Thornton, Robert John (1768?-1837) / Temple of Flora, or, Garden of the botanist, poet, painter, and philosopher.
Nymphaea Nelumbo; or, Sacred Egyptian Bean.
NYMPHAEA NELUMBO; OR, SACRED EGYPTIAN BEAN. IN hot climates, where water is the best boon of Heaven, flourish the several kinds of Nym- phaeas. These present the purest colours, and are of an azure blue, or blushing red, or pale yellow, the three primary colours, and also of a dazzling white, all which majestically (different from our humble aquatics), rise with their foliage above the surface of the flood, and present their luxuriant leaves to the vaulted heavens. Nature, as if designing these plants to be the masterpiece of her creative power, besides superior grace and beauty, has also added utility; for the seed-vessels contain nourishing food for man, as also the roots, which produce, as will be hereafter shewn, the profitable potatoe. As the Egyptians worshipped whatever was useful, they accounted these plants sacred; in their feasts they crowned themselves with the flowers, and their altars were decorated with the same. The Egyptian Ceres has the seed-vessel of the Blue Lotos in her hand, which the Romans corrupted into the poppy; and sometimes also that of the Nelumbo, which the Greeks mistook for the horn of Amalthea. The subject of this narrative, however, relates wholly to the Nyrnphaea Nelumbo, which some modern naturalists, instead of reckoning as a Nymphaea, have formed it into a distinct genus; for its calyx, instead of being large, consists of four narrow leaves, and the corolla is more multiplied than in the other water-lilies, and, wholly unlike other Nymphaeas, it has stamina with anthers on long and slender filaments, and its seed-vessel, like an inverted cone, is flat at the top, and pierced with hollows, like an honey-comb, for the reception of its beans, or seeds. The following Eastern Hymn, transfused into the English tongue by Sir William Jones, gives us the antiquity of the flower of the Nelumbium, as received among the Asiatics: AN HINDOO HYMN. SPIRIT oF SPIRITS, who through every part Of space expanded and of endless time, Beyond the stretch of lab'ring thought sublime, Bade uproar into beauteous order start, Before heaven was, THOU art: Ere spheres beneath us roll'd, or spheres above, Ere earth in firmamental ether hung, THOU sat'st alone; till, through THY mystic love, Things unexisting to existence sprung,* And grateful descant sung. - The mythology of the Hindoos referred all to one primitive GOD.
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