“And in his left he held a basket full
Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull
Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still
Than Leda’s love, and cresses from the rill.”
Is it at all believable that by September, these snow-white flowers developed into crimson and scarlet berries, each berry containing vermilion flesh round a pale, hard seed? There is an old Sussex legend that St. Leonard fought against a great dragon in the woods near Horsham, only vanquishing it after a mortal combat lasting many hours, during which he received grievous wounds, but wherever his blood fell, Lilies-of-the-Valley sprang up to commemorate the desperate fight, and the woods, which bear the name of St. Leonard’s Forest to this day, are still thickly carpeted with them. Maybe St. Leonard’s blood returns in the form of berries…
Legend also says that the fragrance of the Lily-of-the-Valley draws the nightingale from hedge and bush, and leads him to choose his mate in the recesses of the glade.
“Where scattered wild the Lily of the Vale
Its balmy essence breathes.”
Thomson, The Seasons. Spring.
“And leaves of that shy plant,
(Her flowers were shed) the lily of the vale,
That loves the ground, and from the sun withholds
Her pensive beauty; from the breeze her sweets”.
Wordsworth, The Excursion