Sunday, March 24, 2019

Legend of the Cherokee Rose

An 1882 issue of Gardeners' Monthly and Horticulturist magazine shared a story about the legend of the Cherokee Rose. I especially appreciate their wry skepticism over the origins of yet one more "Indian" legend:

Legend Of The Cherokee Rose.—The Christian Advocate tells the following story, which we record, as we usually do in such cases, more as a matter of news than as a genuine legend. It is a misfortune that there is no way by which a genuine legend can be distinguished from a newspaper lie; but for the credit of the newspaper name from which we quote, we will hope that there is such a legend afloat, and that the story was not expressly manufactured for its columns.

It may be remarked, in passing, that the origin of the Cherokee rose on this continent is enshrouded in mystery. It was found by Michaux in the South, but has never been found wild since his time. It is hardly believed to be a native rose, though by analogy with some other rare Southern plants, it might be. It has Asiatic relatives:

"The legend of the Cherokee rose is as pretty as the flower itself. An Indian chief of the Seminole tribe was taken prisoner by his enemies the Cherokees. and doomed to torture, but became so seriously ill that it became necessary to wait for the restoration to health before committing him to the fire. As he lay prostrated by disease in the cabin of the Cherokee warrior, the daughter of the latter, a young, dark-faced maid, was his nurse. She fell in love with the young chieftain, and wishing to save his life, urged him to escape; but he would not do so unless she would flee with him."

"Yet before she had gone far, impelled by soft regret at leaving home, she asked permission of her lover to return for the purpose of bearing away some memento of it. So, retracing her footsteps, she broke a sprig from the white rose which climbed up the poles of her father's tent, and preserving it during her flight through the wilderness, planted it by the door of her new home in the land of the Seminole. And from that day this beautiful flower has always been known between the capes of Florida and throughout the Southern States by the name of Cherokee rose."

Let's explain here that the Cherokee Rose, Rosa laevigata, is a white, fragrant rose native to southern China and Taiwan south to Laos and Vietnam. The species was introduced to the southeastern United States in about 1780, where it soon became naturalized (and even invasive). It is the state flower of Georgia.

The version published in 1882 was just one variant.  In White's 1855 publication, Historical Collections of Georgia, the story was only slightly different:

Once upon a time, a proud young chieftain of the Seminoles was taken prisoner by his enemies the Cherokees and doomed to death by torture; but he fell so seriously ill, that it became necessary to wait for his restoration to health before committing him to the flames.

As he was lying, prostrated by disease, in the cabin of a Cherokee warrior, the daughter of the latter, a darkeyed maiden, became his nurse. She rivalled in grace the bounding fawn, and the young warriors of her tribe said of her that the smile of the Great Spirit was not more beautiful. Is it any wonder, then, though death stared the young Seminole in the face, he should be happy in her presence? Was it any wonder that each should love the other?

Stern hatred of the Seminoles had stifled every kindly feeling in the hearts of the Cherokees, and they grimly awaited the time when their enemy must die. As the color slowly returned to the cheeks of her lover and strength to his limbs, the dark-eyed maiden eagerly urged him to make his escape. How could she see him die? But he would not agree to seek safety in flight unless she went with him; lie could better endure death by torture than life without her.

She yielded to his pleading. At the midnight hour, silently they slipped into the dim forest, guided by the pale light of the silvery stars. Yet before they had gone far, impelled by soft regret at leaving her home forever, she asked her lover's permission to return for an instant that she might bear away some memento. So, retracing her footsteps, she broke a sprig from the glossy-leafed vine which climbed upon her father's cabin, and preserving it at her breast during her flight through the wilderness, planted it at the door of her home in the land of the Seminoles.

Here, its milk-white blossoms, with golden centers, often recalled her childhood days in the far-away mountains of Georgia; and from that time this beautiful flower has always been known, throughout the Southern States, as the Cherokee Rose.

In recent years, the legend has been recycled - or "appropriated" if you wish - to complement a certain narrative about the "Trail of Tears."   The National Park Service got in on the act by disseminating this version of the new and improved legend:

The Cherokee were driven from their homelands in North Carolina and Georgia over 100 years ago when gold was discovered on their lands; the journey, known as the "Trail of Tears”, was a terrible time for the people - many died from the hardships and the women wept. The old men knew the women must be strong to help the children survive so they called upon the Great One to help their people and to give the mothers strength. 

The Great One caused a plant to spring up everywhere a Mother's tears had fallen upon the ground on the journey. He told the old men that the plant would grow quickly, then fall back to the ground and another stem would grow. The plant would have white blossoms, a beautiful rose with five petals and gold in the center for the greed of the white man for the gold on their land. 

