Sweet Musk Roses: Botany and Lexis in Shakespeare

Sweet Musk Roses: Botany and Lexis in Shakespeare ‘MUSK ROSE’ is mentioned three times in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the 1590s, this name was applied strictly to Rosa moschata, an esteemed non-native that was introduced to English cultivation earlier in the century. Nonetheless, the trend among commentators on the play is to interpret it as a wild rose, and specifically as England’s native field rose, Rosa arvensis. Here we show that Shakespeare’s plant is Rosa moschata, and that his choice of this prized exotic is in keeping with his distinctive use of flora. To begin, an outline of this species’ characteristics, origins, renaissance history, and naming—background that is essential to the literary discussion. The musk rose,1Rosa moschata, is a vigorous rambler. Its stems can attain a height of about five metres, with their lower portions supported by a wall, tree, post, or trellis and their upper parts arching outwards. Profusely borne at their summits in loose panicles (branching sprays), its flowers are each to about 6cm in diameter and white with golden stamens.2 Their intense and complex fragrance is reminiscent of perfumer’s musk (moschus), hence this rose’s scientific and vernacular names. In typical R. moschata, the flowers, in botanical parlance, are ‘single’, meaning that they have just one complement of (in their case, five) petals apiece. There is also at least one form in which the flowers are double, that is, they have significantly more than the typical number of petals. Both kinds were grown in Elizabethan gardens.3 The main flowering period is late and long, extending from August until the start of winter. In addition, there may be sporadic earlier flushes of bloom in warm climates; likewise, in cooler regions after a heat wave: in a garden in Oxford, UK, for example, the musk rose was in flower on 20 June 2017.4 Rosa moschata is found only in cultivation or as an escape or relic of it. There are no known records of it in a truly wild state. Related but less potently perfumed species occur naturally from Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon into Arabia and Ethiopia, and from Central Asia to the Far East.5 It is in the latter range that the musk rose’s origins are believed to lie, either in the Western Himalayas or further east in China. Quite possibly, it is a cultigen, a plant arising from selection or breeding and, unless naturalized, maintained through cultivation. Its horticultural heartland appears to have been Central Asia and Persia, where, by the eighth century, it was prized as an ornamental, as a source of perfume and for its medicinal petals. It was then introduced throughout the Islamic world, North Africa and Spain included. From the 1520s onwards, it was nurtured in India as a Mughal favourite: the Emperor Babur described planting musk roses in his gardens at Agra.6 Despite its early presence in Spain, the history of Rosa moschata in wider European cultivation and botany begins with the sixteenth century and what seems to have been a separate introduction of the plant, to Italy.7 There, by the 1520s, it was attracting medical and botanical attention and being called Damaschina, Damascena, or Damascena alba, which may indicate that it had lately arrived from the Middle East.8 Published in 1543, a commentary on Mesue’s medical works9 identified it as ‘Nesrin’ (properly, Nasrin),10 the white musk rose mentioned by the Persian physician and polymath Avicenna (died 1037), and, in addition to rosa damascena, recorded for it the names rosa muscatella and rosa muscata. In 1558, Pietro Andrea Mattioli (Matthiolus) stated that it was known as Damascena in Tuscany and as Moschetta elsewhere in Italy.11 He observed that it differed greatly from common white roses in its superior fragrance and attributes, and that it was highly valued for adorning gardens and for its medicinal properties. It was, he remarked, a newcomer to Italy and unrecorded in old sources, unless it was the rose that Pliny the Elder called Spineola12—an identification Mattioli appears rightly to doubt.13 The name Damascena was confusable with that of a different kind of rose of cultivated origin that was becoming widely grown in Europe, the Damask rose (R. x damascena). In 1568, the Flemish physician and botanist Rembert Dodoens (Dodonaeus) obviated any muddle by formally attaching to the musk rose the Latin epithet by which science has known it ever since—moschata.14 This, he explained, referred to the resemblance between the flower’s scent and that of the perfume musk, moschus. He was not the first to use this form of the name (musk roses are termed Moschatae in Walther Hermann Ryff’s 1543 edition of Dioscorides),15 but his work established it as the botanical standard.16 Dodoens ventured that Rosa moschata might be Coroneola, an autumn-flowering rose mentioned by Pliny the Elder.17 But Pliny says too little about this plant to allow any positive identification; and, had it been R. moschata, he would surely have made more of its scent and value, as he did with other highly perfumed kinds. When Dodoens and other authors attempted, often implausibly, always inconclusively, to discern the musk rose in Classical sources, they were not suggesting that it had been grown and known in Western Europe since Antiquity; rather, that it had been recently reintroduced and restored to renaissance consciousness. Either way, lost and rediscovered or previously unknown, Mattioli, it seems, was correct in remarking ‘nuove sono le Moschette in Italia’.18 It was, Dodoens noted, Rosarum hortensis species, a kind that belonged to cultivation rather than the wild. The vernacular names that he recorded for it indicate how widely Rosa moschata was by now being cultivated: Itali, Rosam moschettam: Galli, Roses musquées ou muscadelles: Belgae, Musket Roosen. However, this list is incomplete: it lacks the English equivalent, musk rose, a name that was current by the 1560s. An intriguing statement concerning the introduction of Rosa moschata to English horticulture lies in a document produced by the lawyer and advocate of foreign exploration and trade Richard Hakluyt of the Middle Temple (born by 1530, died 1591).19 Under the title ‘Remembrances for master S. … Written by the foresayd [i.e. in the previous document ‘drawen by M. RICHARD HAKLUYT of the middle Temple … 1582’], master RICHARD HAKLUYT, for a principall English Factor at Constantinople 1582’, it was reproduced in The Second Volume of the Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (1599) by his namesake, cousin and sometime ward Richard Hakluyt (1553–1616). In one passage of this document, Hakluyt urges the future factor at Constantinople to look out for new things of value that could be sent home. In order of their dates of introduction to England, he lists examples of the plants and edible fowl that have arrived from overseas during the Tudor dynasty. Of those introduced in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, he says: And in time of memory things haue bene brought in that were not here before, as the Damaske rose by Doctour Linaker king Henry the seuenth and king Henrie the eights Physician, the Turky cocks and hennes about fifty yeres past, the Artichowe in time of king Henry the eight, and of later time was procured out of Italy the Muske rose plant, the plumme called the Perdigwena, and two kindes more by the Lord Cromwell after his trauell, and the Abricot by a French Priest one Wolfe Gardiner to king Henry the eight:20 This ‘Lord Cromwell’ is probably Thomas Cromwell (c. 1485–1540) rather than one of his descendants. Although, at the end of his life, his titles (created Baron Cromwell of Oakham in 1536 and Earl of Essex in 1540) were subject to attainder, he was styled ‘Lord’ again in Elizabethan times: witness the title page of the play The True Chronicle Historie of the whole life and death of Thomas Lord Cromwell, published in 1602. That Hakluyt mentions ‘one Wolfe’ subsequent to ‘the Lord Cromwell’ indicates that the musk rose was introduced in Henry VIII’s reign, apparently in the 1530s. The list, as mentioned, is chronological and Jean le Loup (anglicized as ‘Wolfe’) was in the King’s service between 1538 and 1547 as a gardener and supplier of plants from the Continent.21 Before his rise to prominence, Thomas Cromwell spent time in Italy, and he maintained contacts there afterwards.22 He was, moreover, a keen gardener. On 24 January 1532, Edmund Bonner wrote to him saying that ‘Dr. Bagard will give him what Bonner promised, and some seeds for his garden’; and on 14 February 1533 he again hopes that Bagard has delivered ‘seeds of Rome, Bononye [Bologna], and other parts of Lombardy’. Cromwell swapped gardening notes, or indeed new plants, with Lady Audeley, wife of the Lord Chancellor; the latter wrote to him: ‘my wife sendeth to you the news growing in her garden; praying you to send me your letters of news’. He even commandeered a twenty-two foot extension to the garden at his Austin Friars residence.23 Add to which the musk rose’s value, and it is more than plausible that Cromwell introduced it to England. Rosa moschata enters English botanical literature as ‘muske roses’, in The seconde parte of William Turners herball … (1562). In his chapter ‘Of the Rose’, Turner states: Dioscorides [first century ad] maketh mention but of one kinde of roses / but Mesue [eighth to ninth centuries ad] maketh two kindes / that is of the whyt and rede: but sence Mesues tyme / there are found divers other kindes as Damaske rosens / incarnation roses / muske roses / with certayn other kindes / whereof is no mention in any olde writer.24 In A Nieuue Herball (1578), Henry Lyte describes the ‘kinde of Roses called Muske Roses’. It ‘hath slender springes and shuts, the leaves and flowers be smaller then the other Roses, yet they grow up almost as high as the Damaske or Province Rose. The flowers be small and single, and sometimes double, of a white colour and pleasant savour, in proportion not muche unlyke the Wilde Roses, or Canel Roses’.25 On the next page, he states ‘Muske Roses do flower in May, and agayne in September or there aboutes.’ Lyte was drawing on an earlier and less-considered account by Dodoens than that of 1568 cited above, hence his overconfidence that Pliny knew the musk rose and his omission of what, by 1578, had become its accepted botanical name, Rosa moschata: ‘The sixth [kind] is named of Plinie in Latine, Rosa coroneola, of the writers of this day Rosa sera, and Rosa autumnalis: in Frenche, Rose Musquée, and Roses de Damas: in base Almaigne, Musket Rooskens: in Englishe also, Muske Roses, bycause of their pleasant sent.’26 John Gerard grew both the single- and the double-flowered musk roses in his garden in Holborn.27 They form the subject of the chapter ‘Of the Muske Roses’ in his work The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597). The two kinds are described, illustrated, and captioned ‘1 Rosa Moschata simplici flore. / The single Muske Rose.’ and ‘2 Rosa Moschata multiplex. / The double Muske Rose.’28 In various diagnostic details, his account conforms to the plants that are still known and grown as Rosa moschata. For example, his statement ‘The flowers growe on the tops of the branches’ serves to identify his ‘Muske Rose’ as extant R. moschata and to distinguish it from other white-flowered ramblers known in England in his day, all of which bear flowers singly or in clusters and along their stems rather than in terminal panicles. Later in this chapter, Gerard noted that R. moschata was cultivated and not native: ‘These Roses are planted in our London gardens, and elsewhere, but not found wilde in England.’ Of its names, he remarked that it ‘is called Rosa Moschata, of the smell of Muske, as we have said: In Italian Rosa Moschetta: in French Roses Musquees, or Muscadelles: in low Dutch Musket Roosen: in English Muske Rose’. He ended by recommending its petals as a gentle purge if eaten as a conserve or fresh ‘in maner of a sallade’, and as the source of a yellow pigment ‘to limne or wash pictures and Imagerie in books’ and ‘to colour meates and sawces’.29 In English dramatic verse, musk roses are mentioned in Dido, Queen of Carthage by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe (published in 1594, and thought to have been composed in the years 1585–87(–1593)). They feature in a speech where Dido’s old nurse persuades Ascanius (Cupid in disguise) to go with her to her house in the country: I have an orchard that hath store of plums, Brown almonds, services, ripe figs and dates, Dewberries, apples, yellow oranges, A garden where are beehives full of honey, Musk roses, and a thousand sort of flowers, (IV.v. 4–8) Not long after this play was published, Shakespeare gave musk roses three mentions in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first occurs in Oberon’s description of Titania’s bower: I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk roses, and with eglantine. (II.i.249–252) In the next instance, Titania details the tasks that her fairies will soon set about: ‘Some to kill cankers in the musk rose buds’ (II.ii.3). In the last, she tells Bottom that, between caressing and kissing him, she will ‘stick musk roses in thy sleek smooth head’ (IV.i.3). Many commentators, among them Henry Ellacombe (1878)30 and Mats Rydén (1978),31 identify these musk roses as Rosa moschata, the sole species known to Elizabethans by that name. Likewise, OED2 defines musk-rose: ‘[So called from its musky odour; cf. F. rose muscade and the botanical name.] A rambling rose (Rosa moschata), having large fragrant white flowers, in panicled clusters … 1590 SHAKS. Mids. N. II.i.252.’ However, F. G. Savage argued otherwise in The Flora & Folk Lore of Shakespeare (1923): Another flower to claim our attention is the Musk-rose, considered by all writers on the Shakespeare Flora to be Rosa moschata, introduced from Northern Africa during the time of the poet [sic]. Undoubtedly this old rose was to a limited extent found in the gardens of the wealthy, and valued as a rare addition to the then somewhat scanty number grown. But I entirely dissent from the view of those who consider the poet’s Musk-rose to be of foreign origin, only to be found under cultivation. All his references I consider imply the exact opposite, and refer exclusively to the trailing white Field Rose (Rosa arvensis), one of our handsomest and commonest wild roses, remarkable for its clusters of white slightly-scented blossoms, borne on long, trailing stems.32 For Savage, Oberon’s description of Titania’s bower reflected ‘the beautiful natural scenery of his [Shakespeare’s] native home’. He named several Midlands locations that might have inspired it before plumping for the bank of the Wilmcote Downs, where ‘at the appointed season’, thyme, eglantine, ‘Musk-roses’, and woodbine ‘may still be found growing as they did of old … while the prim oxlip and nodding violet … may be found in the rough grassy fields hard by. I think it most unlikely for Shakespeare to weave a foreign rose among such well-known English wild flowers, and in such a typical rural local scene as his passage [Oberon’s speech] seems to suggest.’ By these wild ‘Musk-roses’ on the Wilmcote Downs, Savage meant Rosa arvensis, the species which, with neither historical precedent nor botanical warrant, he had decided to identify by that name. In Climbing Roses Old and New (1965), Graham Stuart Thomas also declared that there was ‘no doubt’ that Shakespeare meant ‘a native rose’, namely Rosa arvensis. ‘It is a native of this country, frequents copses and bosky hedgerows, flowers with the honeysuckle, and is deliciously fragrant.’ He pointed out that ‘Shakespeare refers to a summer-flowering plant’, which R. arvensis is, whereas R. moschata blooms in autumn.33 Given that musk rose is a well-attested sixteenth-century term applied exclusively to Rosa moschata,34 there has been a curious reluctance to admit that a musk rose is a musk rose is a musk rose. Recent editors of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have tended to follow Savage and Thomas in maintaining that Shakespeare must have meant a wild, probably native English species and not R. moschata, which was neither native nor naturalized in England, although cultivated there. Thus Stanley Wells states simply, ‘muskroses wild roses’;35 Peter Holland cites Rydén’s view36 that ‘it is Rosa moschata, cultivated in England in the 16th century’, but then says ‘it is more likely to be the native species Rosa arvensis’;37 R. A. Foakes glosses it ‘Wild rambling roses, bearing fragrant white flowers’,38 so drawing on OED but adding something not found in OED’s definition, viz. that it is ‘wild’, that is, not a cultivated variety. Recently, writers on roses and Shakespeare’s flora have followed these examples, interpreting Titania’s musk roses as Rosa arvensis. The chief objection to this identification is nomenclatural. All available contemporary sources show that, in the sixteenth century, ‘musk rose’ signified only Rosa moschata.39 Far from being a descriptive phrase applicable to any muskily-scented rose, it was a name coined for that species. In strictness of definition, it was identical to those in other modern European languages such as Rosa Moschetta and Rose Musquée. ‘Musk rose’ did not belong to England’s old and truly native, folk or local traditions of plant-naming. It was a book name, recently invented as a near-translation of the Latin and to be no less specific. In effect, it was an English botanical binomial: musk (= species, moschata) rose (= genus, Rosa). Such specificity mattered in this period when plants were valued as the main ingredients of medicines and as the raw materials of England’s fast-developing horticultural interests. Using a name inaccurately or loosely, or, as Savage imagined with ‘musk rose’, for more than one species, had unfortunate consequences that ranged from irritation at the money wasted on right label/wrong plant to accidental death by poisoning. Accordingly, Elizabethan botanical authors aimed to be precise and standardizing, to establish English names that could be applied unambiguously. To take one of many examples from Gerard, he was concerned that the name Flos cuculi and its English equivalent cuckoo flower were being used for unrelated plants—in today’s nomenclature, Cardamine species and Lychnis flos-cuculi. To prevent confusion between them, he restricted Flos cuculi and cuckoo flower to Cardamine and adopted the name ‘Crowe flowers’ for Lychnis flos-cuculi. Not attested before The Herball, ‘Crowe flowers’ may have been one of his innovations, possibly his translation of this plant’s name in the Low Countries, which he cites: ‘in Dutch: Craeynbloemkens, that is to saie Cornicis flores’. Here, he was following Dodoens who, in Pemptades (1583), says of Armerius sylvestris (= Lychnis flos-cuculi), ‘Belgae Craeynbloemkens appellant, id est, Cornicis flores.’40 In print, ‘Crowflowers’ appeared next in Hamlet Q2 (1604–5, l. 3161 = IV.vii.144) among the ‘cronet weedes’ that Ophelia gathers for her ‘fantastique garlands’ before she falls ‘in the weeping Brooke’. Some modern commentators on the play have conjectured that this plant is a species of Ranunculus, a genus for which crowfoote (but not crow flowers) was a well-established name in the sixteenth century. Others have suggested that it may be the marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), which frequents wet places and bears flowers that merit picking, but has no known corvine Elizabethan name. As with querying the identity of Titania’s musk roses, such speculation takes too little account of the exactitude of English nomenclature of the kind enshrined in herbals in this period. In his Herball, Gerard promulgated ‘Crowe flowers’ as his preferred English name for Lychnis flos-cuculi, and it appears to have been coined expressly for that plant. It is not found applied to other genera in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It did not mean the same thing as crowfoote (Ranunculus) or other names such as crow toes and crow leek (Hyacinthoides), crow bells (Narcissus), crowe sope (Saponaria), and crow garlic (Allium), and it was not used interchangeably with them. Moreover, Lychnis flos-cuculi occurs in damp grassland, watersides included, sometimes in association with the other plants that Ophelia picks, and it was gathered for garlands. As Gerard noted, Crowe flowers ‘growe all about in medowes and pastures, and dankish places. … They begin to flower in Maie, and ende in Iune … they serve for garlands and crowns’41 (or for ‘crownets’ or ‘cronets’, to borrow one of his terms for a circular arrangement of flowers—both spellings of which can be found at Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Nn 2v, p. 564). With ‘Crowflowers’ in Hamlet, Shakespeare was using English plant nomenclature that was learned, prescriptive, and precise. He did the same in earlier works. For example, in Oberon’s description of Titania’s bower, ‘wild thyme’ is not simply a phrase that means ‘thyme growing wild’. It is a proper name, of fixed and standard reference in Elizabethan botany, herbalism, and horticulture, for creeping thyme (now understood to be two species, Thymus polytrichus and T. serpyllum). Gerard discusses and illustrates it, captioned ‘I Serpillum vulgare. / Wilde Time’, in his chapter ‘Of wilde Time’ in The Herball.42 Similar cases occur in 1 Henry VI II.iv: ‘white rose’ (plucked ‘From off this briar’ at line 30), and ‘red rose’ (plucked ‘from off this thorn’ at line 33). In the sixteenth century, these now vague-seeming phrases were well-established formal names strictly applied to two kinds of rose—in current nomenclature, respectively Rosa x alba ‘Alba Semiplena’ and R. gallica ‘Officinalis’. Gerard described both in The Herball:43 ‘Rosa alba. / The White Rose’ in its ‘very long stalkes of a woodie substance, set or armed with diuers sharpe prickles’, was briar-like in habit and, he observed, in behaviour;44 and ‘Rosa rubra. / The Red Rose’, which ‘groweth very lowe in respect of the former’ and was bushy, that is, a ‘thorn’ in Shakespeare’s usage (see Appendix). Like other sixteenth-century compilers of herbals, Gerard was clear-cut about these names’ specificity: ‘The white Rose is called Rosa alba: in English the white Rose. … The red Rose is called in Latine Rosa Rubra’.45 Shakespeare, as those neat and knowledgeable references to ‘briar’ and ‘thorn’ show, was similarly unambiguous. In view of his practice elsewhere, it is likely that in A Midsummer Night’s Dream he meant by ‘musk roses’ the plant that the experts and the educated public understood by that name, viz. Rosa moschata. It would have been senseless, and imperceptible on page and stage, to use this name with the intention of conveying a different species. ‘Musk roses’ would not have said ‘Rosa arvensis’ to audiences: granted, this native English rambler has white, sometimes slightly musk-scented flowers; but it does not truly resemble the musk rose, it did not share its properties or prestige, and it was not known by the same name. By contrast, there was something to gain from name-dropping ‘musk rose’ in the sense of R. moschata, an exotic of fairly recent introduction that was prized in England’s gardens and pharmacopoeia. It was prized above all for its scent, which was hailed as ‘sweet’, not meaning sugary but in the Elizabethan sense of pleasing, delectable, enticing. Gerard described the flowers as having a ‘pleasant sweete smell, like that of Muske’.46 In his essay Of Gardens (first published 1625), Francis Bacon declared ‘the Musk-Rose’ second only to ‘the White-double-Violet’ in yielding ‘the Sweetest Smell in the Aire’.47 Evidently, he meant Rosa moschata: air-lacing scent was not a characteristic of any other white-flowered rambling rose in England at this time, R. arvensis included. Musk roses are also ‘sweet’ in Oberon’s description. They are an apt choice for the floral canopy beneath which Titania is lulled to sleep: unusually for a rose, R. moschata’s perfume is potent at evening. Savage rejected Rosa moschata because he thought it ‘most unlikely for Shakespeare to weave a foreign rose among such well-known English wild flowers, and in such a typical rural local scene’ as Oberon’s description suggested to him. However, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set in and around Athens, not Warwickshire, and the flora of Titania’s bower is not only native to England (musk roses excepted) but also widespread in Continental Europe. Shakespeare may have included ‘foreign’ R. moschata as a signifier of the setting’s exoticism. There appears to be a precedent in the Nurse’s orchard-cum-garden in Dido, Queen of Carthage. As well as services, dewberries, and apples, fruits commonly harvested in sixteenth-century England, it produces dates, oranges, and musk roses, all imports valued by Elizabethans. Here, these exotics betoken the paradisiacal abundance of faraway places and remind audiences that the play is set in North Africa. Rosa moschata’s dramatic value may have been the very foreignness that Savage found so unconscionable. It might be objected that Marlowe and Nashe were describing a garden, whereas Shakespeare was evoking wilderness. But renaissance botanists were unaware that this species would not be found growing wild in the centuries ahead. In any case, where exotics were concerned, they made little distinction between place of origin (whether cultivated or native) and natural distribution. Rosa moschata certainly has the appearance and behaviour of a wild rose, albeit a remarkably favoured one. And, as mentioned, look-alikes occur naturally in the Eastern Mediterranean, among them R. phoenicia, which is native to Northeast Greece and the East Aegean islands. Possibly, confused reports of such plants led Shakespeare to imagine that the musk rose grew near Athens. More probably, R. moschata’s actual provenance, with its links to the Levant and the Orient, was reason enough to place it in Theseus’s ‘palace wood’ (MND I, ii.91). This shows that one can read Oberon’s speech, as Savage did, with a presumption of ecological veracity and still identify ‘sweet musk roses’ as Rosa moschata. But is such a presumption warranted in the case of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? In some works, Shakespeare uses species that would be found in real life in the scenery he is summoning. In Hamlet (IV.vii.141–146), the plants that Gertrude mentions in describing Ophelia’s last actions and death are denizens of North European water meadows.48 The weeds named in Henry V (V.ii.45–52) are similarly plausible. So are those in King Lear (IV.iv.3–5), and the sea cliff-dwelling samphire (Crithmum maritimum) pictured by Edgar (IV.vi.15). Yet in other works, usually set in more obscurely remote or imaginary locations, this floristic fidelity vanishes, replaced by eclectic ranges of plants chosen more for their individual characteristics or symbolic value and other cultural resonances. The landscape of Venus and Adonis features ‘blue-veined violets’ (125), a ‘primrose bank’ (151), ‘thorny brambles’ (629), ‘cedar tops’ (858), ‘a myrtle grove’ (865), and ‘A purple flower … chequered with white’ (1168, Fritillaria meleagris49). In As You Like It, the Forest of Arden contains oak (II.i.31), a ‘rank of osiers’ (IV.iii.78), ‘a palm tree’ (III.ii.171), and a ‘tuft of olives’ (III.v.76, termed ‘olive trees’ at IV.iii.76). In The Winter’s Tale (IV.iv.116–127), Perdita lists ‘the flowers o’th’ spring’ that, she imagines, Proserpina was collecting when Pluto abducted her: daffodils, violets, primroses, oxlips, crown imperial, ‘lilies of all kinds’, and flower-de-luce (Iris). In their flowering times and origins, they are discordant; and few of them would have been known, let alone available, to a Bohemian shepherdess (even if she is a princess of Sicilia by birth) or, indeed, to Proserpina as wildflowers in Sicily. But realist quibbling is irrelevant when their purpose is to convey profusion, colour, and a floral allegory of maidenhood’s promise and perils. A Midsummer Night’s Dream appears to belong to this latter, non-naturalistic category. The two structural components of Titania’s bower—bank and floral canopy—were familiar features of grand Elizabethan gardens. The Inner Temple recorded the installation, circa 1591, of its ‘newe faire garden plott’ … ‘ornyfied with beautifull Bancks, various Knotts and beds of fragrant flowers & sweet herbes of sundry Sents, and sorts’.50 In his poem Ovids Banquet of Sence (1595), George Chapman portrayed the Emperor Augustus’s garden in terms that recall the cultivated grounds of Theobalds, Lord Burghley’s Hertfordshire palace (which were supervised by John Gerard). Prominent among its attractions is ‘A soft enflowred banck’.51 In The Gardeners Labyrinth (1577), Thomas Hill described ‘arch herbers’, wood-framed arbours, tunnels, and bowers that were clothed with vegetation: ‘The owner may also set the Jasmine tree bearing a fragrant flower, the muske Rose, Damaske Rose, and Privet tree, in beddes of drie earth, to shoote up and spreade over this herber, which in time growing not onely defendeth the heate of the Sunne, but yeeldeth a delectable smell, much refreshing the sitters under it.’52 Lonicera periclymenum (honeysuckle or woodbine) was put to the same horticultural use. One such herber features in the orchard, which, in this context, means an ornamental cultivated space as well as, or rather than, a place for fruit production, in Much Ado About Nothing: ‘the pleached bower / Where honeysuckles ripened by the sun / Forbid the sun to enter’ (III.i.7–9); ‘Beatrice, who even now / Is couched in the woodbine coverture’ (III.i. 29–30). For Francis Bacon, Rosa moschata, likewise, was meritorious enough to canopy a bower all by itself. His holograph plan, dated 1608, for a water garden at Gorhambury features ‘An Iland wth an arbor of Musk roses sett all wth double violets for sent in Autumn’.53 (As he explained in Of Gardens, ‘the White-double-Violet … comes twice a Yeare; About the middle of Aprill, and about Bartholomew-tide [August 24]’.)54 In late sixteenth-century England, native eglantine (in today’s taxonomy, two closely related species, Rosa rubiginosa and R. micrantha) was even more treasured than the musk rose. Its flowers had little or no perfume but great charm, and its foliage smelt of freshly cut apple, hence its alternative name ‘sweet briar’. This was Elizabeth I’s personal emblem, ‘The Albion flowre so fayer so pure’, as Sir Arthur Gorges hailed it in A Pastorall unfynyshed, his poetic tribute to his Queen, and it symbolized her in gardens actual and literary.55 An example of the latter occurs in the entertainment staged for Elizabeth at Theobalds in May 1591. One of its characters, a gardener told her that his master (Robert Cecil) had ordered him to make a garden of flowers that stood for the Virtues, Graces, and Muses with, as its climax, ‘an arbour all of Eglentine in which my Masters conceate outstripte my conninge Eglentine quothe [he] I moste honour, and yt hathe bene towlde mee that the deeper yt is rooted in the grounde the sweeter it smelleth in the flower, makinge it ever so greene, that the Son of spaine att the hotteste cannot parche itt.’56 Hill devoted a chapter to ‘What skil and diligence required, in the sowing and ordering both of the Garden and wilde or running Time’.57 Forming dense mats of minute aromatic leaves, the latter was valued for carpeting level areas and upholstering slopes. In addition, its flowers appear to have made an impression on Shakespeare: ‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows’. Gerard also noticed them. Not only did he state that ‘wilde Time’ ‘groweth in gardens’, but he had special praise for an unusual specimen he had found, ‘with flowers as white as snowe. and have planted it in my garden, where it