Of Men and Fair Maidens

Saturday, May 6, 2006

I saw a romantic movie once, in which the female character, a princess, decided to train her courtier lover in the art and practice of loving. She suggested that he gather her a nosegay while composing a poem.

I did a little research on the history of nosegays this morning, and came up with the following article from the Windsor Tribune:

Q: What is the history of the "nosegay"?

A: The "nosegay" or "tussie mussie" is an aromatic little nosegay of flowers and herbs that goes back to medieval times in Europe. The words "tussie mussie" meant "sweet posey" in an era when sanitation left much to be desired and fresh air was considered harmful.

Originally, these little nosegays were primarily made of scented medicinal herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and rue, that were believed to ward off the plague, airborne germs and unpleasant odors. Carrying tussie mussies close to their noses to breathe in the herbal fragrance, people went about their business in Medieval towns and cities. This practice may have arisen from the age-old custom of strewing strongly scented herbs on the floor of homes to freshen the air and protect against germs and the plague.

But, it wasn’t until Queen Victoria’s time that the language of flowers reached its prime. Every noble and wealthy young lady of the time learned the symbolism of flowers and how to make tussie mussies and nosegays for all occasions. Gentleman communicated feelings for a lady by sending private and intimate messages by means of special bouquets.

The young lady might spend hours researching the identification of the flower or herb and then the meaning of the message. Her suitor might not know that his expressions of love were reciprocal until he saw her wearing the tussie over her heart.

Whatever the case with the history of the thing, I just felt really special when my husband brought a tiny nosegay in while I was the computer just now. The flowers? Buttercups and one wild strawberry.

The meanings (buttercups show "Ingratitude" and strawberries really have no meaning) in this case are, I think, irrelevant. He loves me. I'm really glad. He doesn't need a meaningful nosegay to prove his suit.


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