Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon’s sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I’ll be gone;
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.
William Shakespeare “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Act 2 Scene 1.
Cowslips (Primula veris) at one time were found in vast numbers along verges and in meadows, the sweet scent of Spring … in fact its botanical name means “first flower of Spring”.
Shakespeare’s allusion to fairies and cowslips was drawn from old myths which claimed that fairies sought refuge inside cowslips in times of danger. Cowslips were dedicated to the goddess Frigga/Freya in Norse mythology and they played a part in the remedies of Celtic druids. The flowers resemble a bunch of keys and are sometimes called Herb Peter – St Peter’s emblem is the keys of heaven.
The flowers and leaves are edible and rich in Vitamin C. The gold spots referred to in “A Midsummer night’s Dream” were said to aid the complexion – “fairy favours”. Cowslip wine was an old country recipe, said to steady the nerves, due to its analgesic properties.
Whatever its connotations, it’s a delightful addition to the meadows in Springtime.
I’ve never seen Cowslips, they’re so bright and cheery! 😀 Love hearing about the remedies as well as the mythology about them.
Thank you Julie. They used to appear everywhere in the countryside in spring.. they are sometimes grown in gardens .. very pretty. Lots of folklore attached to them!
I adore cowslips they always remind me of childhood holidays in Cornwall.
Yes – they have a nostalgic quality to them … perhaps because they used to be so numerous at this time of year.
Lovely post, Jardin. It must be many years since I saw cowslips. So pretty. 🙂
Thank you! They are apparently making a resurgence in the countryside – which is great news!
I also have not seen cowslips. I wonder if they grow in the states or are sold in garden shops? Most likely they would prefer the North.
They are native to much of northern Europe, though not the coldest regions, often found along the laneways, fields and woodlands. They are now often included in wildflower seed mixes.
What a beautiful post! I love the magical connection with fairies. I had also forgotten that the flowers and leaves were edible! My Cowslips have done so well this year. I can recall them growing wild when I was young. Here in Devon there are many wild Primroses, but not Cowslips. They are very special.-Karen,
How lovely to have cowslips .. have’t eaten them myself I hasten to add. They were more numerous in my childhood too. Glad you enjoyed the post.
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed reading the post!
Lovely flowers, verses and info!
Thank you – glad you liked it!
“Steady the nerves”–what for I wonder?
Thanks for this! I’m always looking for forage-able plants. I’ll have to try making that wine!
Good time for foraging though I haven’t eaten cowslips myself!