becommeth an herbe of greate beautie.’58 For Bacon, its main asset was aroma: ‘Wilde-Time’ perfumed ‘the Aire most delightfully … being Troden upon and Crushed. … Therefore you are to set whole Allies … to have the Pleasure, when you walke or tread.’59 He also advised planting it on mounds: ‘little Heaps … to be set, some with Wild Thyme … Some with Violets … Some with Couslips’. Elsewhere in his ‘Princely Garden’, he recommended ‘Thickets, made onely of Sweet-Briar, and Honny-suckle … and the Ground set with Violets, Strawberries, and Prime-Roses’.60 By violets, Bacon meant the sweet violet, Viola odorata, of which Gerard remarked: ‘yea Gardens themselves receive by these the greatest ornament of all, chiefest beautie, and most gallant grace’.61 Gerard also enumerated varieties of ‘Primroses, Cowslips, and Oxelips’ that were grown in gardens.62 English natives or not, all of the plants named in Oberon’s description of the bower were cultivated in 1590s England as cherished ornamentals and, in some cases, were planted in concert. Obviously, Titania does not sleep under a timber-framed pergola—trees and shrubs support her shelter of roses and woodbine. Nevertheless, the vegetation most intimately associated with her recalls elite Elizabethan gardens in design and detail, and it is tended like one: she orders fairies to kill cankers in the musk rose buds. In the closing decades of the sixteenth century, English gardeners were much-occupied with exterminating these pests (for some of their methods, see Hill’s chapter ‘The worthye remedies and secretes avayling against Snayles, cankerwormes, the long bodied Mothes, Garden fleas, and earth wormes, vitiate and gnaw, as wel the potte hearbes, as trees and fruites.’).63 The landscape around what Puck calls ‘the cradle of the Fairy Queen’ (MND, III.i.74) is also garden-like. As they lead Bottom to her bower, Titania orders her fairies to ply, light, and fan him with foragings from its flora and insect fauna: ‘Feed him with apricocks and dewberries, / With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries’ (MND, III.i.159–160). Of these, only dewberries (Rubus caesius and its hybrids) grow wild in the UK. The others were prized crops in Tudor England, confined to the gardens of the affluent and horticulturally ambitious, and understood to have originated from warm and fecund places overseas. Rather than Midlands countryside, early audiences of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are more likely to have understood Titania’s bower as a locus amoenus where the distinction between nature and culture is blurred, as no ordinary hedgebank but a habitat fit for a queen. The readers among them may have been reminded of the spontaneous-seeming but preternaturally rich and decorative herbers inhabited by goddesses and other superhuman female figures in English verse from Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls through Lydgate’s Reson and Sensuallyte to Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Titania is qualified to be ranked among them; as she tells Bottom, ‘I am a spirit of no common rate; / The summer still doth tend upon my state’ (MND, III.i.147–148). Seen in this light, the plants named by Oberon are not susceptible to considerations of real-life topographical and floristic congruity (‘would they be found growing wild together, and where?’). Instead, what matters is that they should be recognizably pleasing, desirable, special, and appropriate to the heightened and selective evocations of flora that are characteristic of Elizabethan gardens and poetry. By this measure, ‘sweet musk roses’ are Rosa moschata. Graham Stuart Thomas rejected R. moschata in favour of R. arvensis on the grounds that the former, being autumn-flowering, could not have been a Midsummer musk rose. This is to take too literal an approach to what, after all, is a poetic fantasy that involves real flora, yes, but in an imaginary, idealized, alien and, above all, magical setting. In Elizabethan and Jacobean verse, plants that flower at different times were often presented as blooming simultaneously.64 To pick two more examples from Titania’s bank, in reality, Primula x polyantha and Viola odorata usually finish flowering well before Midsummer. Suppose, however, that seasonal verisimilitude matters here, then Thomas’s argument still collapses. As noted above, in warm climates or after hot spells, Rosa moschata will bloom sporadically before its chief flush, and sometimes by Midsummer. Although, as his 1608 Gorhambury plan shows, Bacon was well-aware that its main performance began with autumn, his essay Of Gardens reflects one of these early showings: ‘In July, come … Muske Roses’.65 Gathered from reliable sources, various Continental flowering times for R. moschata appear in Historia Plantarum Universalis, a work largely compiled by Johann Bauhin between 1600 and his death in 1613 (and completed by others and published in 1650–51). Most say August to November; but it is stated to flower in May and again in autumn in Montpellier, and almost all year-round in Italy, according to reports received by Bauhin’s old mentor Conrad Gessner (Gesner, d. 1565).66 By way of confirming his identification of Titania’s musk rose as English Rosa arvensis, F. G. Savage67 quotes four lines of Lycidas (1637), observing that Milton ‘also refers to the musk-rose … linking it, as Shakespeare does, with other of our country wildings’- The glowing violet, The musk rose, and the well-attired woodbine, With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, And every flower that sad embroidery wears.68 But, as Milton goes on to say, ‘frail thoughts dally with false surmise’. The preceding two lines of this floral catalogue (Lycidas, ll. 143–144) contain ‘pale jessamine’ (Jasminum officinale), which is neither native to Britain nor naturalized, and ‘The white pink’, by which Milton is more likely to have meant a cultivated Dianthus variety than one found growing truly wild. ‘Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed’ (Lycidas, l. 149), the line that directly follows those quoted by Savage, features another alien introduction, a striking garden ornamental for which, like the musk rose, there were precedents in Elizabethan verse.69 The species in this passage are demonstrably not all English ‘country wildings’. Why, then, should Milton’s ‘musk-rose’ be Rosa arvensis and not R. moschata? Rather, this plant assemblage, like those in Spenser, Shakespeare, Drayton, Jonson, and other English poets of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries,70 presents species and cultivars native and exotic, wild and cultivated, with and without symbolic or mythic connotations, in a fantasy habitat or in hyperreal profusion which, far from replicating British rural scenery, owes much to Classical pastoral and even more to the names established, plants introduced and gardens developed by Tudor botany and horticulture. At first, many of the species so assembled belonged to a long-familiar, indeed hackneyed, repertoire of literary flora.71 Then, from the late sixteenth century onwards, poets looked to contemporary herbals and horticultural innovators, gathering a vastly greater range of varieties. Most did little with them apart from arranging their English names in blocks of verbal colour. Shakespeare, however, was different. He used plants with evident knowledge and precision and, it seems, with an interest in those that were novel and/or remarkable. He focused on their characteristics and properties, and sometimes made them integral to the work, as with the roses in 1 Henry VI, the ‘purple flower … chequered with white’ in Venus and Adonis, and love-in-idleness in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In view of which, why should Shakespeare’s ‘musk roses’ not be Rosa moschata? There is no sound basis for thinking that they are any other species, and much is lost in doing so. Mysteriously remote in origin and perfumed at evening, R. moschata befits Titania, sometime frequenter of ‘the spiced Indian air by night’ and recipient of tokens ‘As from a voyage rich with merchandise’ (MND, II.i.124, 134). The association of this seductive alien rose with the Fairy Queen parallels the identification of the pure English eglantine with the Virgin Queen, who, unusually, is portrayed in the play (MND, II.i.155–164). Above all, it is the regal, not the rustic, that Oberon describes, a woodland bank magicked into an enchanted arbour that is furnished with floral treasures. Of these plants, none makes that point more eloquently than ‘sweet musk roses’, the prized exotic Rosa moschata. Appendix: ‘Briar’ and ‘thorn’ in Shakespeare To Elizabethans, a briar was a large rose plant, possibly wild in origin and certainly in behaviour, with long, arching, or clambering and thorny stems. Gerard applied the names ‘Brier’ to Rosa canina, and ‘sweete Brier’ to R. rubiginosa and R. micrantha (two species treated as one in his day). He noted that Latin authors called R. canina ‘Canina sentis, or Dogs Thorne’, but he did not accept the translation ‘Dogs Thorne’ as its English name. For him, this species was not a ‘thorn’ but ‘The Brier or Hep tree’ (Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 6–6v, pp. 1087–8). Although an ornamental of hybrid origin, the White Rose (R. x alba ‘Alba Semiplena’) resembled these briars in size, habit, and thorniness. Gerard noted that, naturalized, ‘The double white Rose doth growe wilde in many hedges of Lancashire in great abundance, even as Briers do with us in these southerly parts’ (Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 3, p. 1081). Shakespeare, too, saw briars as rugged and rampageous ramblers. In Err. (II.ii.181), ‘Usurping ivy, briar, or idle moss’ are named as capable of infesting and despoiling an elm tree. Shakespeare used ‘thorn’ in its primary sense of a spine or prickle. In AWW (IV.iv.32–33), Helen mentions summer, ‘When briars shall have leaves as well as thorns, / And be as sweet as sharp.’ She means sweet briar or eglantine (R. rubiginosa/R.micrantha), thorny and with fragrant (‘sweet’) foliage. In 1H6 (II.iv.69), Somerset asks, ‘Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet?’ This, again, is ‘thorn’ in its primary sense, and R. x alba ‘Alba Semiplena’, the briar-like White Rose of York, does indeed possess ferocious thorns. However, ‘thorn’ also signified woody plants that were thorny but not the same as briars. The two were treated as distinct; see, for example, The holie Bible (‘The Bishops’ Bible’), London, 1568: ‘For thornes, there shall growe firre trees, and the Myre tree in the steede of bryers’ (Esai/Isaiah 55:13, XCVI, sig. Mviii); ‘The best of them is as bryer, and the most righteous of them is sharper then a thorne hedge’ (Micheas/Micah 7:4, CXCIII, sig. Bbi). Dense or compact branching was evidently a defining quality of ‘thorn’ in this sense, hence Starveling’s prop in MND: ‘This man, with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn, / Presenteth Moonshine’ (V.i. 134–135); ‘this thorn-bush my thorn-bush’ (V.i.248–249). Shakespeare used ‘thorn’ in this second sense for rose shrubs smaller and bushier than briars. In 1H6, the Red Rose plucked ‘from off this thorn’ is R. gallica ‘Officinalis’, the Red Rose of Lancaster. In LLL (IV.iii.101–103), Dumaine evokes ‘a blossom passing fair’ (a pun—this flower, like his love Katherine, is not fair but dark) with ‘velvet leaves’ (petals), lamenting: ‘But, alack, my hand is sworn / Ne’er to pluck thee from thy thorn.’ This is probably the plant described by Gerard as ‘Rosa Holosericea. / The veluet Rose … [which] groweth alwaies very low, like vnto the red Rose … [and with flowers] of a deepe and blacke red colour, resembling red crimson veluet’ (Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 5, p. 1085)—a Gallica cultivar now known as Rosa ‘Tuscany’. In MND (I.i.76–78), Theseus advises Hermia: ‘But earthlier happy is the rose distilled, / Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn, / Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.’ Here ‘thorn’ is either a Gallica or a Damask rose, both kinds bushy and with petals ‘distilled’ for perfumery. An apparent exception to this briar/thorn distinction is Flute rehearsing the part of Thisbe at MND III.i.88–89: ‘Most radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of hue, / Of colour like the red rose on triumphant briar’. It could be that this briar is eglantine (hence ‘triumphant’, from its association with ERI) and that ‘the red rose’ here is merely descriptive of its flowers, which as Lyte says, are ‘most commonly white and sometimes redde’ (A Nieuue Herball, sig. kkkv (p. 654); red was often used to signify ‘pink’ in this period before pink became a colour adjective). Equally, it might be a deliberate error on the part of Shakespeare, who evidently knew that the triumphant red rose (the Red Rose or Rosa rubra of Elizabethans, i.e. the Red Rose of Lancaster, R. gallica ‘Officinalis’) grew on a ‘thorn’ and not on a briar. Although it is not as obvious as ‘Most brisky [= bristly] juvenile’ or as funny as ‘Sweet moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams’, this blunder would be entirely in keeping with other lines in MND’s ‘Tedious and brief scene of young Pyramus / And his love for Thisbe: very tragical mirth’, which are rife with comic contradictions and misunderstandings. Footnotes 1 Although the form ‘musk-rose’ is sometimes seen, the unhyphenated ‘musk rose’ is standard in botany and horticulture and goes back to the name’s earliest sixteenth-century appearances in print. Musk rose no more needs a hyphen than do Damask rose, cinnamon rose, tea rose, and dog rose. It appears as ‘[sweete] muske roses’, ‘musk rose [buds]’, and ‘[stick] musk roses’ in MND Q1 (1600), and as ‘[sweet] muske roses’, ‘muske rose [buds]’, and ‘[stick] muske roses’ in MND F1 (1623). 2 M. Griffiths, The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening: Index of Garden Plants (London, 1994), 1009. 3 J. Gerard, The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (London, 1597), sig. Aaaa 4v (p. 1084). 4 M. Griffiths, ‘A true midsummer night’s dream’, Country Life, ccxi.39 (27 September 2017) 99. 5 R. Phillips and M. Rix, The Ultimate Guide to Roses (London, 2004), 16–19. 6 B. Ciragan, ‘Tulips, Traders and Roses’, The Indian Rose Annual, xxxi (published for the Indian Rose Federation, India, 2015), 102–4, 121–2. 7 For a digest of early scholarly opinions, Persian and European, about R. moschata, see J. Bauhin et al., Historia Plantarum Universalis (Yverdon, 1651), II, 45–7. 8 G. Manardo, Io. Manardi Ferrariensis Epistolarum medicinalium Tomus Secundus, numquam antea in Gallia excusus (Lyon, 1532), 407, 408 (Book X, epistola prima; Damascena, i.e. Rosa moschata, mentioned), 484 (this epistle is dated December 1521). 9 Anon., (Fr. Angelus Palea Iuvenatiensis and Fr. Bartholomaeus ab Urbeveterum) In antidotarium Ioannis filii Mesue cum declaratione simplicium medicinarum, & solutione multorum dubiorum, ac difficilium terminorum, (Venice, 1543), index sig. diiiiv (rosa muscata, vel muscatella), 80 (Avicenna … Nesrin: & vulgares apud Hispaniam & Barbariam appellant rosam muscatam). 10 H. A‘lam, ‘Gol’ [headword = rose] in Encyclopaedia Iranica, xi. Fasc. 1, (London and New York, 2003) 46–52; an updated version is online at <http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gol>. 11 P. A. Mattioli (Matthiolus), Petri Andreae Matthioli Senensis serenissimi Principis Ferdinandi Archiducis Austriae & c., Medici, Commentarii secundo aucti: in libros sex Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de medica materia, (Venice, 1558), sig. l 3 (p. 125). 12 Pliny, Naturalis Historiae, XXI.x. The rose spiniola (usually spelt ‘Spineola’ by renaissance authors) is at XXI.x.16—vol. VI, p. 172 of Natural History, the Loeb Classical Library edition (Cambridge, MA and London, reprinted 1989). Since Pliny describes it as vilissimam, ‘the most worthless’ or ‘the least valued’, this rose is highly unlikely to have been R. moschata. 