware,
Actaeon’s punishment23he share.
Do but observe the
Come to this garden: she
no flower25can see
That can with
mel26and nectar her supply;
cornucopia27doth her satisfy.
Then of precedency I need not doubt,
’Cause I perfume your going in and out28.”
The Tulip to the Woodbine then replied:
“I am amazed at thy infinite pride.
Dost thou presume, or canst thou once suppose,
To lead impartial Justice by the nose29?
Because thou yieldest a pleasant spicy smell,
Therefore all other flowers thou must excel?
What though thy
limber30, dangling flowers hover,
Hiding some wanton and her wanton lover—
Though Venus and her paramour it be?
A maquerella be, alone; for me31,
I scorn that
office32as I do thy pride.
Yet am I in a thousand colors dyed,
And though my seed be sown a hundred year
Yet still in newer colors I appear33;
And if of other flowers there were none,
A garden might be made of me alone,
Flora’s mantle34might embroidered be,
As rich as now it is, by none but me.
That glorious king that had what’s heart desired35
Was never in his throne so rich attired
As I, nor in such various colors dressed;
Therefore I well may queen be of the rest.
Turkish turbans36do enlarge our fames,
we are honored by a thousand names37
Which would vainglory be here to rehearse,
Seeing they are known throughout the universe.
Besides my beauty, I have virtue
My roots decayed nature doth restore39.
Then let another speak that can say more.”
The Wallflower or Heartsease
“Then,” said the Wallflower, “Neither show nor smell
(By my content)40but virtue
bears the bell41;
For certainly, if sweetness
bore the sway42,
Then am I sure to bear the prize away.
If show, my flowers are stately to behold:
Some red, some white, and some like burnished gold.
But if you’ll give to virtue all her due,
My worth doth far excel my golden hue.
Such rare inherent virtue doth
Within my smell, by cheering of men’s spirit,
All turbulent passions I am known to appease,
Besides, I do not for
As doth the Tulip, but I all the year
Perfume the air, to gardens add such grace
That I without presumption may take place
Above the rest (though not like tulips
For beauty never yet made woman sainted;
’Tis virtue doth immortalize their name,
And makes an aromatic,
her50numerous names she rings;
Euphrates51boast her thousand springs.
Nile’s head is occult52, one only name
She glories in; yet of emergent fame
vaporing54, brags that she is stuck about
The wretched turban of the pagan rout55.
Such honor as dishonor I should scorn,
And rather choose as I am to be worn
Upon some lovely modest virgin’s breast,
Where all the
Graces56do triumphant rest.”
The Lily smiled and said she did admire
The Wallflower’s boldness and her bold desire.
“Because she breathes a suffocating fume,
Must she (O strange!) above the rest presume?
I am amazéd
Proceeding from her sordid ignorance
Of others’ worth, makes her extol her own;
For noble virtues, trust me, she has none.
Her color doth proclaim her jealousy58,
But I’m an emblem of pure
Spotless60my thoughts, as spotless are my leaves,
Chastity61her lover ne’er deceives;
And what, I wonder, were a virgin’s due,
Had not her skin my lily’s lily hue?
Even as62the Woodbine wittily expressed
When she compared me to Idalia’s breast.
White are my leaves, as
Albion’s snowy cliff63,
higher Alps, or highest Tenerife64;
White as the swans on sweet
Cynthia’s bright, or Delius’s brighter beams66.
For white all other colors doth excel
As much as day doth night, or Heaven doth Hell.
For it is chiefly Heaven’s privation
Makes men in a hell of desperation.
What are the horrid gloomy shades of night
But the departure of all-
And what are colors? Reason says, not I,
Nothing but want of my white purity68.
I here could brag, but will not, of the feast
The Persians make69: this honors me the least
the rest70. Of virtues I may boast,
For if my roots they do but boil or roast,
And them to
Probatum est72: it cures them instantly.
my antagonist here of the wall73
In such a time’s away thrown, flowers and all.”
At this, the blood flushed in the Rose’s face
To hear the Lily speak in
As she then said, “Whose pride was grown so high
That she presumes to boast virginity,
Though scorned by all? Daring to show her face
And plead precedency (and I in place)75,
When in each lovely maid and
I conquer her? Her leaves I know are sleek,
And so are mine! She brags on such a fashion
As if light, virtue, joy, were but
As if an unwrit volume were the best,
Before Heaven’s love were in the leaves expressed.
slighted78now, but in the former age
I consecrated was to
Liber Pater’s80wine and wit o’erflows,
None dares to speak but
underneath the rose81.