The leaves would have seven green leaflets, one for each Cherokee clan. The plant would be strong and grow quickly throughout the land all along the Trail of Tears. The stickers on the stem would protect it from those who might try to move it, as it spread to reclaim some of the lost Cherokee homeland. The next morning, the women saw the beautiful white blossoms far back on the trail. When they heard what the Great One had said they felt their strength returning and knew they would survive and the children would grow and the People would flourish in the new Cherokee Nation.

OK. Whatever. 

Back in the 19th century, the Cherokee Rose was a popular subject for poetry: 


Come ripple your fleetest,
Oh rhymes that are meetest,
In praise of the sweetest
Wild blossom that blows.

Though tripping most lightly,
And pattering brightly,
Ye ne'er can sing rightly
The Cherokee rose.

The zephyr that kisses
Its petals hath blisses
That paradise misses
And seraph ne'er knows.

So charming its face is,
I long to change places
With bee that embraces
The Cherokee rose.

In sultry midsummer,
Who would not become a
Luxurious hummer
That merrily goes.

Defying the lances
That noonday advances,
To revel where dances
The Cherokee rose.

Shame on the brown thrushes
That pipe in the bushes!
My melodic gushes

Were sweeter than those—
If I could sit swinging
Where perfumes are winging
More worthy my singing

The Cherokee rose. 

- From Rhymes and Roses (1895), by Samuel Minturn Peck

Friday, March 15, 2019

Six Canons of Conservative Thought

From The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, by Russell Kirk  (1953)

There are six canons of conservative thought:

1) Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. A narrow rationality, what Coleridge called the Understanding, cannot of itself satisfy human needs. "Every Tory is a realist," says Keith Feiling: "he knows that there are great forces in heaven and earth that man's philosophy cannot plumb or fathom." True politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which ought to prevail in a community of souls.

2) Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems; conservatives resist what Robert Graves calls "Logicalism" in society. This prejudice has been called "the conservatism of enjoyment"--a sense that life is worth living, according to Walter Bagehot "the proper source of an animated Conservatism."

3) Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a "classless society." With reason, conservatives have been called "the party of order." If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.

4) Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic levelling, they maintain, is not economic progress.

5) Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters, calculators, and economists" who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man's anarchic impulse and upon the innovator's lust for power.

6) Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman's chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence.”

Friday, March 8, 2019

Ode to the Mocking-Bird

THOU glorious mocker of the world! I hear
Thy many voices ringing through the glooms
Of these green solitudes; and all the clear,
Bright joyance of their song enthralls the ear,
And floods the heart. Over the spherèd tombs 
Of vanished nations rolls thy music tide;
No light from History's starlit page illumes
The memory of these nations; they have died:
None care for them but thou; and thou mayst sing
O'er me perhaps, as now thy clear notes ring 
Over their bones by whom thou once wast deified.

Glad scorner of all cities! Thou dost leave
The world's mad turmoil and incessant din,
Where none in other's honesty believe,
Where the old sigh, the young turn gray and grieve,
Where misery gnaws the maiden's heart within:
Thou fleest far into the dark green woods,
Where, with thy flood of music, thou canst win
Their heart to harmony, and where intrudes
No discord on thy melodies. O, where, 
Among the sweet musicians of the air,
Is one so dear as thou to these odd solitudes?

Ha! what a burst was that! The Æolian strain
Goes floating through the tangled passages
Of the still woods, and now it comes again, 
A multitudinous melody, - like a rain
Of glassy music under echoing trees,
Close by a ringing lake. It wraps the soul
With a bright harmony of happiness,
Even as a gem is wrapped when round it roll 
Thin waves of crimson flame; till we become,
With the excess of perfect pleasure, dumb,
And pant like a swift runner clinging to the goal.

I cannot love the man who doth not love,
As men love light, the song of happy birds; 
For the first visions that my boy heart wove
To fill its sleep with, were that I did rove
Through the fresh woods, what time the snowy herds
Of morning clouds shrunk from the advancing sun
Into the depths of Heaven's blue heart, as words 
From the Poet's lips float gently, one by one,
And vanish in the human heart; and then
I reveled in such songs, and sorrowed when,
With noon-heat overwrought, the music-gush was done.