13 Mattioli, Petri Andreae Matthioli Senensis, sig. l 3v (p. 126). 14 R. Dodoens, Florum, et coronariarum odoratarumque nonnullarum herbarum historia (Antwerp, 1568). His main statements on the musk rose, species ‘5. Quinta’ in his account of roses, are on sig. F 8v (p. 96, a rose of cultivation with most pleasingly musk-scented flowers); sig. Gv (p. 98, it blooms secondly in August as well as in May or early June); sig. G 2v (p. 100, the name Moschata established, Pliny’s ‘Coroneola’, the synonym Damascena, vernacular names); and sig. G 3v (p. 102, its uses). 15 W. H. Ryff, Pedanii Dioscoridis Anazarbei De Medicinali Materia libri sex, Ioanne Ruellio Suessionensi interprete … Additis etiam annotationibus sive scholis brevissimis … per Gualtherum H. Ryff (Frankfurt, 1543), sig. F3 (p. 65). 16 In 1762, Johannes Herrmann (sometimes styled Jean or Johan Hermann) formally published the binomial Rosa moschata, so conferring modern scientific standing on a botanical name that had been used consistently and uniquely for this rose since the sixteenth century. Hence the full current scientific citation, Rosa moschata Herrm., for the same entity as Dodoens’s R. moschata and the musk rose of Tudor England. J. Herrmann, Dissertatio Inauguralis Botanico-Medica de Rosa (Strasbourg, 1762), 15, 16. 17 Pliny, Naturalis Historiae, XXI.x.19—vol. VI, p. 174 of the Loeb Classical Library edition. The rose coroniola was usually spelt ‘Coroneola’ by renaissance authors. 18 P. A. Mattioli, I discorsi di M. Pietro Andrea Matthioli … nelli sei libri di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo della materia medicinale (Venice, 1568), sig. R 6V (p. 204). 19 For more on the Hakluyts, see E. G. R. Taylor (ed.), The Original Writings & Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts (London, 1935), I, introduction and Document 37 (musk rose, p. 194). Taylor’s understanding of botany and botanical history is sometimes faulty. 20 R. Hakluyt, The Second Volume of the Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (London, 1599), sig. O 5 (p. 165). 21 J. Harvey, Early Nurserymen (London and Chichester, 1974), 28. Harvey comments, ‘It is likely that “1524” [the date for le Loup’s introduction of the apricot often given in secondary sources] is simply a mistake for 1542, since “John Wolf” comes on the scene only in 1538.’ 22 For Cromwell’s visits to Italy, see M. Everett, The Rise of Thomas Cromwell: Power and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII (New Haven and London, 2015), 14, 15, 135. 23 Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic … of Henry VIII, V, 354 (no. 743); VI 72 (no. 158); V, 486 (no. 1066). As Lady Audeley is sending ‘news growing in her garden’, the sense here may be not ‘tidings’ but ‘novelties’ [i.e. new plants] (OED2 s.v. news, sb., 1., obs. and rare, last recorded 1565). Modestly, she asks Cromwell only to send her letters about his new introductions. For the extension to his garden, see Everett, Rise of Thomas Cromwell, 195. 24 W. Turner, The seconde parte of William Turners herbal … , (Cologne, 1562), sig. Uijv. 25 H. Lyte, A Nieuue Herball, or Historie of Plantes (London, 1578), sig. kkkiv (p. 654). 26 Ibid., sig. kkkij (p. 655). 27 J. Gerard, Catalogus arborum, fruticum ac plantarum tam indigenarum, quam exoticarum, in horto Iohannis Gerardi civis & Chirurgi Londinensis nascentium (London, 1596), sig. C 3. 28 J. Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 4v (p. 1084). 29 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 5v (p.1086), sig. Aaaab (p. 1087). 30 H. N. Ellacombe, The Plant-Lore & Garden-Craft of Shakespeare (Exeter, [1878], 197); the text is unchanged in the 2nd edn., (London, 1884), 252. 31 M. Rydén, Shakespearean Plant names: Identifications and Interpretations, Stockholm Studies in English, xliii (Stockholm, 1978), 79. 32 F. G. Savage, The Flora & Folk Lore of Shakespeare (Cheltenham and London, 1923), 66, 67. 33 G. S. Thomas, Climbing Roses Old and New (London, 1965, new edn. 1983), 49. 34 ‘Musk rose’ tout court has signified R. moschata exclusively ever since. Modified by a prefix, it occurs in English names for different cultivars and species, for example the group of crosses known as Hybrid Musk Roses, and the Himalayan Musk Rose (R. brunonii). Obvious exceptions to this are single[-flowered] musk rose and double[-flowered] musk rose, both of which are R. moschata. 35 S. Wells (ed.), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (London, 1967), 137. 36 Rydén, Shakespearean Plant names. 37 P. Holland (ed.), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oxford, 1994), 168. 38 R. A. Foakes (ed.), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Cambridge, updated edn. 2003), 79. 39 In Rei Rusticae Libri Quatuor (Cologne, 1570), Conrad Heresbach mentions Damascenae albae (Rosa moschata under its earlier name) on sig. q and, overleaf, two further varieties of rose, incarnatas & provinciales. In his translation of this work, Foure Bookes of Husbandrie (London, 1577, 66b = sig. Jiiiv), Barnabe Googe misinterprets Damascena albae as ‘the damaske and the white’ (in modern nomenclature, R. x damascena and R. x alba) i.e. as two different kinds of rose that are not R. moschata. On the same page, five lines later, incarnatas & provinciales is given as ‘Carnation & Provincers’; beside it is a marginalium: ‘Muskroses’. Two explanations seem likely: 1. This marginalium was proposed by somebody who knew that Heresbach’s Damascenae albae were musk roses, but it was then typeset a few lines too low. 2. It was a correction to Googe’s error ‘the damaske and the white’ that was misunderstood to be a marginalium and mistakenly inserted beside ‘Carnation & Provincers’ (perhaps because that sentence goes on to say that they have ‘a most excellent savour’—a famous musk rose attribute). However it arose, it is a slip: Elizabethans knew only R. moschata as musk rose. The same error (now as ‘Muske-/roses.’) occurs in the 1586 printing of Foure Bookes of Husbandrie (66b). OED2 cites the 1577 marginalium as its earliest instance of musk-rose; but Turner, The seconde parte of William Turners herbal, has priority. 40 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Hh I (p. 481). R. Dodoens, Stirpium historiae pemptades sex, sive libri xxx [usually referred to as ‘Pemptades’], (Antwerp, 1583), sig. P 5v (p. 178). 41 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Hh I (p. 481). 42 Ibid., sig. Ff 4 (p. 455). 43 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 1v–Aaaa 2 (pp. 1078–9). 44 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 3 (p.1081). 45 Ibid. 46 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 4v (p. 1084). 47 F. Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, Essay XLVI in The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, ed. Michael Kiernan (Oxford, 1985), 140. 48 M. Griffiths, ‘Unravelling the mystery of Ophelia’s orchids’, Country Life, ccx.16 (20 April 2016), 70–1. 49 M. Griffiths, ‘Face to face with Shakespeare’, Country Life, ccix.21, (20 May 2015), 132–3. 50 Inner Temple Miscellaneous MS 32, folio 12v. Some secondary sources date the new garden to 1601; but this primary record clearly states that it was made circa 1591. The MS account begins ‘Anno. 32.’, i.e. 1590. It continues, ‘In the tyme of his [Robertus Golden’s] Treasourship anno. 33. Eliz. 1591. The newe faire garden plott was taken into severalty …’. Robert Golden or Golding was Treasurer of the Inner Temple from November 1589 to November 1591. The gardener’s employment terms were settled by the parliament of the Inner Temple on April 25 1591 (see A Calendar of the Inner Temple Records, ed. F. A. Inderwick, London 1896, vol. I, 373). 51 G. Chapman, Ovids Banquet of Sence (London, 1595), sig. B2, first line of last stanza. 52 T. Hill writing as ‘Dydymus Mountaine’, The Gardeners Labyrinth (London, 1577), I, sig. C iiiiv (p. 24). 53 BL, MS Additional 27278, xi. 77. See also Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 285, 290 fn. 63–4. 54 Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 140. 55 H. E. Sandison (ed.), The Poems of Sir Arthur Gorges (Oxford, 1953), 125, l. 21; on p. 225, Sandison argues that Gorges began the poem as a tribute to his first wife Douglas Howard and later recast it as a hymn to Elizabeth. Certainly, its last stanza leaves no doubt that ERI was its eventual subject, but the rest of the poem also fits her, including ‘whatt worthy braunch thys blossom bare’ (l. 23). Sandison reads this as originally having referred to a family’s branches and thus to Douglas Howard, a remote kinswoman of the Queen. However, it could equally mean ERI, either as the flower of a worthy branch (the ‘hye lynage’ Gorges extols in the last stanza) or, if ‘braunch’ = OED2, branch, sb. 5.b, ‘A child, descendant’, as the eglantine blossom’s worthy offspring or scion; cf. Robert Chester’s Praecatio: ‘Elizabeth that braunch of perfect blisse / We call our queene for whom we all must pray …’ (Poems by Sir John Salusbury and Robert Chester; EETS. e.s., cxiii (London, 1914), 19). Although titled A Pastorall unfynyshed in Gorges’ holograph, the poem is better known as Eglantine of Meryfleur after Spenser’s reference to it (‘In thy sweet Eglantine of Meriflure’) in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (1595, but in progress by late 1591); see R. McCabe (ed.) Edmund Spenser, The Shorter Poems (London, 1989) 355, l. 389. For more on eglantine’s association with ERI, see R. Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (California, 1977), 68–82. 56 BL Egerton MS 2623, f. 17r (contractions expanded). This is one of two known copies of the entertainment made in the 1590s. The second and slightly differing MS (Hatfield House: Cecil Papers, vol. 140, no. 94) does not depart in wording from the passage quoted here. Since it is eglantine’s leaves, and not its blooms, that smell sweet, ‘in the flower’ may be figurative, i.e. in its flourishing—hence the apparent non-sequitur, ‘the sweeter it smelleth in the flower, makinge it ever so greene’; cf. Shakespeare 1H6, II.v.56 (‘all my flowering youth’), and, possibly, Spenser, Faerie Queene, II.v, stanza 29 (‘an Arber greene dispred, / Framed of wanton Yvie, flouring faire, / Through which the fragrant Eglantine did spred’). For more on this entertainment, see M.-L. Coolahan (ed.), John Nichols’s The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I: A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources ed. E. Goldring et al. (Oxford, 2014) III.536. 57 Hill, The Gardeners Labyrinth, II, sig. P iiii (p. 38). 58 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Ff 4 (p. 455), sig. Ff 5 (p. 457). 59 Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 141. 60 Ibid., 143. 61 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Xx 5v (p. 698). 62 Ibid., 635–6. Poets also regarded these plants as cultivated. For example, in Willobie his Avisa (by ‘Henry Willobie’, possibly a pseudonym, and published 1594), ‘H.W.’ uses two of them and oxlip’s close relation cowslip in an expanded horticultural metaphor addressed to the unyielding object of his love: ‘I saw your gardens passing fyne, / With pleasant flowers lately dect, / With Couslops and with Eglentine, / When wofull Woodbyne lyes reject: / Yet these in weedes and briars meet, / Although they seeme to smell so sweet’ (Canto LXVIII). Willobie His Avisa with an Essay toward its interpretation by Charles Hughes (London and Manchester, 1904), 127. 63 Hill, The Gardeners Labyrinth, I, sig. H iiv–H iiiiv (pp. 60–4). 64 For example: Edmund Spenser, 1579, The Shepheardes Calender, ‘Aprill’, ll. 60–63: ‘Damaske roses’, ‘Daffadilies’, ‘Primroses greene’, ‘sweete Violet’. Michael Drayton, 1593, Idea: The Shepheards Garland, Eglog 8, a poem set ‘when May was in her prime’: ‘sweete Cetywall’ (Curcuma zeodaria, an incongruous exotic in this pastoral, but so identified in Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, s.v. Setwall, and so intended by Drayton’s idol Chaucer in The Miller’s Tale: ‘As sweete as is the roote / Of lycoryce or any cetewale’), ‘hony-suckle’, ‘Harlocke’ (probably Drayton’s modification, for alliteration’s sake, of charlocke, i.e. Sinapis arvensis), ‘Lilly’, ‘Lady-smocke’. Shakespeare, 1613–14, The Two Noble Kinsmen, I.i. 1–12: ‘Roses, their sharp spines being gone’ (probably influenced by Rosa sine spinis, see Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1080), ‘Maiden pinks’, ‘Daisies’, ‘sweet thyme’, ‘Primrose’, ‘harebells’ (Hyacinthoides), ‘oxlips’, ‘Marigolds’, ‘Lark’s-heels’. 65 Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 140. 66 J. Bauhin et al., Historia Plantarum Universalis, (Yverdon, 1651), II, 47. 67 Savage, Flora & Folk Lore, 68. 68 J. Milton, Poetical Works, ed. D. Bush (Oxford, reprinted 1979), 146, ll. 145–148. 69 At the climax of Thomas Watson’s long Latin poem Amyntas (published 1585) the eponymous protagonist is transformed into Amaranthus. The same plant (linked to ‘Amintas’ and alluding to Watson) appears in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Book III, Canto VI, stanza 45. 70 To name a few: Edmund Spenser (a), The Shepheardes Calender, ‘Aprill’, ll. 136–144. Spenser (b), The Faerie Queene, iii,vi stanzas 43–45. Barnabe Barnes, Parthenophil and Parthenope (1593): verse collection includes rosemary, roses, honeysuckle, violets, anemones, lilies, hyacinths amaranthus, ivy, daffodils, cowslips, nettles, thistles, myrrh, frankincense, cypress, cherries, apples, apricots, aspens, poplars, and alder in various combinations. George Chapman, Ovids Banquet of Sence, last stanza on sig. B2 and first stanza on B2v in the first edition: a garden scene of 18 lines containing 20 plants of various kinds, origins and uses. Robert Chester, A wynter garland of Sommer fflowers, pp. 15–18 in 1914 edn. cited at footnote 54 above: 102 lines, composed late 1598/early 1599, with 27 disparate plants mainly taken from Gerard’s Herball, of which Chester’s master Sir John Salusbury was an early owner and assiduous user (his annotated copy is at Christ Church College, Oxford). Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion Song XV (1612), ll. 141–204: 50 varieties of plants, wild and cultivated, ornamental and medicinal, largely based on Gerard. Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, IV.iv.118–127. Ben Jonson (a), The Vision of Delight, masque performed 1617; in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson, vol. 5 (Cambridge, 2012), 287, ll. 153–156: ‘How the blue bindweed doth itself enfold / With honeysuckle, and both these entwine / Themselves with bryony and jessamine, / To cast a kind and odoriferous shade!’—honeysuckle and bryony are English natives; jessamine (Jasminum officinale) is exotic, as is blue bindweed (Ipomoea nil), which, like many of his plants, Jonson appears to have taken from Gerard’s Herball (‘Convolvulus Caeruleus. / Blew Bindweed’ in Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597, 714–715). Jonson (b), Pan’s Anniversary, masque performed 1621; in The Cambridge Edition (2012), vol. 5, 452, ll. 24–36: 32 plants of widely differing types and origins called-for simultaneously. 71 In that most of the species were standard props of Classical pastoral. In botanical terms, however, there was nothing especially novel about some of the more diverse and domestic-seeming verse plant catalogues produced before the 1590s. Compare, for example, Spenser’s in The Shepheardes Calender (1579), ‘Aprill’ ll. 136–144, with this from St Patrick’s Purgatory, by an unidentified poet, from a manuscript compiled circa 1330–40: Fair were her erbers wiþ floures, / Rose and lili, diuers colours, / Primrol & paruink, / Mint, feþerfoy & eglentere, / Colombin and mo þer were / Þan ani man mai biþenke. (R. Easting (ed.), St Patrick’s Purgatory, EETS 298 (1991), 26, stanza 147.) © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Notes and Queries Oxford University Press