And certainly my flowers were in request
those heroic houses82in their crest
Did stick my rose: York gloried in the white;
Great Lancaster did in the red delight.
But as my fame, so it increased my woe
To see our fields with princely blood o’erflow.
Nay more, the Orient kingdoms to my praise
In honor of my birth keep fourteen days83,
And in Damascus yearly they distill
As much rosewater as will drive a mill84.
Do but observe when as the virgin crew
Comes to this garden (newly pearled with dew)
To make their
anadems85: they fill their laps
With other flowers; betwixt their snowy
I am triumphant. On that ivory throne
I sit envied of all, usurped of none.
Sometime I slide into that milky vale
Between those snowy hills called Cupid’s dale.
There freely I those living cherries kiss;
Lilies look pale in envy of my bliss.
Then seeing I of all am most in grace
With your sweet sex, give me the chiefest place.
if list87to boast my heavenly birth,
declare not88sprung from dunghill earth
Aborigines89; I and the fruitful rice,
To enrich mankind,
dropped down from paradise90.
Alcoran91, where also, ’tis said,
By smelling to a rose
that blessed maid92
Brought forth a son, a wonder to
The sole restorer of the universe.
Look at those nuptials where you may behold
The stately structure shine with burnished gold,
The gorgeous chamber and the
bride ale bread94
With roses and no other flowers is spread;
still-enjoying95lovers’ youthful brows
Are with my roses crowned and myrtle boughs.
Observe the rising luster of the morn,
How she with roses doth her head adorn:
Above the rest I’m honored by Aurora
And by my patroness, fair lovely Flora.
I’m so much favored that no flower but I
Between her snowy breasts doth dare to lie.
Besides the beauty and the sweet delight,
My flowers yield my
I cool, I purge, I comfort, and restore;
Then who, I wonder, can desire more?
If for the worthiest you the prize reserve,
The chiefest place I’m sure I do deserve.
The gaudy Poppy
lift97her head aloft,
Saying in earnest, “I have wondered oft
To see the rose so filled with pride and scorn,
As if an
orient tincture98did adorn
No cheek but hers, because she’s always worn
(O how I
loath’t99) betwixt the sweaty paps!
Or else she’s thrust into the dirty laps
Of wanton flirts! Better outshine the day
As I do, and my beauty to display
Unto the gazing, wond’ring passerby,
Who stands amazed at my variety.
She brags the
Cyprian lady100loves her best,
But did she ever
give a goddess rest101,
As I have done? When
Ceres103was, by sleep I gave relief
Unto her tired spirit when she ran after
knave that stole away her daughter105.
If she of color boast, then so may I:
What flowers at distance more delights the eye?
And where she brags of ushering in Aurora,
And dressing of the head of dainty Flora,
’Tis true I do not tend upon the morn,
Yet do I Chloris’s youthful robe adorn
As well as she; and when Night, silent queen,
Triumphant in her
ebon106coach, is seen,
I strew her paths as she doth conquering ride107.
What flower, I wonder, dares do so beside?
And when in soft and downy arms
She108lullabies the world with potent charms,
The vapor of my flowers doth slyly creep
To troubled mortals, causing them to sleep.
I would our
arbitratrix109would but take
My flowers or seed: I’m confident ’twould make
Her sleep and rest and dreams by far more quiet
Nay, more: more seeds one of my poppies bear
Than in a hundred gardens roses are!
I can but laugh at that ridiculous dream
Of springing from
that grand impostor’s steam112!
fopperies113I credit shall as soon
As that he hollowed down the splendent Moon114.
O me, what
he116should put one half into his sleeve,
The other made a zone for
Thus with their faith these
Then, I conclude,
she virtue wants or fame119,
Boasting of that which I should count my shame.
Let me and mine rise from the new-plowed earth
While she proclaims her
The bashful violet then her head upheaves,
She being veiled o’er before with leaves.
Then, sighing forth a cool and sweet perfume,
She said the Poppy did too much presume;
Then, trickling down a tear, “Ah me,” she said,
“I well remember when I was a maid,
My beauty did a deity inflame121;
And must I now (O strange!) contend for
Let me not breathe;
her123pride doth me confound.
I was a lady once, for beauty crowned,
unloose my virgin zone125;
Since when, in silent shades I make my moan;
Yet sure for shame my face I need not cover.
Who would not glory in so brave a lover?
And in our umpire’s love I well may rest,
She using oft to wear me in her breast;
But as for
you126, you ne’er attained that grace
Her127to adorn, or in her house had place,
her128loathsome savor can abide,
Unless by her they would be
Were here not others of more worth than she,
I need not strive: the prize would fall to me.