I would, sweet bird, that I might live with thee, 
Amid the eloquent grandeur of these shades,
Alone with nature - but it may not be;
I have to struggle with the stormy sea
Of human life until existence fades
Into death's darkness. Thou wilt sing and soar 
Through the thick woods and shadow-checkered glades,
While pain and sorrow cast no dimness o'er
The brilliance of thy heart; but I must wear,
As now, my garments of regret and care,
As penitents of old their galling sackcloth wore. 

Yet why complain? What though fond hopes deferred
Have overshadowed Life's green paths with gloom?
Content's soft music is not all unheard;
There is a voice sweeter than shine, sweet bird,
To welcome me within my humble home: 
There is an eye, with love's devotion bright,
The darkness of existence to illume.
Then why complain? When Death shall cast his blight
Over the spirit, my cold bones shall rest
Beneath these trees; and from thy swelling breast, 
Over them pour thy song, like a rich flood of light.

-Albert Pike (1809-1891) was an attorney, a general in the Confederate army and a poet. He may be best remembered for his role in Freemasonry, having published Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1871.  One popular (and largely discredited) claim is that Albert Pike was an Illuminati operative involved in a Luciferian scheme to foment global wars throughout the 20th century.   

Who knows?  The murderous Mao Tse Tung managed to write pretty poems, too.

Certainly one of life's great joys is to listen to the song of the mockingbird.  John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) applied his literary talents to that endeavor as well:

…you should listen to the love-song of the Mocking-bird, as I at this moment do. See how he flies round his mate, with motions as light as those of the butterfly! His tail is widely expanded, he mounts in the air to a small distance, describes a circle, and, again alighting, approaches his beloved one, his eyes gleaming with delight, for she has already promised to be his and his only. His beautiful wings are gently raised, he bows to his love, and again bouncing upwards, opens his bill, and pours forth his melody, full of exultation at the conquest which he has made.

They are not the soft sounds of the flute or of the hautboy that I hear, but the sweeter notes of Nature's own music. The mellowness of the song, the varied modulations and gradations, the extent of its compass, the great brilliancy of execution, are unrivalled. There is probably no bird in the world that possesses all the musical qualifications of this king of song, who has derived all from Nature's self. Yes, reader, all!

No sooner has he again alighted, and the conjugal contract has been sealed, than, as if his breast was about to be rent with delight, he again pours forth his notes with more softness and richness than before. He now soars higher, glancing around with a vigilant eye, to assure himself that none has witnessed his bliss. When these love-scenes, visible only to the ardent lover of nature, are over, he dances through the air, full of animation and delight, and, as if to convince his lovely mate that to enrich her hopes he has much more love in store, he that moment begins anew, and imitates all the notes which nature has imparted to the other songsters of the grove.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Wisdom of Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton

"When gifts are replaced by rights, so is gratitude replaced by claims. And claims breed resentment"

"Through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home, and in doing so we both amplify our joys and find consolation for our sorrows."

"It is not the truth of Marxism that explains the willingness of intellectuals to believe it, but the power that it confers on intellectuals, in their attempts to control the world. And since, as Swift says, it is futile to reason someone out of a thing that he was not reasoned into, we can conclude that Marxism owes its remarkable power to survive every criticism to the fact that it is not a truth-directed but a power-directed system of thought."

"It is not enough to be nice; you have to be good. We are attracted by nice people; but only on the assumption that their niceness is a sign of goodness."

"We should not value education as a means to prosperity, but prosperity as a means to education. Only then will our priorities be right. For education, unlike prosperity is an end in itself. .. power and influence come through the acquisition of useless knowledge. . . irrelevant subjects bring understanding of the human condition, by forcing the student to stand back from it."

"When art becomes merely shock value, our sense of humanity is slowly degraded."

"All of us need an identity which unites us with our neighbours, our countrymen, those people who are subject to the same rules and the same laws as us, those people with whom we might one day have to fight side by side to protect our inheritance, those people with whom we will suffer when attacked, those people whose destinies are in some way tied up with our own."

"Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it does not matter."

"The two most potent post-war orthodoxies--socialist politics and modernist art--have at least one feature in common: they are both forms of snobbery, the anti-bourgeois snobbery of people convinced of their right to dictate to the common man in the name of the common man."

"Art once made a cult of beauty. Now we have a cult of ugliness instead. This has made art into an elaborate joke, one which by now has ceased to be funny."

"In place of the old beliefs of a civilization based on godliness, judgment and historical loyalty, young people are given the new beliefs of a society based on equality and inclusion, and are told that the judgment of other lifestyles is a crime. ... The "non-judgmental" attitude towards other cultures goes hand-in-hand with a fierce denunciation of the culture that might have been one's own."