Sweet Musk Roses: Botany and Lexis in Shakespeare

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Abstract

‘MUSK ROSE’ is mentioned three times in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the 1590s, this name was applied strictly to Rosa moschata, an esteemed non-native that was introduced to English cultivation earlier in the century. Nonetheless, the trend among commentators on the play is to interpret it as a wild rose, and specifically as England’s native field rose, Rosa arvensis. Here we show that Shakespeare’s plant is Rosa moschata, and that his choice of this prized exotic is in keeping with his distinctive use of flora. To begin, an outline of this species’ characteristics, origins, renaissance history, and naming—background that is essential to the literary discussion. The musk rose,1Rosa moschata, is a vigorous rambler. Its stems can attain a height of about five metres, with their lower portions supported by a wall, tree, post, or trellis and their upper parts arching outwards. Profusely borne at their summits in loose panicles (branching sprays), its flowers are each to about 6cm in diameter and white with golden stamens.2 Their intense and complex fragrance is reminiscent of perfumer’s musk (moschus), hence this rose’s scientific and vernacular names. In typical R. moschata, the flowers, in botanical parlance, are ‘single’, meaning that they have just one complement of (in their case, five) petals apiece. There is also at least one form in which the flowers are double, that is, they have significantly more than the typical number of petals. Both kinds were grown in Elizabethan gardens.3 The main flowering period is late and long, extending from August until the start of winter. In addition, there may be sporadic earlier flushes of bloom in warm climates; likewise, in cooler regions after a heat wave: in a garden in Oxford, UK, for example, the musk rose was in flower on 20 June 2017.4 Rosa moschata is found only in cultivation or as an escape or relic of it. There are no known records of it in a truly wild state. Related but less potently perfumed species occur naturally from Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon into Arabia and Ethiopia, and from Central Asia to the Far East.5 It is in the latter range that the musk rose’s origins are believed to lie, either in the Western Himalayas or further east in China. Quite possibly, it is a cultigen, a plant arising from selection or breeding and, unless naturalized, maintained through cultivation. Its horticultural heartland appears to have been Central Asia and Persia, where, by the eighth century, it was prized as an ornamental, as a source of perfume and for its medicinal petals. It was then introduced throughout the Islamic world, North Africa and Spain included. From the 1520s onwards, it was nurtured in India as a Mughal favourite: the Emperor Babur described planting musk roses in his gardens at Agra.6 Despite its early presence in Spain, the history of Rosa moschata in wider European cultivation and botany begins with the sixteenth century and what seems to have been a separate introduction of the plant, to Italy.7 There, by the 1520s, it was attracting medical and botanical attention and being called Damaschina, Damascena, or Damascena alba, which may indicate that it had lately arrived from the Middle East.8 Published in 1543, a commentary on Mesue’s medical works9 identified it as ‘Nesrin’ (properly, Nasrin),10 the white musk rose mentioned by the Persian physician and polymath Avicenna (died 1037), and, in addition to rosa damascena, recorded for it the names rosa muscatella and rosa muscata. In 1558, Pietro Andrea Mattioli (Matthiolus) stated that it was known as Damascena in Tuscany and as Moschetta elsewhere in Italy.11 He observed that it differed greatly from common white roses in its superior fragrance and attributes, and that it was highly valued for adorning gardens and for its medicinal properties. It was, he remarked, a newcomer to Italy and unrecorded in old sources, unless it was the rose that Pliny the Elder called Spineola12—an identification Mattioli appears rightly to doubt.13 The name Damascena was confusable with that of a different kind of rose of cultivated origin that was becoming widely grown in Europe, the Damask rose (R. x damascena). In 1568, the Flemish physician and botanist Rembert Dodoens (Dodonaeus) obviated any muddle by formally attaching to the musk rose the Latin epithet by which science has known it ever since—moschata.14 This, he explained, referred to the resemblance between the flower’s scent and that of the perfume musk, moschus. He was not the first to use this form of the name (musk roses are termed Moschatae in Walther Hermann Ryff’s 1543 edition of Dioscorides),15 but his work established it as the botanical standard.16 Dodoens ventured that Rosa moschata might be Coroneola, an autumn-flowering rose mentioned by Pliny the Elder.17 But Pliny says too little about this plant to allow any positive identification; and, had it been R. moschata, he would surely have made more of its scent and value, as he did with other highly perfumed kinds. When Dodoens and other authors attempted, often implausibly, always inconclusively, to discern the musk rose in Classical sources, they were not suggesting that it had been grown and known in Western Europe since Antiquity; rather, that it had been recently reintroduced and restored to renaissance consciousness. Either way, lost and rediscovered or previously unknown, Mattioli, it seems, was correct in remarking ‘nuove sono le Moschette in Italia’.18 It was, Dodoens noted, Rosarum hortensis species, a kind that belonged to cultivation rather than the wild. The vernacular names that he recorded for it indicate how widely Rosa moschata was by now being cultivated: Itali, Rosam moschettam: Galli, Roses musquées ou muscadelles: Belgae, Musket Roosen. However, this list is incomplete: it lacks the English equivalent, musk rose, a name that was current by the 1560s. An intriguing statement concerning the introduction of Rosa moschata to English horticulture lies in a document produced by the lawyer and advocate of foreign exploration and trade Richard Hakluyt of the Middle Temple (born by 1530, died 1591).19 Under the title ‘Remembrances for master S. … Written by the foresayd [i.e. in the previous document ‘drawen by M. RICHARD HAKLUYT of the middle Temple … 1582’], master RICHARD HAKLUYT, for a principall English Factor at Constantinople 1582’, it was reproduced in The Second Volume of the Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (1599) by his namesake, cousin and sometime ward Richard Hakluyt (1553–1616). In one passage of this document, Hakluyt urges the future factor at Constantinople to look out for new things of value that could be sent home. In order of their dates of introduction to England, he lists examples of the plants and edible fowl that have arrived from overseas during the Tudor dynasty. Of those introduced in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, he says: And in time of memory things haue bene brought in that were not here before, as the Damaske rose by Doctour Linaker king Henry the seuenth and king Henrie the eights Physician, the Turky cocks and hennes about fifty yeres past, the Artichowe in time of king Henry the eight, and of later time was procured out of Italy the Muske rose plant, the plumme called the Perdigwena, and two kindes more by the Lord Cromwell after his trauell, and the Abricot by a French Priest one Wolfe Gardiner to king Henry the eight:20 This ‘Lord Cromwell’ is probably Thomas Cromwell (c. 1485–1540) rather than one of his descendants. Although, at the end of his life, his titles (created Baron Cromwell of Oakham in 1536 and Earl of Essex in 1540) were subject to attainder, he was styled ‘Lord’ again in Elizabethan times: witness the title page of the play The True Chronicle Historie of the whole life and death of Thomas Lord Cromwell, published in 1602. That Hakluyt mentions ‘one Wolfe’ subsequent to ‘the Lord Cromwell’ indicates that the musk rose was introduced in Henry VIII’s reign, apparently in the 1530s. The list, as mentioned, is chronological and Jean le Loup (anglicized as ‘Wolfe’) was in the King’s service between 1538 and 1547 as a gardener and supplier of plants from the Continent.21 Before his rise to prominence, Thomas Cromwell spent time in Italy, and he maintained contacts there afterwards.22 He was, moreover, a keen gardener. On 24 January 1532, Edmund Bonner wrote to him saying that ‘Dr. Bagard will give him what Bonner promised, and some seeds for his garden’; and on 14 February 1533 he again hopes that Bagard has delivered ‘seeds of Rome, Bononye [Bologna], and other parts of Lombardy’. Cromwell swapped gardening notes, or indeed new plants, with Lady Audeley, wife of the Lord Chancellor; the latter wrote to him: ‘my wife sendeth to you the news growing in her garden; praying you to send me your letters of news’. He even commandeered a twenty-two foot extension to the garden at his Austin Friars residence.23 Add to which the musk rose’s value, and it is more than plausible that Cromwell introduced it to England. Rosa moschata enters English botanical literature as ‘muske roses’, in The seconde parte of William Turners herball … (1562). In his chapter ‘Of the Rose’, Turner states: Dioscorides [first century ad] maketh mention but of one kinde of roses / but Mesue [eighth to ninth centuries ad] maketh two kindes / that is of the whyt and rede: but sence Mesues tyme / there are found divers other kindes as Damaske rosens / incarnation roses / muske roses / with certayn other kindes / whereof is no mention in any olde writer.24 In A Nieuue Herball (1578), Henry Lyte describes the ‘kinde of Roses called Muske Roses’. It ‘hath slender springes and shuts, the leaves and flowers be smaller then the other Roses, yet they grow up almost as high as the Damaske or Province Rose. The flowers be small and single, and sometimes double, of a white colour and pleasant savour, in proportion not muche unlyke the Wilde Roses, or Canel Roses’.25 On the next page, he states ‘Muske Roses do flower in May, and agayne in September or there aboutes.’ Lyte was drawing on an earlier and less-considered account by Dodoens than that of 1568 cited above, hence his overconfidence that Pliny knew the musk rose and his omission of what, by 1578, had become its accepted botanical name, Rosa moschata: ‘The sixth [kind] is named of Plinie in Latine, Rosa coroneola, of the writers of this day Rosa sera, and Rosa autumnalis: in Frenche, Rose Musquée, and Roses de Damas: in base Almaigne, Musket Rooskens: in Englishe also, Muske Roses, bycause of their pleasant sent.’26 John Gerard grew both the single- and the double-flowered musk roses in his garden in Holborn.27 They form the subject of the chapter ‘Of the Muske Roses’ in his work The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597). The two kinds are described, illustrated, and captioned ‘1 Rosa Moschata simplici flore. / The single Muske Rose.’ and ‘2 Rosa Moschata multiplex. / The double Muske Rose.’28 In various diagnostic details, his account conforms to the plants that are still known and grown as Rosa moschata. For example, his statement ‘The flowers growe on the tops of the branches’ serves to identify his ‘Muske Rose’ as extant R. moschata and to distinguish it from other white-flowered ramblers known in England in his day, all of which bear flowers singly or in clusters and along their stems rather than in terminal panicles. Later in this chapter, Gerard noted that R. moschata was cultivated and not native: ‘These Roses are planted in our London gardens, and elsewhere, but not found wilde in England.’ Of its names, he remarked that it ‘is called Rosa Moschata, of the smell of Muske, as we have said: In Italian Rosa Moschetta: in French Roses Musquees, or Muscadelles: in low Dutch Musket Roosen: in English Muske Rose’. He ended by recommending its petals as a gentle purge if eaten as a conserve or fresh ‘in maner of a sallade’, and as the source of a yellow pigment ‘to limne or wash pictures and Imagerie in books’ and ‘to colour meates and sawces’.29 In English dramatic verse, musk roses are mentioned in Dido, Queen of Carthage by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe (published in 1594, and thought to have been composed in the years 1585–87(–1593)). They feature in a speech where Dido’s old nurse persuades Ascanius (Cupid in disguise) to go with her to her house in the country: I have an orchard that hath store of plums, Brown almonds, services, ripe figs and dates, Dewberries, apples, yellow oranges, A garden where are beehives full of honey, Musk roses, and a thousand sort of flowers, (IV.v. 4–8) Not long after this play was published, Shakespeare gave musk roses three mentions in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first occurs in Oberon’s description of Titania’s bower: I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk roses, and with eglantine. (II.i.249–252) In the next instance, Titania details the tasks that her fairies will soon set about: ‘Some to kill cankers in the musk rose buds’ (II.ii.3). In the last, she tells Bottom that, between caressing and kissing him, she will ‘stick musk roses in thy sleek smooth head’ (IV.i.3). Many commentators, among them Henry Ellacombe (1878)30 and Mats Rydén (1978),31 identify these musk roses as Rosa moschata, the sole species known to Elizabethans by that name. Likewise, OED2 defines musk-rose: ‘[So called from its musky odour; cf. F. rose muscade and the botanical name.] A rambling rose (Rosa moschata), having large fragrant white flowers, in panicled clusters … 1590 SHAKS. Mids. N. II.i.252.’ However, F. G. Savage argued otherwise in The Flora & Folk Lore of Shakespeare (1923): Another flower to claim our attention is the Musk-rose, considered by all writers on the Shakespeare Flora to be Rosa moschata, introduced from Northern Africa during the time of the poet [sic]. Undoubtedly this old rose was to a limited extent found in the gardens of the wealthy, and valued as a rare addition to the then somewhat scanty number grown. But I entirely dissent from the view of those who consider the poet’s Musk-rose to be of foreign origin, only to be found under cultivation. All his references I consider imply the exact opposite, and refer exclusively to the trailing white Field Rose (Rosa arvensis), one of our handsomest and commonest wild roses, remarkable for its clusters of white slightly-scented blossoms, borne on long, trailing stems.32 For Savage, Oberon’s description of Titania’s bower reflected ‘the beautiful natural scenery of his [Shakespeare’s] native home’. He named several Midlands locations that might have inspired it before plumping for the bank of the Wilmcote Downs, where ‘at the appointed season’, thyme, eglantine, ‘Musk-roses’, and woodbine ‘may still be found growing as they did of old … while the prim oxlip and nodding violet … may be found in the rough grassy fields hard by. I think it most unlikely for Shakespeare to weave a foreign rose among such well-known English wild flowers, and in such a typical rural local scene as his passage [Oberon’s speech] seems to suggest.’ By these wild ‘Musk-roses’ on the Wilmcote Downs, Savage meant Rosa arvensis, the species which, with neither historical precedent nor botanical warrant, he had decided to identify by that name. In Climbing Roses Old and New (1965), Graham Stuart Thomas also declared that there was ‘no doubt’ that Shakespeare meant ‘a native rose’, namely Rosa arvensis. ‘It is a native of this country, frequents copses and bosky hedgerows, flowers with the honeysuckle, and is deliciously fragrant.’ He pointed out that ‘Shakespeare refers to a summer-flowering plant’, which R. arvensis is, whereas R. moschata blooms in autumn.33 Given that musk rose is a well-attested sixteenth-century term applied exclusively to Rosa moschata,34 there has been a curious reluctance to admit that a musk rose is a musk rose is a musk rose. Recent editors of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have tended to follow Savage and Thomas in maintaining that Shakespeare must have meant a wild, probably native English species and not R. moschata, which was neither native nor naturalized in England, although cultivated there. Thus Stanley Wells states simply, ‘muskroses wild roses’;35 Peter Holland cites Rydén’s view36 that ‘it is Rosa moschata, cultivated in England in the 16th century’, but then says ‘it is more likely to be the native species Rosa arvensis’;37 R. A. Foakes glosses it ‘Wild rambling roses, bearing fragrant white flowers’,38 so drawing on OED but adding something not found in OED’s definition, viz. that it is ‘wild’, that is, not a cultivated variety. Recently, writers on roses and Shakespeare’s flora have followed these examples, interpreting Titania’s musk roses as Rosa arvensis. The chief objection to this identification is nomenclatural. All available contemporary sources show that, in the sixteenth century, ‘musk rose’ signified only Rosa moschata.39 Far from being a descriptive phrase applicable to any muskily-scented rose, it was a name coined for that species. In strictness of definition, it was identical to those in other modern European languages such as Rosa Moschetta and Rose Musquée. ‘Musk rose’ did not belong to England’s old and truly native, folk or local traditions of plant-naming. It was a book name, recently invented as a near-translation of the Latin and to be no less specific. In effect, it was an English botanical binomial: musk (= species, moschata) rose (= genus, Rosa). Such specificity mattered in this period when plants were valued as the main ingredients of medicines and as the raw materials of England’s fast-developing horticultural interests. Using a name inaccurately or loosely, or, as Savage imagined with ‘musk rose’, for more than one species, had unfortunate consequences that ranged from irritation at the money wasted on right label/wrong plant to accidental death by poisoning. Accordingly, Elizabethan botanical authors aimed to be precise and standardizing, to establish English names that could be applied unambiguously. To take one of many examples from Gerard, he was concerned that the name Flos cuculi and its English equivalent cuckoo flower were being used for unrelated plants—in today’s nomenclature, Cardamine species and Lychnis flos-cuculi. To prevent confusion between them, he restricted Flos cuculi and cuckoo flower to Cardamine and adopted the name ‘Crowe flowers’ for Lychnis flos-cuculi. Not attested before The Herball, ‘Crowe flowers’ may have been one of his innovations, possibly his translation of this plant’s name in the Low Countries, which he cites: ‘in Dutch: Craeynbloemkens, that is to saie Cornicis flores’. Here, he was following Dodoens who, in Pemptades (1583), says of Armerius sylvestris (= Lychnis flos-cuculi), ‘Belgae Craeynbloemkens appellant, id est, Cornicis flores.’40 In print, ‘Crowflowers’ appeared next in Hamlet Q2 (1604–5, l. 3161 = IV.vii.144) among the ‘cronet weedes’ that Ophelia gathers for her ‘fantastique garlands’ before she falls ‘in the weeping Brooke’. Some modern commentators on the play have conjectured that this plant is a species of Ranunculus, a genus for which crowfoote (but not crow flowers) was a well-established name in the sixteenth century. Others have suggested that it may be the marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), which frequents wet places and bears flowers that merit picking, but has no known corvine Elizabethan name. As with querying the identity of Titania’s musk roses, such speculation takes too little account of the exactitude of English nomenclature of the kind enshrined in herbals in this period. In his Herball, Gerard promulgated ‘Crowe flowers’ as his preferred English name for Lychnis flos-cuculi, and it appears to have been coined expressly for that plant. It is not found applied to other genera in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It did not mean the same thing as crowfoote (Ranunculus) or other names such as crow toes and crow leek (Hyacinthoides), crow bells (Narcissus), crowe sope (Saponaria), and crow garlic (Allium), and it was not used interchangeably with them. Moreover, Lychnis flos-cuculi occurs in damp grassland, watersides included, sometimes in association with the other plants that Ophelia picks, and it was gathered for garlands. As Gerard noted, Crowe flowers ‘growe all about in medowes and pastures, and dankish places. … They begin to flower in Maie, and ende in Iune … they serve for garlands and crowns’41 (or for ‘crownets’ or ‘cronets’, to borrow one of his terms for a circular arrangement of flowers—both spellings of which can be found at Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Nn 2v, p. 564). With ‘Crowflowers’ in Hamlet, Shakespeare was using English plant nomenclature that was learned, prescriptive, and precise. He did the same in earlier works. For example, in Oberon’s description of Titania’s bower, ‘wild thyme’ is not simply a phrase that means ‘thyme growing wild’. It is a proper name, of fixed and standard reference in Elizabethan botany, herbalism, and horticulture, for creeping thyme (now understood to be two species, Thymus polytrichus and T. serpyllum). Gerard discusses and illustrates it, captioned ‘I Serpillum vulgare. / Wilde Time’, in his chapter ‘Of wilde Time’ in The Herball.42 Similar cases occur in 1 Henry VI II.iv: ‘white rose’ (plucked ‘From off this briar’ at line 30), and ‘red rose’ (plucked ‘from off this thorn’ at line 33). In the sixteenth century, these now vague-seeming phrases were well-established formal names strictly applied to two kinds of rose—in current nomenclature, respectively Rosa x alba ‘Alba Semiplena’ and R. gallica ‘Officinalis’. Gerard described both in The Herball:43 ‘Rosa alba. / The White Rose’ in its ‘very long stalkes of a woodie substance, set or armed with diuers sharpe prickles’, was briar-like in habit and, he observed, in behaviour;44 and ‘Rosa rubra. / The Red Rose’, which ‘groweth very lowe in respect of the former’ and was bushy, that is, a ‘thorn’ in Shakespeare’s usage (see Appendix). Like other sixteenth-century compilers of herbals, Gerard was clear-cut about these names’ specificity: ‘The white Rose is called Rosa alba: in English the white Rose. … The red Rose is called in Latine Rosa Rubra’.45 Shakespeare, as those neat and knowledgeable references to ‘briar’ and ‘thorn’ show, was similarly unambiguous. In view of his practice elsewhere, it is likely that in A Midsummer Night’s Dream he meant by ‘musk roses’ the plant that the experts and the educated public understood by that name, viz. Rosa moschata. It would have been senseless, and imperceptible on page and stage, to use this name with the intention of conveying a different species. ‘Musk roses’ would not have said ‘Rosa arvensis’ to audiences: granted, this native English rambler has white, sometimes slightly musk-scented flowers; but it does not truly resemble the musk rose, it did not share its properties or prestige, and it was not known by the same name. By contrast, there was something to gain from name-dropping ‘musk rose’ in the sense of R. moschata, an exotic of fairly recent introduction that was prized in England’s gardens and pharmacopoeia. It was prized above all for its scent, which was hailed as ‘sweet’, not meaning sugary but in the Elizabethan sense of pleasing, delectable, enticing. Gerard described the flowers as having a ‘pleasant sweete smell, like that of Muske’.46 In his essay Of Gardens (first published 1625), Francis Bacon declared ‘the Musk-Rose’ second only to ‘the White-double-Violet’ in yielding ‘the Sweetest Smell in the Aire’.47 Evidently, he meant Rosa moschata: air-lacing scent was not a characteristic of any other white-flowered rambling rose in England at this time, R. arvensis included. Musk roses are also ‘sweet’ in Oberon’s description. They are an apt choice for the floral canopy beneath which Titania is lulled to sleep: unusually for a rose, R. moschata’s perfume is potent at evening. Savage rejected Rosa moschata because he thought it ‘most unlikely for Shakespeare to weave a foreign rose among such well-known English wild flowers, and in such a typical rural local scene’ as Oberon’s description suggested to him. However, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set in and around Athens, not Warwickshire, and the flora of Titania’s bower is not only native to England (musk roses excepted) but also widespread in Continental Europe. Shakespeare may have included ‘foreign’ R. moschata as a signifier of the setting’s exoticism. There appears to be a precedent in the Nurse’s orchard-cum-garden in Dido, Queen of Carthage. As well as services, dewberries, and apples, fruits commonly harvested in sixteenth-century England, it produces dates, oranges, and musk roses, all imports valued by Elizabethans. Here, these exotics betoken the paradisiacal abundance of faraway places and remind audiences that the play is set in North Africa. Rosa moschata’s dramatic value may have been the very foreignness that Savage found so unconscionable. It might be objected that Marlowe and Nashe were describing a garden, whereas Shakespeare was evoking wilderness. But renaissance botanists were unaware that this species would not be found growing wild in the centuries ahead. In any case, where exotics were concerned, they made little distinction between place of origin (whether cultivated or native) and natural distribution. Rosa moschata certainly has the appearance and behaviour of a wild rose, albeit a remarkably favoured one. And, as mentioned, look-alikes occur naturally in the Eastern Mediterranean, among them R. phoenicia, which is native to Northeast Greece and the East Aegean islands. Possibly, confused reports of such plants led Shakespeare to imagine that the musk rose grew near Athens. More probably, R. moschata’s actual provenance, with its links to the Levant and the Orient, was reason enough to place it in Theseus’s ‘palace wood’ (MND I, ii.91). This shows that one can read Oberon’s speech, as Savage did, with a presumption of ecological veracity and still identify ‘sweet musk roses’ as Rosa moschata. But is such a presumption warranted in the case of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? In some works, Shakespeare uses species that would be found in real life in the scenery he is summoning. In Hamlet (IV.vii.141–146), the plants that Gertrude mentions in describing Ophelia’s last actions and death are denizens of North European water meadows.48 The weeds named in Henry V (V.ii.45–52) are similarly plausible. So are those in King Lear (IV.iv.3–5), and the sea cliff-dwelling samphire (Crithmum maritimum) pictured by Edgar (IV.vi.15). Yet in other works, usually set in more obscurely remote or imaginary locations, this floristic fidelity vanishes, replaced by eclectic ranges of plants chosen more for their individual characteristics or symbolic value and other cultural resonances. The landscape of Venus and Adonis features ‘blue-veined violets’ (125), a ‘primrose bank’ (151), ‘thorny brambles’ (629), ‘cedar tops’ (858), ‘a myrtle grove’ (865), and ‘A purple flower … chequered with white’ (1168, Fritillaria meleagris49). In As You Like It, the Forest of Arden contains oak (II.i.31), a ‘rank of osiers’ (IV.iii.78), ‘a palm tree’ (III.ii.171), and a ‘tuft of olives’ (III.v.76, termed ‘olive trees’ at IV.iii.76). In The Winter’s Tale (IV.iv.116–127), Perdita lists ‘the flowers o’th’ spring’ that, she imagines, Proserpina was collecting when Pluto abducted her: daffodils, violets, primroses, oxlips, crown imperial, ‘lilies of all kinds’, and flower-de-luce (Iris). In their flowering times and origins, they are discordant; and few of them would have been known, let alone available, to a Bohemian shepherdess (even if she is a princess of Sicilia by birth) or, indeed, to Proserpina as wildflowers in Sicily. But realist quibbling is irrelevant when their purpose is to convey profusion, colour, and a floral allegory of maidenhood’s promise and perils. A Midsummer Night’s Dream appears to belong to this latter, non-naturalistic category. The two structural components of Titania’s bower—bank and floral canopy—were familiar features of grand Elizabethan gardens. The Inner Temple recorded the installation, circa 1591, of its ‘newe faire garden plott’ … ‘ornyfied with beautifull Bancks, various Knotts and beds of fragrant flowers & sweet herbes of sundry Sents, and sorts’.50 In his poem Ovids Banquet of Sence (1595), George Chapman portrayed the Emperor Augustus’s garden in terms that recall the cultivated grounds of Theobalds, Lord Burghley’s Hertfordshire palace (which were supervised by John Gerard). Prominent among its attractions is ‘A soft enflowred banck’.51 In The Gardeners Labyrinth (1577), Thomas Hill described ‘arch herbers’, wood-framed arbours, tunnels, and bowers that were clothed with vegetation: ‘The owner may also set the Jasmine tree bearing a fragrant flower, the muske Rose, Damaske Rose, and Privet tree, in beddes of drie earth, to shoote up and spreade over this herber, which in time growing not onely defendeth the heate of the Sunne, but yeeldeth a delectable smell, much refreshing the sitters under it.’52 Lonicera periclymenum (honeysuckle or woodbine) was put to the same horticultural use. One such herber features in the orchard, which, in this context, means an ornamental cultivated space as well as, or rather than, a place for fruit production, in Much Ado About Nothing: ‘the pleached bower / Where honeysuckles ripened by the sun / Forbid the sun to enter’ (III.i.7–9); ‘Beatrice, who even now / Is couched in the woodbine coverture’ (III.i. 29–30). For Francis Bacon, Rosa moschata, likewise, was meritorious enough to canopy a bower all by itself. His holograph plan, dated 1608, for a water garden at Gorhambury features ‘An Iland wth an arbor of Musk roses sett all wth double violets for sent in Autumn’.53 (As he explained in Of Gardens, ‘the White-double-Violet … comes twice a Yeare; About the middle of Aprill, and about Bartholomew-tide [August 24]’.)54 In late sixteenth-century England, native eglantine (in today’s taxonomy, two closely related species, Rosa rubiginosa and R. micrantha) was even more treasured than the musk rose. Its flowers had little or no perfume but great charm, and its foliage smelt of freshly cut apple, hence its alternative name ‘sweet briar’. This was Elizabeth I’s personal emblem, ‘The Albion flowre so fayer so pure’, as Sir Arthur Gorges hailed it in A Pastorall unfynyshed, his poetic tribute to his Queen, and it symbolized her in gardens actual and literary.55 An example of the latter occurs in the entertainment staged for Elizabeth at Theobalds in May 1591. One of its characters, a gardener told her that his master (Robert Cecil) had ordered him to make a garden of flowers that stood for the Virtues, Graces, and Muses with, as its climax, ‘an arbour all of Eglentine in which my Masters conceate outstripte my conninge Eglentine quothe [he] I moste honour, and yt hathe bene towlde mee that the deeper yt is rooted in the grounde the sweeter it smelleth in the flower, makinge it ever so greene, that the Son of spaine att the hotteste cannot parche itt.’56 Hill devoted a chapter to ‘What skil and diligence required, in the sowing and ordering both of the Garden and wilde or running Time’.57 Forming dense mats of minute aromatic leaves, the latter was valued for carpeting level areas and upholstering slopes. In addition, its flowers appear to have made an impression on Shakespeare: ‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows’. Gerard also noticed them. Not only did he state that ‘wilde Time’ ‘groweth in gardens’, but he had special praise for an unusual specimen he had found, ‘with flowers as white as snowe. and have planted