The Language of FlowersImage found on Google images

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.  Lady-Lilith.jpg

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.

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