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Welcome to Tuesday Poetics at the DVerse bar, converted tonight into a 19th Century salon. I’m Sarah, and I’m your hostess for the evening.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a Victorian belle. That’s it, lovely. Smooth down your skirts and sit up straight.
If that’s too much of a stretch, maybe you could imagine that you are a Victorian beau. Stroke your beard. Sit up straight. Excellent.
Sitting up straight is so important.
Now, let’s talk about how you belles and beaux communicate. No Facebook, with its cheeky likes; no Instagram; no Snapchat and definitely no texting. You could write, but perhaps Mama hasn’t given you permission to receive letters. Perhaps Papa reads everything that enters or leaves the house.
Don’t despair, my darlings. Flowers are your friends here! The language of flowers was a positive craze in the 19th Century – though flowers have always had a language of their own. Shakespeare knew of it (and you can’t get into better literary company than that!):
There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray,
love, remember: and there is pansies. that’s for thoughts.
There’s fennel for you, and columbines: there’s rue
for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it
herb-grace o’ Sundays: O you must wear your rue with
a difference. There’s a daisy: I would give you
some violets, but they withered all when my father
died: they say he made a good end,–
Ophelia says in Hamlet.
Charlotte Bronte used flowers symbolically in Jane Eyre:
sometimes on a sunny day it began even to be pleasant and genial, and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps. Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. On Thursday afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside, under the hedges.
obviously she’s talking about hope, modesty, cheerfulness, and the link between money and happiness.
Once you know about this secret language, you can look at many pieces of 19th century art and try and work out the flower references. The pre-Raphaelites seem to have been particularly keen on all of this. Spot the poppies? and the foxgloves? Rossetti is telling us that Lilith is one dodgy lady.
Image found on Wikipedia
We still have remnants of all this today. You can read about the symbolism of Kate Middleton’s bouquet here: https://www.onefabday.com/royal-wedding-bouquet/. There’s a reason why brides wear orange blossom (“woman’s worth”), and why we give red roses on Valentine’s Day (love). And everybody knows that white heather is for luck.
If you’re interested, there’s a lovely article here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-flowerobsessed-victorians-encoded-messages-in-bouquets
This has been a massive preamble, but now we get to the meat of it all. What I want you to do is to write a poem that uses a flower, and the meaning of that flower. You can use a whole bouquet of flowers if you want, or a single bloom.
There’s a list of some flowers and their meanings below, or if you want to find more, you can look here: http://www.languageofflowers.com/flowermeaning.htm
- Garden anemone – forsaken
- Apple blossom – preference
- Basil – hatred
- Bluebell – constancy
- White clover- think of me
- Carnation, red – yes!
- Carnation, yellow – no!
- Daisy – innocence
- American elm – patriotism
- Foxglove – insincerity
- Ivy geranium – your hand for the next dance
- Grass – submission, utility
- White heather – good luck
- Hyacinth- sport, game, play
- Iris – I have a message for you
- Ivy – friendship, fidelity, marriage
- White lily – purity
- Laburnum – pensive beauty
- Purple lilac – first emotions of love
- Marigold – despair, grief
- Deadly nightshade – silence
- Orange blossom – woman’s worth
- Pansy – think of me, pleasant thoughts
- Plum tree – keep your promise
- Wild rose – simplicity
- Yellow rose – forgive and forget
- Red rose – love
- White rose – I am worthy of you
- Sweet William – gallantry, a smile
- Tulip – love, fame
- Blue violet – love, faithfulness
- Witch hazel – a spell.
Once you’ve written your poem, link it up to Mr Linky (don’t forget to press that extra button), then sit back, check out the other poets, and comment on their work. We all love the dVerse community, and we are the ones who make it what it is.
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Hello all, what a fun prompt. So much that can be said on this… I have to say another poem I remembered is this one by Emily Dickinson… and the attar of the rose, and the ceaseless rosemary..
Frank Hubeny said:
Thanks for hosting, Sarah! I added one about daisies and innocence.
Welcome everybody! My computer is behaving very strangely, so I’m apologising in advance if things get a bit wobbly. I’m looking forward to reading your flower poems, and I’m serving up Margaritas on the basis that marguerite is the French for daisy…
Wow!! This is so interesting. Feels like really good homework. Nicely done Sarah. I’ll be back. And thanks for the links😊
You’re very welcome. Looking forward to reading!
Thank you for the fascinating prompt Sarah ~ I am hitting the poetry trail to read the flower inspired poems ~ Happy Tuesday to all ~
Thank you to everyone who has posted so far! I’m off to be now, but I’ll be reading again tomorrow.
Brevity is the soul of wit!
Ai mean; “brevity” must be related to “brew”. And it is a funny thing, that if one makes a break, one don’t know what one will come up with. 🤡
Sorryyyyy! Ai am not that good in English, you know. Maybe aI should have an English or American au pair.
Thanks, Grace. Have fun!
Hello everyone! Thank you, Sarah, for this wonderful prompt. I really enjoyed reading the prompt itself, and had a lot of fun coming up with my post. For the first time ever, I wrote a poem in couplets….somehow, it seemed a bit Victorian to do that 🙂
PS: Have been gone most of the day….will finish my Monday Haibun reading and your Poetics posts tomorrow in the AM with my morning coffee. Looking forward to a bouquet of flowers to start my day 🙂
Victoria C. Slotto said:
So enjoy this, Sarah. Hope I can come up with something. Is there a flower for a comatose muse?
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Maybe a cactus?
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Thank you, Sarah, for hosting this delightful Victorian garden party! My mother often reminded me to “Stand up straight” and “sit like a lady” 🙂 I had fun writing love notes between a beau & belle.
Thanks for joining in. I enjoyed writing this prompt, and I’ve really enjoyed the poetry it produced!
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Thanks for the Prompt Sarah. discovered your blog through one of the bloggers. here is my take,
You are very welcome here! DVerse is a lovely poetry community. I hope you enjoy it here.
Charmed Chaos said:
Thanks for a great prompt Sarah. Adding mine soon!
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I really enjoyed your post. keep up the good work
Thank you. Check out dVerse regularly for prompts!
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