it in my garden, where it becommeth an herbe of greate beautie.’58 For Bacon, its main asset was aroma: ‘Wilde-Time’ perfumed ‘the Aire most delightfully … being Troden upon and Crushed. … Therefore you are to set whole Allies … to have the Pleasure, when you walke or tread.’59 He also advised planting it on mounds: ‘little Heaps … to be set, some with Wild Thyme … Some with Violets … Some with Couslips’. Elsewhere in his ‘Princely Garden’, he recommended ‘Thickets, made onely of Sweet-Briar, and Honny-suckle … and the Ground set with Violets, Strawberries, and Prime-Roses’.60 By violets, Bacon meant the sweet violet, Viola odorata, of which Gerard remarked: ‘yea Gardens themselves receive by these the greatest ornament of all, chiefest beautie, and most gallant grace’.61 Gerard also enumerated varieties of ‘Primroses, Cowslips, and Oxelips’ that were grown in gardens.62 English natives or not, all of the plants named in Oberon’s description of the bower were cultivated in 1590s England as cherished ornamentals and, in some cases, were planted in concert. Obviously, Titania does not sleep under a timber-framed pergola—trees and shrubs support her shelter of roses and woodbine. Nevertheless, the vegetation most intimately associated with her recalls elite Elizabethan gardens in design and detail, and it is tended like one: she orders fairies to kill cankers in the musk rose buds. In the closing decades of the sixteenth century, English gardeners were much-occupied with exterminating these pests (for some of their methods, see Hill’s chapter ‘The worthye remedies and secretes avayling against Snayles, cankerwormes, the long bodied Mothes, Garden fleas, and earth wormes, vitiate and gnaw, as wel the potte hearbes, as trees and fruites.’).63 The landscape around what Puck calls ‘the cradle of the Fairy Queen’ (MND, III.i.74) is also garden-like. As they lead Bottom to her bower, Titania orders her fairies to ply, light, and fan him with foragings from its flora and insect fauna: ‘Feed him with apricocks and dewberries, / With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries’ (MND, III.i.159–160). Of these, only dewberries (Rubus caesius and its hybrids) grow wild in the UK. The others were prized crops in Tudor England, confined to the gardens of the affluent and horticulturally ambitious, and understood to have originated from warm and fecund places overseas. Rather than Midlands countryside, early audiences of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are more likely to have understood Titania’s bower as a locus amoenus where the distinction between nature and culture is blurred, as no ordinary hedgebank but a habitat fit for a queen. The readers among them may have been reminded of the spontaneous-seeming but preternaturally rich and decorative herbers inhabited by goddesses and other superhuman female figures in English verse from Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls through Lydgate’s Reson and Sensuallyte to Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Titania is qualified to be ranked among them; as she tells Bottom, ‘I am a spirit of no common rate; / The summer still doth tend upon my state’ (MND, III.i.147–148). Seen in this light, the plants named by Oberon are not susceptible to considerations of real-life topographical and floristic congruity (‘would they be found growing wild together, and where?’). Instead, what matters is that they should be recognizably pleasing, desirable, special, and appropriate to the heightened and selective evocations of flora that are characteristic of Elizabethan gardens and poetry. By this measure, ‘sweet musk roses’ are Rosa moschata. Graham Stuart Thomas rejected R. moschata in favour of R. arvensis on the grounds that the former, being autumn-flowering, could not have been a Midsummer musk rose. This is to take too literal an approach to what, after all, is a poetic fantasy that involves real flora, yes, but in an imaginary, idealized, alien and, above all, magical setting. In Elizabethan and Jacobean verse, plants that flower at different times were often presented as blooming simultaneously.64 To pick two more examples from Titania’s bank, in reality, Primula x polyantha and Viola odorata usually finish flowering well before Midsummer. Suppose, however, that seasonal verisimilitude matters here, then Thomas’s argument still collapses. As noted above, in warm climates or after hot spells, Rosa moschata will bloom sporadically before its chief flush, and sometimes by Midsummer. Although, as his 1608 Gorhambury plan shows, Bacon was well-aware that its main performance began with autumn, his essay Of Gardens reflects one of these early showings: ‘In July, come … Muske Roses’.65 Gathered from reliable sources, various Continental flowering times for R. moschata appear in Historia Plantarum Universalis, a work largely compiled by Johann Bauhin between 1600 and his death in 1613 (and completed by others and published in 1650–51). Most say August to November; but it is stated to flower in May and again in autumn in Montpellier, and almost all year-round in Italy, according to reports received by Bauhin’s old mentor Conrad Gessner (Gesner, d. 1565).66 By way of confirming his identification of Titania’s musk rose as English Rosa arvensis, F. G. Savage67 quotes four lines of Lycidas (1637), observing that Milton ‘also refers to the musk-rose … linking it, as Shakespeare does, with other of our country wildings’- The glowing violet, The musk rose, and the well-attired woodbine, With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, And every flower that sad embroidery wears.68 But, as Milton goes on to say, ‘frail thoughts dally with false surmise’. The preceding two lines of this floral catalogue (Lycidas, ll. 143–144) contain ‘pale jessamine’ (Jasminum officinale), which is neither native to Britain nor naturalized, and ‘The white pink’, by which Milton is more likely to have meant a cultivated Dianthus variety than one found growing truly wild. ‘Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed’ (Lycidas, l. 149), the line that directly follows those quoted by Savage, features another alien introduction, a striking garden ornamental for which, like the musk rose, there were precedents in Elizabethan verse.69 The species in this passage are demonstrably not all English ‘country wildings’. Why, then, should Milton’s ‘musk-rose’ be Rosa arvensis and not R. moschata? Rather, this plant assemblage, like those in Spenser, Shakespeare, Drayton, Jonson, and other English poets of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries,70 presents species and cultivars native and exotic, wild and cultivated, with and without symbolic or mythic connotations, in a fantasy habitat or in hyperreal profusion which, far from replicating British rural scenery, owes much to Classical pastoral and even more to the names established, plants introduced and gardens developed by Tudor botany and horticulture. At first, many of the species so assembled belonged to a long-familiar, indeed hackneyed, repertoire of literary flora.71 Then, from the late sixteenth century onwards, poets looked to contemporary herbals and horticultural innovators, gathering a vastly greater range of varieties. Most did little with them apart from arranging their English names in blocks of verbal colour. Shakespeare, however, was different. He used plants with evident knowledge and precision and, it seems, with an interest in those that were novel and/or remarkable. He focused on their characteristics and properties, and sometimes made them integral to the work, as with the roses in 1 Henry VI, the ‘purple flower … chequered with white’ in Venus and Adonis, and love-in-idleness in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In view of which, why should Shakespeare’s ‘musk roses’ not be Rosa moschata? There is no sound basis for thinking that they are any other species, and much is lost in doing so. Mysteriously remote in origin and perfumed at evening, R. moschata befits Titania, sometime frequenter of ‘the spiced Indian air by night’ and recipient of tokens ‘As from a voyage rich with merchandise’ (MND, II.i.124, 134). The association of this seductive alien rose with the Fairy Queen parallels the identification of the pure English eglantine with the Virgin Queen, who, unusually, is portrayed in the play (MND, II.i.155–164). Above all, it is the regal, not the rustic, that Oberon describes, a woodland bank magicked into an enchanted arbour that is furnished with floral treasures. Of these plants, none makes that point more eloquently than ‘sweet musk roses’, the prized exotic Rosa moschata. Appendix: ‘Briar’ and ‘thorn’ in Shakespeare To Elizabethans, a briar was a large rose plant, possibly wild in origin and certainly in behaviour, with long, arching, or clambering and thorny stems. Gerard applied the names ‘Brier’ to Rosa canina, and ‘sweete Brier’ to R. rubiginosa and R. micrantha (two species treated as one in his day). He noted that Latin authors called R. canina ‘Canina sentis, or Dogs Thorne’, but he did not accept the translation ‘Dogs Thorne’ as its English name. For him, this species was not a ‘thorn’ but ‘The Brier or Hep tree’ (Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 6–6v, pp. 1087–8). Although an ornamental of hybrid origin, the White Rose (R. x alba ‘Alba Semiplena’) resembled these briars in size, habit, and thorniness. Gerard noted that, naturalized, ‘The double white Rose doth growe wilde in many hedges of Lancashire in great abundance, even as Briers do with us in these southerly parts’ (Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 3, p. 1081). Shakespeare, too, saw briars as rugged and rampageous ramblers. In Err. (II.ii.181), ‘Usurping ivy, briar, or idle moss’ are named as capable of infesting and despoiling an elm tree. Shakespeare used ‘thorn’ in its primary sense of a spine or prickle. In AWW (IV.iv.32–33), Helen mentions summer, ‘When briars shall have leaves as well as thorns, / And be as sweet as sharp.’ She means sweet briar or eglantine (R. rubiginosa/R.micrantha), thorny and with fragrant (‘sweet’) foliage. In 1H6 (II.iv.69), Somerset asks, ‘Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet?’ This, again, is ‘thorn’ in its primary sense, and R. x alba ‘Alba Semiplena’, the briar-like White Rose of York, does indeed possess ferocious thorns. However, ‘thorn’ also signified woody plants that were thorny but not the same as briars. The two were treated as distinct; see, for example, The holie Bible (‘The Bishops’ Bible’), London, 1568: ‘For thornes, there shall growe firre trees, and the Myre tree in the steede of bryers’ (Esai/Isaiah 55:13, XCVI, sig. Mviii); ‘The best of them is as bryer, and the most righteous of them is sharper then a thorne hedge’ (Micheas/Micah 7:4, CXCIII, sig. Bbi). Dense or compact branching was evidently a defining quality of ‘thorn’ in this sense, hence Starveling’s prop in MND: ‘This man, with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn, / Presenteth Moonshine’ (V.i. 134–135); ‘this thorn-bush my thorn-bush’ (V.i.248–249). Shakespeare used ‘thorn’ in this second sense for rose shrubs smaller and bushier than briars. In 1H6, the Red Rose plucked ‘from off this thorn’ is R. gallica ‘Officinalis’, the Red Rose of Lancaster. In LLL (IV.iii.101–103), Dumaine evokes ‘a blossom passing fair’ (a pun—this flower, like his love Katherine, is not fair but dark) with ‘velvet leaves’ (petals), lamenting: ‘But, alack, my hand is sworn / Ne’er to pluck thee from thy thorn.’ This is probably the plant described by Gerard as ‘Rosa Holosericea. / The veluet Rose … [which] groweth alwaies very low, like vnto the red Rose … [and with flowers] of a deepe and blacke red colour, resembling red crimson veluet’ (Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 5, p. 1085)—a Gallica cultivar now known as Rosa ‘Tuscany’. In MND (I.i.76–78), Theseus advises Hermia: ‘But earthlier happy is the rose distilled, / Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn, / Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.’ Here ‘thorn’ is either a Gallica or a Damask rose, both kinds bushy and with petals ‘distilled’ for perfumery. An apparent exception to this briar/thorn distinction is Flute rehearsing the part of Thisbe at MND III.i.88–89: ‘Most radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of hue, / Of colour like the red rose on triumphant briar’. It could be that this briar is eglantine (hence ‘triumphant’, from its association with ERI) and that ‘the red rose’ here is merely descriptive of its flowers, which as Lyte says, are ‘most commonly white and sometimes redde’ (A Nieuue Herball, sig. kkkv (p. 654); red was often used to signify ‘pink’ in this period before pink became a colour adjective). Equally, it might be a deliberate error on the part of Shakespeare, who evidently knew that the triumphant red rose (the Red Rose or Rosa rubra of Elizabethans, i.e. the Red Rose of Lancaster, R. gallica ‘Officinalis’) grew on a ‘thorn’ and not on a briar. Although it is not as obvious as ‘Most brisky [= bristly] juvenile’ or as funny as ‘Sweet moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams’, this blunder would be entirely in keeping with other lines in MND’s ‘Tedious and brief scene of young Pyramus / And his love for Thisbe: very tragical mirth’, which are rife with comic contradictions and misunderstandings. Footnotes 1 Although the form ‘musk-rose’ is sometimes seen, the unhyphenated ‘musk rose’ is standard in botany and horticulture and goes back to the name’s earliest sixteenth-century appearances in print. Musk rose no more needs a hyphen than do Damask rose, cinnamon rose, tea rose, and dog rose. It appears as ‘[sweete] muske roses’, ‘musk rose [buds]’, and ‘[stick] musk roses’ in MND Q1 (1600), and as ‘[sweet] muske roses’, ‘muske rose [buds]’, and ‘[stick] muske roses’ in MND F1 (1623). 2 M. Griffiths, The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening: Index of Garden Plants (London, 1994), 1009. 3 J. Gerard, The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (London, 1597), sig. Aaaa 4v (p. 1084). 4 M. Griffiths, ‘A true midsummer night’s dream’, Country Life, ccxi.39 (27 September 2017) 99. 5 R. Phillips and M. Rix, The Ultimate Guide to Roses (London, 2004), 16–19. 6 B. Ciragan, ‘Tulips, Traders and Roses’, The Indian Rose Annual, xxxi (published for the Indian Rose Federation, India, 2015), 102–4, 121–2. 7 For a digest of early scholarly opinions, Persian and European, about R. moschata, see J. Bauhin et al., Historia Plantarum Universalis (Yverdon, 1651), II, 45–7. 8 G. Manardo, Io. Manardi Ferrariensis Epistolarum medicinalium Tomus Secundus, numquam antea in Gallia excusus (Lyon, 1532), 407, 408 (Book X, epistola prima; Damascena, i.e. Rosa moschata, mentioned), 484 (this epistle is dated December 1521). 9 Anon., (Fr. Angelus Palea Iuvenatiensis and Fr. Bartholomaeus ab Urbeveterum) In antidotarium Ioannis filii Mesue cum declaratione simplicium medicinarum, & solutione multorum dubiorum, ac difficilium terminorum, (Venice, 1543), index sig. diiiiv (rosa muscata, vel muscatella), 80 (Avicenna … Nesrin: & vulgares apud Hispaniam & Barbariam appellant rosam muscatam). 10 H. A‘lam, ‘Gol’ [headword = rose] in Encyclopaedia Iranica, xi. Fasc. 1, (London and New York, 2003) 46–52; an updated version is online at <http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gol>. 11 P. A. Mattioli (Matthiolus), Petri Andreae Matthioli Senensis serenissimi Principis Ferdinandi Archiducis Austriae & c., Medici, Commentarii secundo aucti: in libros sex Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de medica materia, (Venice, 1558), sig. l 3 (p. 125). 12 Pliny, Naturalis Historiae, XXI.x. The rose spiniola (usually spelt ‘Spineola’ by renaissance authors) is at XXI.x.16—vol. VI, p. 172 of Natural History, the Loeb Classical Library edition (Cambridge, MA and London, reprinted 1989). Since Pliny describes it as vilissimam, ‘the most worthless’ or ‘the least valued’, this rose is highly unlikely to have been R. moschata. 