N is for Nosegay
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
- Song of Solomon 2:10
Edouard Manet A Bouquet of Violets
A bouquet, a nosegay, a tussie-mussie - by any name a posey of violets is probably one of the sweetest things about spring.
Later in the season the roses and carnations and the lilies and other fragrant flowers call to be gathered and made into beautiful small bouquets for brides or as gifts that will fit into a tea cup and send messages of love and friendship.
But in the spring, the violets and the lily of the valley waft their fragrance and beguile the garden visitor into picking a few small stems to tuck into a sleeve or a neckline, - somewhere where the scent will delight as they go about their business.
Indeed, having existed since medieval times, 'they were once carried or worn around the head or bodice to mask the unpleasant smells of the times' (from Wikipedia).
And in Victorian times no lady would go out into the streets without carrying a small tussie-mussie to keep the sensitive nose content, (or gay). The more elegant bouquets would be carried in a silver holder, the better to keep the stems moist and the blooms fresh.
What a wonderfully romantic way to convey the language of love. A red rose for 'I love you' - a yellow rose for 'friendship' the lily of the valley for 'sweetness' and the violet for 'faithfulness'. And always the fern for magic and fascination.
Can you picture in your mind's eye a dashing gentleman, stopping on the street to buy violets from this small girl; tucking them into his own lapel and whistling on his way, off to see his love.....
I will bring you the lily that laughs,
I will twine with soft narcissus
the myrtle, sweet crocus, white violet
the purple hyacinth, and last,
the rose, loved of love.
Hilda Dolittle 1886-1961