Have a Flower in Your Room
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
A fire in winter — a flower in summer! If you can have a fine picture all the year round, so much the better; you will thus always have a bit of sunshine in your room, whether the sky is clear or not. But, above all, a flower in summer!
Most people have yet to learn the true enjoyment of life; it is not fine dresses, or large houses, or elegant furniture, or rich wines, or mirthful parties — which make homes happy. Really, wealth cannot purchase pleasures of the higher sort — these depend not on money. It is the heart, and taste, and mind — which determine the happiness of men; which give the seeing eye and the sentient nature, and without which, man is little better than a horse.
A snug and a clean home, no matter how tiny it be, so that it be wholesome; windows, into which the sun can shine cheerily; a few good books (and who need be without a few good books in these days of universal cheapness?) and the cupboard well supplied, and with a flower in your room! There is none so poor as not to have about him the elements of pleasure.
Hark! there is a child passing our window calling "flowers!" We must have a bunch: it is only a penny! A shower has just fallen, the pearly drops are still hanging upon the petals, and they sparkle in the sun which has again come out in his beauty.
How deliciously the flower smells of country and nature! It is like summer coming into our room to greet us. The flowers are from Kent, and only last night were looking up to the stars from their native stems; they are full of buds yet, with their promise of fresh beauty. "Betty! bring a glass of clear water to put these flowers in!" and so we set to, arranging and displaying our pennyworth to the best advantage.
But what do you say to a bouquet of roses? Here you have a specimen of the most beautiful of the smiles of Nature! Who, that looks on one of these bright full-blown beauties, will say that she is sad, or sour! Nature tells us to be happy, to be glad, for she decks herself with roses, and the fields, the skies, the hedgerows, the thickets, the green lanes, the dells, the mountains, the morning and evening sky, are robed in loveliness. The "laughing flowers," exclaims the poet! but there is more than gaiety in the blooming flower, though it takes a wise man to see its full significance — there is the beauty, the love, and the adaptation, of which it is full.
What would we think or say of one who had invented flowers — supposing, that before him, flowers were things unknown; would it not be the paradise of a new delight? should we not hail the inventor as a genius as a god? And yet these lovely offsprings of the earth have been speaking to man from the first dawn of his existence until now, telling him of the goodness and wisdom of the Creating Power, which bade the earth bring forth, not only that which was useful as food — but also flowers, the bright consummate flowers, to clothe it in beauty and joy!
See that graceful fuchsia, its blood-red petals, and calyx of bluish-purple, more exquisite in color and form than any hand or eyes, no matter how well skilled and trained, can imitate! We can manufacture no colors to equal those of our flowers in their bright brilliancy — such, for instance, as the Scarlet Lychnis, the Browallia, or even the Common Poppy. Then see the exquisite blue of the humble Speedwell, and the dazzling white of the Star of Bethlehem, that shines even in the dark. Bring one of even our common field-flowers into a room, place it on your table or chimney piece, and you seem to have brought a ray of sunshine into the place. There is ever cheerfulness about flowers; what a delight are they to the drooping invalid! the very sight of them is cheering; they are like a sweet draught of fresh bliss, coming as messengers from the country without, and seeming to say:, "Come and see the place where we grow, and let your heart be glad in our presence."
What can be more innocent than flowers! They are emblems of purity and truth, always a new source of delight to the pure and the innocent. The heart that does not love flowers, or the voice of a playful child, is one that we should not like to consort with. It was a beautiful imagination that invented a language of flowers, by which lovers were enabled to express the feelings that they dared not openly speak. But flowers have a voice to all — to old and young, to rich and poor, if they would but listen, and try to interpret their meaning.
Have a flower in your room then, by all means! It will cost you only a penny; and the gratification it will give you will be beyond all price. If you can have a flower for your window, so much the better. What can be more delicious than the sun's light streaming through flowers — through the midst of crimson fuchsias or scarlet geraniums? Then to look out into the light through flowers — is not that poetry? And to break the force of the sunbeams by the tender resistance of green leaves? If you can train a nasturtium round the window, or some sweet-peas — then you have the most beautiful frame you can invent for the picture without, whether it be the busy crowd, or a distant landscape, or trees with their lights and shades, or the changes of the passing clouds. Any one may thus look through flowers for the price of an old song. And what a pure taste and refinement does it not indicate on the part of the cultivator!
A flower in your window sweetens the air, makes your room look graceful, gives the sun's light a new charm, rejoices your eye, and links you to nature and beauty. You really cannot be altogether alone, if you have a sweet flower to look upon, and it is a companion which will never utter a cross thing to anybody — but always look beautiful and smiling. Do not despise it because it is cheap, and everybody may have the luxury as well as you. Common things are cheap — and common things are invariably the most valuable. Could we only have a fresh air or sunshine by purchase — what luxuries these would be; but they are free to all, and we think not of their blessings.
There is, indeed, much in nature that we do not yet half enjoy, because we shut our avenues of sensation and of feeling. We are satisfied with the matter of fact, and look not for the spirit of fact, which is above all. If we would open our minds to enjoyment, we would find tranquil pleasures spread about us on every side. We might live with the angels that visit us on every sunbeam, and sit with the fairies who wait on every flower. We need some loving knowledge to enable us truly to enjoy life, and we require to cultivate a little more than we do the art of making the most of the common means for enjoyment, which lie about us on every side.
There are, we doubt not, many who may read these pages, who can enter into and appreciate the spirit of all that we have now said; and, to those who may still hesitate, we would say — begin and experiment forthwith; and first of all, when the next flower-girl comes along your street, at once hail her, and "Have a flower for your room!"