13 Mattioli, Petri Andreae Matthioli Senensis, sig. l 3v (p. 126). 14 R. Dodoens, Florum, et coronariarum odoratarumque nonnullarum herbarum historia (Antwerp, 1568). His main statements on the musk rose, species ‘5. Quinta’ in his account of roses, are on sig. F 8v (p. 96, a rose of cultivation with most pleasingly musk-scented flowers); sig. Gv (p. 98, it blooms secondly in August as well as in May or early June); sig. G 2v (p. 100, the name Moschata established, Pliny’s ‘Coroneola’, the synonym Damascena, vernacular names); and sig. G 3v (p. 102, its uses). 15 W. H. Ryff, Pedanii Dioscoridis Anazarbei De Medicinali Materia libri sex, Ioanne Ruellio Suessionensi interprete … Additis etiam annotationibus sive scholis brevissimis … per Gualtherum H. Ryff (Frankfurt, 1543), sig. F3 (p. 65). 16 In 1762, Johannes Herrmann (sometimes styled Jean or Johan Hermann) formally published the binomial Rosa moschata, so conferring modern scientific standing on a botanical name that had been used consistently and uniquely for this rose since the sixteenth century. Hence the full current scientific citation, Rosa moschata Herrm., for the same entity as Dodoens’s R. moschata and the musk rose of Tudor England. J. Herrmann, Dissertatio Inauguralis Botanico-Medica de Rosa (Strasbourg, 1762), 15, 16. 17 Pliny, Naturalis Historiae, XXI.x.19—vol. VI, p. 174 of the Loeb Classical Library edition. The rose coroniola was usually spelt ‘Coroneola’ by renaissance authors. 18 P. A. Mattioli, I discorsi di M. Pietro Andrea Matthioli … nelli sei libri di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo della materia medicinale (Venice, 1568), sig. R 6V (p. 204). 19 For more on the Hakluyts, see E. G. R. Taylor (ed.), The Original Writings & Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts (London, 1935), I, introduction and Document 37 (musk rose, p. 194). Taylor’s understanding of botany and botanical history is sometimes faulty. 20 R. Hakluyt, The Second Volume of the Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (London, 1599), sig. O 5 (p. 165). 21 J. Harvey, Early Nurserymen (London and Chichester, 1974), 28. Harvey comments, ‘It is likely that “1524” [the date for le Loup’s introduction of the apricot often given in secondary sources] is simply a mistake for 1542, since “John Wolf” comes on the scene only in 1538.’ 22 For Cromwell’s visits to Italy, see M. Everett, The Rise of Thomas Cromwell: Power and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII (New Haven and London, 2015), 14, 15, 135. 23 Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic … of Henry VIII, V, 354 (no. 743); VI 72 (no. 158); V, 486 (no. 1066). As Lady Audeley is sending ‘news growing in her garden’, the sense here may be not ‘tidings’ but ‘novelties’ [i.e. new plants] (OED2 s.v. news, sb., 1., obs. and rare, last recorded 1565). Modestly, she asks Cromwell only to send her letters about his new introductions. For the extension to his garden, see Everett, Rise of Thomas Cromwell, 195. 24 W. Turner, The seconde parte of William Turners herbal … , (Cologne, 1562), sig. Uijv. 25 H. Lyte, A Nieuue Herball, or Historie of Plantes (London, 1578), sig. kkkiv (p. 654). 26 Ibid., sig. kkkij (p. 655). 27 J. Gerard, Catalogus arborum, fruticum ac plantarum tam indigenarum, quam exoticarum, in horto Iohannis Gerardi civis & Chirurgi Londinensis nascentium (London, 1596), sig. C 3. 28 J. Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Aaaa 4v (p. 1084). 29 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 5v (p.1086), sig. Aaaab (p. 1087). 30 H. N. Ellacombe, The Plant-Lore & Garden-Craft of Shakespeare (Exeter, [1878], 197); the text is unchanged in the 2nd edn., (London, 1884), 252. 31 M. Rydén, Shakespearean Plant names: Identifications and Interpretations, Stockholm Studies in English, xliii (Stockholm, 1978), 79. 32 F. G. Savage, The Flora & Folk Lore of Shakespeare (Cheltenham and London, 1923), 66, 67. 33 G. S. Thomas, Climbing Roses Old and New (London, 1965, new edn. 1983), 49. 34 ‘Musk rose’ tout court has signified R. moschata exclusively ever since. Modified by a prefix, it occurs in English names for different cultivars and species, for example the group of crosses known as Hybrid Musk Roses, and the Himalayan Musk Rose (R. brunonii). Obvious exceptions to this are single[-flowered] musk rose and double[-flowered] musk rose, both of which are R. moschata. 35 S. Wells (ed.), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (London, 1967), 137. 36 Rydén, Shakespearean Plant names. 37 P. Holland (ed.), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oxford, 1994), 168. 38 R. A. Foakes (ed.), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Cambridge, updated edn. 2003), 79. 39 In Rei Rusticae Libri Quatuor (Cologne, 1570), Conrad Heresbach mentions Damascenae albae (Rosa moschata under its earlier name) on sig. q and, overleaf, two further varieties of rose, incarnatas & provinciales. In his translation of this work, Foure Bookes of Husbandrie (London, 1577, 66b = sig. Jiiiv), Barnabe Googe misinterprets Damascena albae as ‘the damaske and the white’ (in modern nomenclature, R. x damascena and R. x alba) i.e. as two different kinds of rose that are not R. moschata. On the same page, five lines later, incarnatas & provinciales is given as ‘Carnation & Provincers’; beside it is a marginalium: ‘Muskroses’. Two explanations seem likely: 1. This marginalium was proposed by somebody who knew that Heresbach’s Damascenae albae were musk roses, but it was then typeset a few lines too low. 2. It was a correction to Googe’s error ‘the damaske and the white’ that was misunderstood to be a marginalium and mistakenly inserted beside ‘Carnation & Provincers’ (perhaps because that sentence goes on to say that they have ‘a most excellent savour’—a famous musk rose attribute). However it arose, it is a slip: Elizabethans knew only R. moschata as musk rose. The same error (now as ‘Muske-/roses.’) occurs in the 1586 printing of Foure Bookes of Husbandrie (66b). OED2 cites the 1577 marginalium as its earliest instance of musk-rose; but Turner, The seconde parte of William Turners herbal, has priority. 40 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Hh I (p. 481). R. Dodoens, Stirpium historiae pemptades sex, sive libri xxx [usually referred to as ‘Pemptades’], (Antwerp, 1583), sig. P 5v (p. 178). 41 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Hh I (p. 481). 42 Ibid., sig. Ff 4 (p. 455). 43 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 1v–Aaaa 2 (pp. 1078–9). 44 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 3 (p.1081). 45 Ibid. 46 Ibid., sig. Aaaa 4v (p. 1084). 47 F. Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, Essay XLVI in The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, ed. Michael Kiernan (Oxford, 1985), 140. 48 M. Griffiths, ‘Unravelling the mystery of Ophelia’s orchids’, Country Life, ccx.16 (20 April 2016), 70–1. 49 M. Griffiths, ‘Face to face with Shakespeare’, Country Life, ccix.21, (20 May 2015), 132–3. 50 Inner Temple Miscellaneous MS 32, folio 12v. Some secondary sources date the new garden to 1601; but this primary record clearly states that it was made circa 1591. The MS account begins ‘Anno. 32.’, i.e. 1590. It continues, ‘In the tyme of his [Robertus Golden’s] Treasourship anno. 33. Eliz. 1591. The newe faire garden plott was taken into severalty …’. Robert Golden or Golding was Treasurer of the Inner Temple from November 1589 to November 1591. The gardener’s employment terms were settled by the parliament of the Inner Temple on April 25 1591 (see A Calendar of the Inner Temple Records, ed. F. A. Inderwick, London 1896, vol. I, 373). 51 G. Chapman, Ovids Banquet of Sence (London, 1595), sig. B2, first line of last stanza. 52 T. Hill writing as ‘Dydymus Mountaine’, The Gardeners Labyrinth (London, 1577), I, sig. C iiiiv (p. 24). 53 BL, MS Additional 27278, xi. 77. See also Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 285, 290 fn. 63–4. 54 Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 140. 55 H. E. Sandison (ed.), The Poems of Sir Arthur Gorges (Oxford, 1953), 125, l. 21; on p. 225, Sandison argues that Gorges began the poem as a tribute to his first wife Douglas Howard and later recast it as a hymn to Elizabeth. Certainly, its last stanza leaves no doubt that ERI was its eventual subject, but the rest of the poem also fits her, including ‘whatt worthy braunch thys blossom bare’ (l. 23). Sandison reads this as originally having referred to a family’s branches and thus to Douglas Howard, a remote kinswoman of the Queen. However, it could equally mean ERI, either as the flower of a worthy branch (the ‘hye lynage’ Gorges extols in the last stanza) or, if ‘braunch’ = OED2, branch, sb. 5.b, ‘A child, descendant’, as the eglantine blossom’s worthy offspring or scion; cf. Robert Chester’s Praecatio: ‘Elizabeth that braunch of perfect blisse / We call our queene for whom we all must pray …’ (Poems by Sir John Salusbury and Robert Chester; EETS. e.s., cxiii (London, 1914), 19). Although titled A Pastorall unfynyshed in Gorges’ holograph, the poem is better known as Eglantine of Meryfleur after Spenser’s reference to it (‘In thy sweet Eglantine of Meriflure’) in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (1595, but in progress by late 1591); see R. McCabe (ed.) Edmund Spenser, The Shorter Poems (London, 1989) 355, l. 389. For more on eglantine’s association with ERI, see R. Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (California, 1977), 68–82. 56 BL Egerton MS 2623, f. 17r (contractions expanded). This is one of two known copies of the entertainment made in the 1590s. The second and slightly differing MS (Hatfield House: Cecil Papers, vol. 140, no. 94) does not depart in wording from the passage quoted here. Since it is eglantine’s leaves, and not its blooms, that smell sweet, ‘in the flower’ may be figurative, i.e. in its flourishing—hence the apparent non-sequitur, ‘the sweeter it smelleth in the flower, makinge it ever so greene’; cf. Shakespeare 1H6, II.v.56 (‘all my flowering youth’), and, possibly, Spenser, Faerie Queene, II.v, stanza 29 (‘an Arber greene dispred, / Framed of wanton Yvie, flouring faire, / Through which the fragrant Eglantine did spred’). For more on this entertainment, see M.-L. Coolahan (ed.), John Nichols’s The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I: A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources ed. E. Goldring et al. (Oxford, 2014) III.536. 57 Hill, The Gardeners Labyrinth, II, sig. P iiii (p. 38). 58 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Ff 4 (p. 455), sig. Ff 5 (p. 457). 59 Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 141. 60 Ibid., 143. 61 Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, sig. Xx 5v (p. 698). 62 Ibid., 635–6. Poets also regarded these plants as cultivated. For example, in Willobie his Avisa (by ‘Henry Willobie’, possibly a pseudonym, and published 1594), ‘H.W.’ uses two of them and oxlip’s close relation cowslip in an expanded horticultural metaphor addressed to the unyielding object of his love: ‘I saw your gardens passing fyne, / With pleasant flowers lately dect, / With Couslops and with Eglentine, / When wofull Woodbyne lyes reject: / Yet these in weedes and briars meet, / Although they seeme to smell so sweet’ (Canto LXVIII). Willobie His Avisa with an Essay toward its interpretation by Charles Hughes (London and Manchester, 1904), 127. 63 Hill, The Gardeners Labyrinth, I, sig. H iiv–H iiiiv (pp. 60–4). 64 For example: Edmund Spenser, 1579, The Shepheardes Calender, ‘Aprill’, ll. 60–63: ‘Damaske roses’, ‘Daffadilies’, ‘Primroses greene’, ‘sweete Violet’. Michael Drayton, 1593, Idea: The Shepheards Garland, Eglog 8, a poem set ‘when May was in her prime’: ‘sweete Cetywall’ (Curcuma zeodaria, an incongruous exotic in this pastoral, but so identified in Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, s.v. Setwall, and so intended by Drayton’s idol Chaucer in The Miller’s Tale: ‘As sweete as is the roote / Of lycoryce or any cetewale’), ‘hony-suckle’, ‘Harlocke’ (probably Drayton’s modification, for alliteration’s sake, of charlocke, i.e. Sinapis arvensis), ‘Lilly’, ‘Lady-smocke’. Shakespeare, 1613–14, The Two Noble Kinsmen, I.i. 1–12: ‘Roses, their sharp spines being gone’ (probably influenced by Rosa sine spinis, see Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1080), ‘Maiden pinks’, ‘Daisies’, ‘sweet thyme’, ‘Primrose’, ‘harebells’ (Hyacinthoides), ‘oxlips’, ‘Marigolds’, ‘Lark’s-heels’. 65 Bacon, ‘Of Gardens’, 140. 66 J. Bauhin et al., Historia Plantarum Universalis, (Yverdon, 1651), II, 47. 67 Savage, Flora & Folk Lore, 68. 68 J. Milton, Poetical Works, ed. D. Bush (Oxford, reprinted 1979), 146, ll. 145–148. 69 At the climax of Thomas Watson’s long Latin poem Amyntas (published 1585) the eponymous protagonist is transformed into Amaranthus. The same plant (linked to ‘Amintas’ and alluding to Watson) appears in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Book III, Canto VI, stanza 45. 70 To name a few: Edmund Spenser (a), The Shepheardes Calender, ‘Aprill’, ll. 136–144. Spenser (b), The Faerie Queene, iii,vi stanzas 43–45. Barnabe Barnes, Parthenophil and Parthenope (1593): verse collection includes rosemary, roses, honeysuckle, violets, anemones, lilies, hyacinths amaranthus, ivy, daffodils, cowslips, nettles, thistles, myrrh, frankincense, cypress, cherries, apples, apricots, aspens, poplars, and alder in various combinations. George Chapman, Ovids Banquet of Sence, last stanza on sig. B2 and first stanza on B2v in the first edition: a garden scene of 18 lines containing 20 plants of various kinds, origins and uses. Robert Chester, A wynter garland of Sommer fflowers, pp. 15–18 in 1914 edn. cited at footnote 54 above: 102 lines, composed late 1598/early 1599, with 27 disparate plants mainly taken from Gerard’s Herball, of which Chester’s master Sir John Salusbury was an early owner and assiduous user (his annotated copy is at Christ Church College, Oxford). Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion Song XV (1612), ll. 141–204: 50 varieties of plants, wild and cultivated, ornamental and medicinal, largely based on Gerard. Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, IV.iv.118–127. Ben Jonson (a), The Vision of Delight, masque performed 1617; in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson, vol. 5 (Cambridge, 2012), 287, ll. 153–156: ‘How the blue bindweed doth itself enfold / With honeysuckle, and both these entwine / Themselves with bryony and jessamine, / To cast a kind and odoriferous shade!’—honeysuckle and bryony are English natives; jessamine (Jasminum officinale) is exotic, as is blue bindweed (Ipomoea nil), which, like many of his plants, Jonson appears to have taken from Gerard’s Herball (‘Convolvulus Caeruleus. / Blew Bindweed’ in Gerard, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597, 714–715). Jonson (b), Pan’s Anniversary, masque performed 1621; in The Cambridge Edition (2012), vol. 5, 452, ll. 24–36: 32 plants of widely differing types and origins called-for simultaneously. 71 In that most of the species were standard props of Classical pastoral. In botanical terms, however, there was nothing especially novel about some of the more diverse and domestic-seeming verse plant catalogues produced before the 1590s. Compare, for example, Spenser’s in The Shepheardes Calender (1579), ‘Aprill’ ll. 136–144, with this from St Patrick’s Purgatory, by an unidentified poet, from a manuscript compiled circa 1330–40: Fair were her erbers wiþ floures, / Rose and lili, diuers colours, / Primrol & paruink, / Mint, feþerfoy & eglentere, / Colombin and mo þer were / Þan ani man mai biþenke. (R. Easting (ed.), St Patrick’s Purgatory, EETS 298 (1991), 26, stanza 147.) © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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