The Wild Arbutus from The Blessed Birds: Or, Highways and Byways By Eldridge Eugene Fish


A DAY'S OUTING IN
SEARCH OF THE ARBUTUS.
Here, underneath the snow, a flower
Is waiting for an April hour
To come, with blithe and balmy breeze
And blow the spring across the leas
A robin's song, or bubbling note
Of music from a bluebird's throat,
Will bid it put its dreams away,
And say good morning to the May.
We need not see the flower to know
What time Arbutus blossoms blow;
For every wind that wanders here
Will tell the tidings far and near;
A breath of fragrance, like a thought
That haunts you, but will not be caught
In words that fit the subject well;
Who shall describe the subtle spell ;
The pink Arbutus blossoms bring,
To weave about the world in spring?
Eben E. RexfoRd. A DAY'S OUTING IN SEARCH OF THE ARBUTUS.

But I remembered some wild secluded nooks across the river unknown to most excursionists, where I was sure to find without difficulty all that I wished. Soon after dinner these retired nooks among the hemlocks and undergrowth of chestnuts were reached, and the sought treasures greeted us on every side, beautiful blossoms loading the air with a delicious fragrance, pleasing alike the senses of smell and sight. The arbutus is inimitably sweet, having a wild, woodsy fragrance, aromatic and spicy, strongest of birch and wintergreen, and suggestive of other more delicate odors not easily analyzed.
"A breath of fragrance like a thought
That haunts you, but will not be caught."
Nothing can be prettier than the blossoms, some of which are bright pink, some nearly pure white, while others are as delicately tinted as a sea shell. The flowers are in axillary clusters. In some the stamens extend beyond the pistils, and in others the pistil protrudes farthest. Probably this arrangement is to assist the insects in cross fertilization. The bumble-bees seem partial to the arbutus, and on some knolls where the blossoms were most abundant these bees were so thick and noisy that my little daughter, who was with me, did not dare to pick the flowers. The stems and shining leaves, formed last summer, and the latter, green all winter under the snow, took in as they grew a food supply for their early blossoms, making it unnecessary for them to wait so long in the spring for the elements of earth and air to be converted into flower organs. The hepaticas have this same ingenious device for putting forth so early their attractive blossoms.
Near the clearing in the upper woods we came across a sandy knoll, the sunny side of which for a space of several yards was completely covered with the thrifty vines, all pink and white, and wonderfully sweet. The place had not been visited this spring, as the dry leaves, beneath which many a bright cluster lay hidden, had not been disturbed. The little girl was wild with delight as treasure after treasure was revealed by the removal of the leaves, and I confess my sympathy with her when she knelt down and kissed them in their fragrant bed and called them the " dear, blessed fairies of the woods." It was a sight to touch older hearts, and perhaps with a deeper feeling. I recalled the beautiful lines of the poet:
"We'll brush the last year's leaves aside,
And find where the shy blossoms hide,
And talk with them. We need no words
To tell our thoughts in. Winds and birds
And flowers, and those who love them, find
. A language nature has designed
For such companionship. And they
Will tell us, each in its own way,
Things sweet and strange—new, and yet old
As earth itself, and yearly told.
But there are men who have grown gray
Among them, and have never heard
The voice of any flowers, and they
Laugh at men's friendship with a bird.
But we know better, you and I,
Dear little flower, beneath the snow:
Let these most foolish wise men try—
And fail—to prove it is not so."
No other objects in inanimate nature touch so many hearts tenderly, like the actual presence of dear friends, as flowers. Not children alone, but men and women often look upon them as endowed with attributes not possessed by other inanimate objects. It does not seem out of place to talk to them any more than to talk to young children. A favorite flower found wild in a strange land drives away home-sickness and, like the song of a familiar bird, gives a feeling of companionship and content. The old nature-loving Greeks were not so far out of their reckoning when they endowed trees and flowers with attributes akin to those of men. Wordsworth says, "It is my faith that every flower which blows enjoys the air it breathes." Some late writers go farther, and have written books about the "Sagacity and Morality of Plants and Flowers."