Nocturna130favors her, she doth pretend;
And must she therefore all the rest transcend?
That old deforméd,
purblind slut131wants sight
To judge of beauty, or at least wants light.
But I perfume the air with fair Aurora,
And grace the paps and robes of lovely Flora.
She132tells long stories of the ravished queen
Erebus133; in this her pride is seen.
I wonder at her arrogance and madness,
To dream of curing our
When her sad heart’s so overcharged with grief
physic’s135art can give her no relief.
For I have heard her often, sighing, say
Nothing would ease her but her dying day;
Nothing would cure her till the dead did rise
In glory; then and not before, her eyes
Would cease for sin and sorrow to o’erflow.
But after her my passion must not go136.
Although I am not like the poppy
Yet is my vest in princely purple dyed,
And in those colors that adorn the sky,
Than which none is more pleasing to the eye.
In sickness and in health I am respected;
Then let me not (for shame) be now neglected.
The Poppy says she rocks the world asleep,
And, bragging, such a racket she doth keep
That she forgets (I am afraid) the duty
That all do vow to virtue and to beauty.
Heliotropium138then began to
Saying, “I vow, by yonder blazing
Which gives to all both light and influence,
I am confounded at
Then, staring on the sun, “Behold,” she said,
“To view his
fulgent142face I’m not afraid;
When he in pride and splendor doth arise,
the orient143I throw my eyes;
And as he mounts up the
With amorous glances I pursue him still;
he’s zenith145, I, as ’tis my duty,
Am fixed admiring his
But when he doth descend to
To part with him in golden tears I weep;
But she (poor girl), an unregarded flower,
To view his radiant face hath not the power;
But in some silent, sad, neglected shades
She (despicable she) buds, blooms, and fades,
Whilst I unto the wondering world display
My beauty, creating either night or day;
When I contract my leaves,
my love148his light,
Then all this globe’s involved in horrid night;
But when we do our golden curls unfold,
All are exhilarated to behold
Our love and light. I wonder she should dare
Phœbus’s149famous favorite to compare.
Most foolishly she vaunts her birth is high,
And that her robes are dipped in
When as the
vesture151which my limbs unfold
Are youthful green, fringéd with burnished gold.
She brags the female sex esteem her best
And that she sits triumphant on their breast.
rush152I care not for that scornful crew,
For did I grow as far above their view
As from their reach, trust me, I should rejoice;
Hyperion153is my soul’s sole choice.
She says my love her
But now he scorns on her to cast an eye,
she made Leucothoe die155
E’er since he hath refused her wanton bed,
Since when, ashamed, she hides her guilty head.
She vaunts that she perfumes the breath of Flora;
Some dress the golden tresses of Aurora;
Some of the goddesses tells tedious stories,
fondly156think to shine by others’ glories;
Some of the
Eleusian lady157wonders tell,
And others fetch Persephone from Hell;
Some of fair
Thus they for trophies
rake162Hell and night
Whilst I stand glorying in the God of Light.
The Auricula, in brave
Whose shadowed robes were diamoned o’er with dew,
From her bright eyes let fall a shower of tears
Which hung like pendant pearls about her ears;
Then, shaking of her head, she said, “Alas!
Why do I live to see this come to pass?
Why did the impartial
Parcae164twist my thread?
Why from the chaos did I lift my head?
Were’t not for the inevitable laws
Of destiny, I would shrink into my
And rather make it my choice to be nighted
Eternally, than live to be thus slighted.
Nay, I had rather choose annihilation
Then hear the
gallant167flowers conscious be
Of their own
wants168, which silent stand (you see)
And yet have infinitely more worth than she!
Yet we must all stand mute to hear her prattle:
Dear heart! How my ears tingle with her
Caledonian Iris170then addressed
Herself to speak, being chosen by the rest,
And said, “I would this trial were in France,
For there my favorites I could all advance;
the king’s paternal coat171I’m borne,
And, being transplanted, my brave flowers adorn
And luster add to
the imperial race172:
England, Navarre, Piedmont173my flowers grace.
Caledonian lion174is protected
By me alone; must I then be neglected?
What doth avail that I from Heaven came down
To stick my flower-de-luces in the crown
Clodoneus175? If I must
Give place to
these176, then let me turn to dust!
For trust me, I had rather be
Than live and be by
What boots it me179that all the world doth know
My princely vesture’s like
the heavenly bow180,
Juno’s legate181, on whose shining breast
Heaven’s love in dewy character’s expressed?182
doth’t183advantage me to bear
If I with such as
these185must strive for
What gain I that
my roots a choice perfume187,
If flowers of
base extraction188thus presume,
And enviously my glory thus impede,
And so audaciously before me plead?
