Friday, May 22, 2009

Chapter XI, The Nuptials of Plants: an extract*

Listening to: Night on Fire, by VHS or Beta, from Night on Fire

In this chapter Pouchet mentions the poem 'Loves of the Plants' by Darwin. The accompanying extract presented here is certainly as flowery as any poetry. I wasn't aware Charles Darwin wrote poetry but it turns out it was by Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather. It's interesting that Pouchet doesn't use E. Darwin's first name at all, given that The Origin of the Species was published in 1859 and that this is a natural history text ie. context could suggest either. Or perhaps I'm just a tad ignorant because I'm a layperson and this book was aimed at scientists? If so, the following is stranger still.

'It is for them that nature displays her most sumptuous adornments. The velvety curtains of their virgin couch, woven by the hands of fairies, steep them in light and fire amidst their folds of purple and sapphire. In one part, faithless husbands profusely scatter life and fecundity on everything around them; in another chaste households live retired, and jealous brides conceal their lovers beneath domes of azure and gold.

The delicate envelopes which attract our regards represent only the ephemeral and perfumed palace in which the mysteries of the Hymen [sic] are about to be accomplished. But so soon as the golden dust of the stamens is spread upon the altar, the odorous sources dry up, the veils of the temple fade and wither, and the marvellous edifice soon lies scattered on the ground, whilst the now fruitful mother silently nourishes her precious offspring.

All flowers do not exhibit such luxury in these organs. Generally they possess two protecting envelopes, and contain, at the same time, ardent husbands and tender wives.'

*Extract from Chapter XI, The Nuptials of Plants (The Universe or The Wonders of Creation; the Infinitely Great and the Infinitely Little. By F.A. Pouchet, M.D.*, 7th edition, pub. H. Hallet and Company, copyright 1882...)

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