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ANAGALLIS ARVENSIS.-SCARLET PIMPERNEL.
CLASS V. PENTANDRIA.— ORDER I. MONOGYNIA.
NATURAL ORDER, ROTACEÆ.
Fig. (a) exhibits a single stamen; (b) the calyx, germen, and pistil; (c) the fruit.
This is a low, annual plant, with elegant scarlet flowers, and a procumbent stem; resembling common chickweed. It is indigenous to Britain; growing plentifully in cultivated grounds, particularly in rich garden soils; and flowering nearly the whole summer.
Pimpernel has a small fibrous root. The stem is square, much branched, smooth, slender, and clothed with small ovate, shining green leaves, which are either placed opposite in pairs, without foot-stalks, or four together, and marked with purplish spots underneath. The flower-stalks are angular, opposite, one fowered, bending downwards after flowering. The calyx is five-parted, acute, keeled, and permanent. The corolla is bright scarlet, violet coloured at the mouth, syn-or-gamo-petalous, wheel-shaped, and divided into five ovate segments, the margins of which are slightly notched, or beset with minute glands. The stamens are five, purple, hairy, and supporting yellow heart-shaped anthers. The germen is globular; the style purple, filiform, with a capitate stigma. The pyxidium is spherical, about the size of a pea, opening horizontally, and containing several small, brown, angular, roughish seeds.
The name Anagallis, retained from the old Greek and Roman authors, is by some, supposed to be deduced from the verb vayenaw, to smile, because the plant is conspicuous for the beauty of its flowers; others believe it to refer to the former reputed properties of the plant, which is extolled both by Dioscorides and Pliny, for removing obstructions of the liver, which they considered the cause of low-spirits and despondency. The flowers expand only about the middle of the day, and close at the approach of rain ; and from this circumstance it is denominated the shepherd's, or poor man's weather glass.
It likewise forms one of the Floræ horologicæ, opening its flowers regularly, about eight minutes past seven in our latitude, and closing them about three minutes past two in the afternoon.--(Loudon.)
PROPERTIES AND Uses.- Pimpernel formerly held a place in our pharmacopæias, and was considered to be detergent, vulnerary, and cephalic; and by the ancients it has been extolled for its virtues in gout, gravel, convulsions, and the plague. Gelin and others have asserted its success in hydrophobia; and had subsequent experience confirmed its powers in this disease, we should view it not merely as a pretty flower, but as one of the most useful in the vegetable kingdom. It is not now employed, but the following account frum Orfila, will prove its poisonous effects.
“At eight in the morning, three drachms of the extract of Pimpernel, dissolved in an ounce and a half of water, were introduced into the stomach of a robust dog. At half-past twelve he had a motion, At six in the evening he was dejected. At eleven, sensibility appeared diminished. The next morning at six, he was lying upon the side, and appeared to be dead: he might be displaced like an inert mass of matter. He expired half an hour after. The mucous membrane of the stomach was slightly inflamed: the interior of the rectum was of a bright colour; the ventricles of the heart were distended with black coagulated blood; the lungs presented several livid spots, and their texture was preternaturally dense. Two drachms of the same extract, applied to the cellular texture of a dog's thigh, produced death in twelve hours : and the heart and lungs presented the same appearance as in the other.
Birds of the passerine kind, are said to feed on the seeds with avidity.
The term marsh' naturally suggests to the mind the image of a greenish lake, shallow, miry, and illodorous, enamelled with water-lilies and waving rushes, and swarming with frogs in the summer, and with snipes in winter. This, however is not a description of the locality called the Marsh, in the environs of Paris; it was doubtless at a former period, the receptacle of seasonal inundations, which, having no outlet, gave it the character from whence it derived its present name; it has long however, been drained and cultivated, and transformed into a vegetable garden.
Destined solely for the culture of edible plants and roots, these marshes or market-gardens, surround the capital on every side, both within and without the enclosure of the walls. By whatever barrier you leave the city,—whether you follow the dusty route of the castle of Vincennes, or the imposing avenue of Neuilly —whether you visit the funeral shades of Pere-la-Chaise, or the sandy plain of Grenelle—the scene that everywhere meets the eye, is a series of interminable parallelograms, planted with salads, spinage, carrots, cabbages, horse-radish, and harricot-beans. Not an inch of land is wasted in these inclosures. The pathways running between the squares, are scarcely wide enough to afford a passage to a single pedestrian; the glazed sashes which cover the melons, sparkle in the sun like plates of silver. The neatness which reigns in these plots of ground, the vigour of the vegetation, the exquisite condition of every little bed and border --all announces that the art of cultivation is there carried to the highest point of developement.
