Punch, September 7, 1904


[Suggested by the views of a Times correspondent on the cult of the Edelweiss.]

On everything poetic
 Your moderns look askance:
And daily Prose deals frequent blows
 Destructive to Romance.
But though Romance is dying,
 Like everything that’s nice,
Since I was young I’ve thought it hung
 Around the Edelweiss.

’Twas plucked, I deemed, by lovers,
 Who braved the Alpine snows,
And hung for weeks from icy peaks,
 Suspended by their toes:
They cared not though beneath them
 There yawned a drop of miles,
But with a grin they roped it in,
 And won their lady’s smiles.

But now it seems that perils
 Need not be faced at all:
You only need to buy the seed,
 The price of which is small;
And in the heart of London,
 A mile from Temple Bar,
You plant in earth your pennyworth,
 And then—well, there you are!

Oh, Times’s correspondent,
 You might have spared us this!
We did not know that this was so,
 And ignorance was bliss.
If further revelations
 You chance to have in store,
Be generous, please, and spare us these,
I hear they don’t want more.




Unsigned verse as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 127 of Punch.




“THE FATAL EDELWEISS. In olden times unwary travellers were supposed to be lured to their doom by the voice of a Circe, a Siren, or a Lurline, and there were also legends of ‘Airy tongues that syllable men’s names, On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.’ Our more practical age rejects all these beliefs, but the edelweiss exerts a no less fatal fascination, though with much less reason, since it has little to offer in the shape of beauty, and its odour is the reverse of inviting. The list of Alpine accidents due to the passion for gathering this plant is already of portentious length. It can be cultivated in Swiss gardens without difficulty, and if we are not mistaken, quantities of it are grown near Harrogate.” (Manchester Courier, August 16, 1904) Ralph Waldo Emerson: "There is a flower known to botanists which grows on the most inaccessible cliffs of the Tyrolese mountains, where the chamois dare hardly venture, and which the hunter, tempted by its beauty and by his love (for it is immensely valued by the Swiss maidens), climbs the cliffs to gather, and is sometimes found dead at the foot, with the flower in his hand.”


John Dawson