Friday, July 24, 2009

Fennel, John Milton and Strokestown House

We have fennel growing in the garden (picture above) with some other herbs. I like its interesting aroma and pleasing shape and colours. Sitting in the chair recently reading Paradise Lost I came across a reference to the herb. Satan is tempting Eve, describing the tree with the forbidden fruit:

Till on a day roving the field, I chanc'd
A goodly tree far distant to behold,

Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mix'd,

Ruddy and gold. I nearer drew to gaze,

When from
the boughs a savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleas'd my sense

Than smell of sweetest fennel,

Paradise Lost IX (575-581).

A note stated that according to popular belief, snakes liked fennel.

An internet research provided a lot of information about the herb and its uses.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about it in his poem The Goblet of Life:

Above the lowly plants it towers,
The fennel, with its yellow flowers,

And in an earlier age than ours

Was gifted with the wondrous powers,

Lost vision to restore.

That last line is interesting in view of the fact that Milton was blind by the time he was composing Paradise Lost. Had he tried fennel as a cure?

Then last week on a visit to the very impressive gardens of Strokestown House, Co Roscommon I saw fennel growing in what is or was listed in the Guinness Book Of Records as the longest Herbaceous Border in Britain and Ireland. (Picture below).

1 comment:

Honor Duff said...

Another lovely garden photo to delight us, Michael, thank you. The local bees and butterflies must think they are in insect heaven. The Fennel corner looks very fit for a poet, and the Milton link so appropriate. Strokestown House gardens seem well worth a visit.