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superfluous or useless finds a  place in its
economy; even the flowersthat calm race,
all loveliness and tranquillity, without
passion or pain, desire or disappointment,
whose life is beauty and whose breath is
perfumeare destined to play no idle part
in the workshop of nature. To them is
committed the task of perpetuating vegetable
existence: upon their active industry depends
the life of every bird that soars in air, of
every beast that stalks across the plain, of
every insect that crawls over the surface of
the earth; the life of man himself; the very
existence of the universe as at present
constituted. Well may we ask with Tennyson,

"Who is it that could live an hour
If Nature put not forth her power
About the opening of a flower?"

Displaying in their form and essence an
union of the sweetest utilitarianism with
the most ideal beauty, the flowers
preside over the birth of the plants under
conditions giving rise to fancies that have
fed the imagination of generations of poets,
and have inspired the gravest botanical
philosophers of former ages with pleasant thoughts.
Many hundred years have passed since it was
first noticed that in several species of plants
two differing forms are developed, and that
the one plant never perfects its seed, unless
an individual of the other kind flowers
simultaneously in its vicinity. Thus, Pliny and
Theophrastus relate that the country people
hung flowering branches of one kind of date on
two boughs of the other, in order to secure full
crops: and Kœmpfer recounts that an inroad
of Turks into Bassora was checked by the
felling of all the date trees of one kind; when
the others refused to bear fruit. Yet more
romantic is the account furnished us by the
Italian Micheli, of the Vallisneria spiralis, an
inhabitant of the rivers. Here the flowers of
the one kind float on the water, those of the
other are bound to the bottom of the river,
until at the period of flowering they burst
from their bondage, float up to the object of
their affection, exchange a gentle kiss of love,
and are borne away by the rippling wavelet
soon to breathe out their lifefit emblems of
the ardent lover, consumed by inward flame,
and expiring even at the moment when he
has attained the consummation of his vows.
Alas, that earnest truth-loving Science should
step in to crush this graceful fabric of the
imagination, to strip this history of all its
glowing passion, and all its mystery of almost
human love! And yet we have no real cause
for lamentation. The highest truth is in
itself the highest poetry. The simple but
eternal and therefore sublime truths which
science substitutes for the visionary beauties
of the human imagination, far transcend the
inventions of the greatest masters of poetry.
In the place of isolated and mysterious facts,
without visible connection or harmony, it has
given us all-embracing principles, and has
furnished us with a mastery which will
unlock the secret chambers of Nature, and
enable us to behold all her operations,
regulated by an universal frame of laws.

The minute vegetable cell, artificer of the
world of plants, here again comes before us,
as the agent by which the marvels of
reproduction are effected. Not only is every
increase of mass the result of the development
of one cell from another; but, in propagation,
as we here understand it, consisting in the
separation of new forms of individual life, the
cell is equally the efficient instrument.
Within those beautiful thread-like
structures in the flower which delight us by their
endless wealth of form and colour, are
developed a definite number of single free
and unconnected cells, invested with an
almost indestructible yellow substance which
assumes the most elegant forms. By the
influence of each one of these cells,—hollow
cells they are calleda perfect individual
is to be produced, a new plant is to arise.
In the centre, either of the same flower,
or of another flower on the same, or a
different plantand on the variations in this
particular the Linnæan system, of classification
was foundedis seen a little pear-like
body, from which a funnel-shaped tube is
prolonged upward. In the cavity of this
pearthe germen of botanistsare developed
little seed-buds, each containing one large
cell, the embryo sac which itself produces the
germ-cellsthe elements of future plants.
At the period of flowering, the globular pollen
cells fall upon the orifice of the tube, but they
cannot pass through, for the tube is wondrous
small, and now they may be seen to elongate
into a long thread, pierce the seed-bud, arrive
at the embryonal sac, and by their magic
touch arouse the germ-cell to active life,
inducing in it a further cell-formation by which
a seed is produced that becomes capable of
carrying on a separate existence. Thus the
poets may still retain their ideal fictions if
they are so minded. They may sing of the
triumph of the plant-cell over material
nature, a mere contact becoming dynamic
and suffering for the production of a new
germ of separate being. They may still fable
the flower-bearing plant as celebrating by a
kiss the most beautiful act of its renewal.

The scientific value of the discovery of
vegetable reproduction by a peculiar cell-
formation can hardly be estimated by one
unacquainted with the previous state of
vegetable and animal physiology. The establishment
of this great law has explained what
was incomprehensible; it has made
brilliant with the light of truth, regions of
science formerly dark with doubt; it has
imposed order upon a shapeless chaos of
confusedly observed phenomena. By its aid we
are enabled to distinguish between the
reproduction of individuals and what may be
called their continuation. For the former, is
requisite, as we have seen, the dynamizing

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