The general design of the following sheets is to inlist Imagination under the banner of Science, and to lead her votaries from the looser analogies, which dress out the imagery of poetry, to the stricter ones, which form the ratiocination of philosophy. While their particular design is to induce the ingenious to cultivate the knowledge of botany; by introducing them to the vestibule of that delightful science, and recommending to their attention the immortal works of the Swedish Naturalist Linneus.
In the first Poem, or Economy of Vegetation, the physiology of Plants is delivered; and the operation of the Elements, as far as they may be supposed to affect the growth of Vegetables. But the publication of this part is deferred to another year, for the purpose of repeating some experiments on vegetation, mentioned in the notes. In the second poem, or loves of the plants, which is here presented to the Reader, the Sexual System of Linneus is explained, with the remarkable properties of many particular plants.
The author has withheld this work, (excepting a few pages) many years from the press, according to the rule of Horace, hoping to have rendered it more worthy the acceptance of the public,—but finds at length, that he is less able, from disuse, to correct the poetry; and, from want of leizure, to amplify the annotations.
In this second edition, the plants Amaryllis, Orchis, and Cannabis are inserted with two additional prints of flowers; some alterations are made in Gloriosa, and Tulipa; and the description of the Salt-mines in Poland is removed to the first poem on the Economy of Vegetation.
Linneus has divided the vegetable world into 24 Classes; these Classes into about 120 Orders; these Orders contain about 2000 Families, or Genera; and these Families about 20,000 Species; besides the innumerable Varieties, which the accidents of climate or cultivation have added to these Species.
The Classes are distinguished from each other in this ingenious system, by the number, situation, adhesion, or reciprocal proportion of the males in each flower. The Orders, in many of these Classes, are distinguished by the number, or other circumstances of the females. The Families, or Genera, are characterized by the analogy of all the parts of the flower or fructification. The Species are distinguished by the foliage of the plant; and the Varieties by any accidental circumstance of colour, taste, or odour; the seeds of these do not always produce plants similar to the parent; as in our numerous fruit-trees and garden flowers; which are propagated by grafts or layers.
The first eleven Classes include the plants, in whose flowers both the sexes reside; and in which the Males or Stamens are neither united, nor unequal in height when at maturity; and are therefore distinguished from each other simply by the number of males in each flower, as is seen in the annexed Plate, copied from the Dictionaire Botanique of M. BULLIARD, in which the numbers of each division refer to the Botanic Classes.