I have hitherto triumphed, and must I now,
Flora defend189, to
She from the Alps191, and I from heaven descended;
If she prevails, she’s infinitely
Do but behold my strange variety:
Sometimes my robes are like the
Then I in purple my fair limbs enfold;
Then richly wrought with silver, black, and gold:
Nay, more: the tears which trickle down my face
propagate my race195.
If those whose beauty do the rest outshine
Triumphant be, the prize is only mine.
The admired Gillyflower did sweetly smile,
Saying, “I have been silent all this while,
Not doubting others would extol my beauty,
But find contempt where I expected duty.
Trust me, I wonder such high thoughts should soar
The worth of those whom all that know adore;
Yet base detracting ways of pride I scorn
With others’ vice my virtue to adorn.
Ladies, refuse me, if I
that I may transcend200;
Nor never let me your fair breast adorn,
But (which I so abhor) let me be worn
Nor never let Aurora’s pearly dew
Like gems bestud my robes at her arise,
For which I breathe an early sacrifice
Of aromatic odors which perfume
The ambient air; nor let no flower presume
Above her sphere, nor yet her place surrender:
My luster is not darkened by their splendor.
Like as th’illustrious globe, the sun,
Gives leave to other orbs their course to run,
Whilst they incessantly still trundle round
The vast circumference of his glorious mound,
They following each his own intelligence,
Whilst he to all gives light, life, influence:
So may each flower in her pride appear
And with their various beauties grace the year.
I not deny203they may
As well as I; yet I them all transcend.
Did I but
Injuriously207, to Chloris I would appeal;
obvious ’tis within her208constant breast
Astraea209doth triumphant rest.
To her I’ll yield then: let her freely judge;
At her decision, trust me, I’ll not grudge.
Let her but mark my sweet variety,
Which satisfies without
Sometimes my robes are like the
Then I am paler like the
Sometimes my curious
To mix their azure with the lily’s white;
Oft times in purple I myself attire;
Then scarlet, pink, and peach are my desire.
Thus every color in my leaves are mixed.
Nature such beauty in my flowers hath fixed
That all to wear my flowers take delight;
I cheer the spirits and refresh the sight.
Nay, did I not to sadness give relief,
She that decides our strife had failed with grief.
Then judge if I am not of
sects, mounts, cities, kingdoms, bear my name215.
spoke216, no favor I implore:
Let any flower speak that can say more.
lapped218his robe about him
And said he hoped they’d choose no chief without him:
“For had I kept my shape as well as name,
Then had I not stood here to plead for fame!
Fool that I was, had I not been so coy,
I had been still fair
Juno’s son220grew jealous and enraged
To see his love to me alone engaged;
But I, a foolish proud and scornful boy,
What others longed for, I esteemed a toy.
Oft have we lay in the Idalian shade,
Where curious anadems my goddess made,
Twirling with her white fingers myrtle boughs
Being woven with roses to adorn our brows
Of221red and white; the yellow we threw by,
’Cause perfect love should be
Sometimes she would sweetly tell me ancient stories,
Still mixing them with her transcendent glories
Of the transforming to some beast or flower
contemning224of her love or power;
But I her courtship and her counsel slighted
With hunting cruel beasts I was delighted;
But (O, my fate) chasing the hideous boar,
He turned and with his tusks my entrails tore,
my fair love225did infinitely
The mixture of my blood, her
And the influence of her eye
my flower uprears228.
When she perceived that from my blood it sprung,
mantle229she about me flung,
Saying, ‘My love, this
vesture230were for me,
And I between my breasts will still wear thee.’
Thus am I proud to triumph on that throne
once I scorned231, and certainly ther’re none
But envies me, now in my
Though infinitely more in my first glory.
Thus was I metamorphized to a flower
By that enamored lovely lady’s power;
And happy ’tis that in a plant I shine:
Others, enslaved to her, their shapes resign
To loathsome beasts, as wise Ulysses’s friends
Circe’s sorceries233. Then, seeing I delighted
Fair Erycina, let me not be slighted.
More I could say to magnify my fame:
In Palestine’s a river of my name234,
Which at my annual feast to blood doth turn;
Those crystal waves for me in purple mourn.
There by the lapséd Jews I am adored235,
And under Thammuz’s name I am deplored.
Then will I not
I am sure all here will yield unto a deity.”
Now237, seeing the motion of the sun or earth
Doth end the day as it began its birth,
We’ll (if you please)
They bowed their grateful heads and gave consent.
And when Aurora lends to us more light,
I will return; till then, to all good night.