Our work during the next hour will be to consider this question. You were asked last week to bring with you to-day a primrose-flower, or a whole plant if possible, in order the better to follow out with me the “Life of a Primrose.” (To enjoy this lecture, the reader ought to have, if possible, a primrose-flower, an almond soaked for a few minutes in hot water, and a piece of orange.) This is a very different kind of subject from those of our former lectures. There we took world-wide histories; we travelled up to the sun, or round the earth, or into the air; now I only ask you to fix your attention on one little plant, and inquire into its history.
There is a beautiful little poem by Tennyson, which says —
“Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies;
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower; but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.”
We cannot learn all about this little flower, but we can learn enough to understand that it has a real separate life of its own, well worth knowing. For a plant is born, breathes, sleeps, feeds, and digests just as truly as an animal does, though in a different way. It works hard both for itself to get its food, and for others in making the air pure and fit for animals to breathe. It often lays by provision for the winter. It sends young plants out, as parents send their children, to fight for themselves in the world; and then, after living sometimes to a good old age, it dies, and leaves its place to others.
We will try to follow out something of this life to-day; and first, we will begin with the seed.
I have here a packet of primrose-seeds, but they are so small that we cannot examine them; so I have also had given to each one of you an almond-kernel, which is the seed of the almond-tree, and which has been soaked, so that it splits in half easily. From this we can learn about seeds in general, and then apply it to the primrose.