In a corner of the enclosure, rises some few feet above the soil, a cabin covered with thatch. Judging by the taste which presided at the erection of such a habitation, by its ruinous condition, but ill-concealed
by the undulating branches of the vine, and by its miserable aspect, one would imagine it not the dwelling
leagues from all examples of civilised life. The interior is void of flooring and papering, and nearly so of furniture. From a hook over the chimney-piece hangs horizontally, a flint-gun, with ponderous butt and rusty barrel; here and there a few queer images hide, but do not adorn, the dilapitated walls; near this vile domicile, stands a shapeless shed, which serves as a stable, a cart-house and a magazine; and near the dwelling is the smallest of possible pleasure-gardens, evidently spared with regret from more profitable cultivation, where, at the foot of an apricot-tree, the violet, the rose, the clematis, and the sweet bazil diffuse their welcome odours.
Let us now glance at the inmate of this undesirable dwelling-place. The animals which are considered the symbols of labour and industry—the beaver which builds his cabin, the ant which digs his sinuous granary beneath the sward, the bee which labours profitably from dawn to sunset, the woodpecker whose patient beak perforates the bark of the oak—are inactive beings, indolent, torpid, compared to the marshgardener.
It is hardly two o'clock in the morning when he leaves his bed. The roots, plucked and tied in bundles the evening before, are methodically arranged in the well-worn vehicle. The cultivator makes the best of his way to market, and, transformed into a merchant till seven o'clock in the morning, divides his commodities among the fruiterers, market-women, and hotel-keepers of the capital.
The method of watering adopted by the marsh-gardener, is of ingenious simplicity. The well is situated
a couple of old cart-wheels, placed horizontally at about four feet distance from each other, and united by laths, ordinarily compose the cylinder. A living skeleton of a horse, causes the vessels attached to the rope, to ascend or descend alternately, according as his movements are directed to the right or the left. To obtain from the poor animal this mechanical docility, they cover his eyes with a cowl-blind him, in short—that he may not go astray, but perform with more certainty his monotonous revolution. Alas! it is easy to see, by his meagre flanks and melancholy aspect, that the starved steed is already oppressed with the presentiment that his present position is but the antechamber to Montfaucon and the knacker's yard !
The toil of his long days and wakeful nights procures him but a scanty remuneration. In vain he practises economy to the verge of avarice; in vain he sells his miserable horse at the approach of winter, to buy another in the spring ; in vain he lives upon vegetable food, to avoid the expense of butcher-meat; it rarely happens that he can amass sufficient to provide for the necessities of old age, but continues in harness, so to speak, to the last, watering and weeding to the day of his death; and dies at length, pitcher in hand, and, like the Emperor Vespasian, on his legs. Perhaps he had dreamed of a retreat from toil; perhaps he had often yearned after a shelter, like that so ardently desired by Rousseau-a white cottage with green shutters; but it is seldom more than a dream. Outworn and broken down with fatigue, the marsh-gardener, for the most part, dies on the field of his labours, and rests but in the grave.
The wife of the marsh-gardener, his sons and daughters, dig, sow, and cultivate the ground in company with him. The only alien auxiliaries that they admit, are the soldiers of the garrison of Paris, whom they hire at three-halfpence an hour, during the great heats of summer. On this subject we offer the reader a curious and authentic anecdote.
It was on the 14th Thermidor, in the year 5; or, on Thursday the 1st of August 1797. Some detachments of the army of the Sambre and Meuse, sent for to Paris by the Executive Directory, came
with some officers, when at the end of the Faubourg Poissonniére, he stopped at the gate of a marsh-garden. Without troubling himself at the presence of so dignified a personage, the cultivator, an old philosopher, continued drawing his water.
Good-day, Father Cardin,' cried the general.
"To be sure old friend, ever since '87. I was then but nineteen. I served in the regiment of the French Guards, of which Marshal Biron was then colonel; and was quartered at the barrier Poissonniére. Have you forgotten me?'
Faith I have then. Let me recollect: there were then at the barracks two companies of fusiliers, and one of grenadiers : to which did you belong?"
"To the grenadiers : you used to employ many of them occasionally to assist in watering your garden. Do you recollect, amongst others, the son of the kennel-warden at Versailles?"
Stop a bit! Was he not recommended to me by his aunt, a fruit-seller at the same place?'.
‘Hadn't he the trick of buying books with the money I paid him, and paying another man to mount guard for him, that he might have time to study them?'
*Your memory is returning, Father Cardin.'
He used to warble like a nightingale; I recollect he told me one day, that when a child, he used to sing in the choir at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Ah, I remember him well now! What is become of him?'
He is become general-in-chief of the army of the Sainbre and Meuse; I am the self-same man, old comrade.'*
* Chambers' Journal.