Oscar Wilde – Parnassius versus Philology – TXT

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(Pall Mall Gazette, April 1, 1885.)

To the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette.

SIR,—I am deeply distressed to hear that tuberose is so called from its being a ‘lumpy flower.’ It is not at all lumpy, and, even if it were, no poet should be heartless enough to say so. Henceforth, there really must be two derivations for every word, one for the poet and one for the scientist. And in the present case the poet will dwell on the tiny trumpets of ivory into which the white flower breaks, and leave to the man of science horrid allusions to its supposed lumpiness and indiscreet revelations of its private life below ground. In fact, ‘tuber’ as a derivation is disgraceful. On the roots of verbs Philology may be allowed to speak, but on the roots of flowers she must keep silence. We cannot allow her to dig up Parnassus. And, as regards the word being a trisyllable, I am reminded by a great living poet that another correctly wrote:

And the jessamine faint, and the sweet tuberose,
The sweetest flower for scent that blows;
And all rare blossoms from every clime
Grew in that garden in perfect prime.

In justice to Shelley, whose lines I quote, your readers will admit that I have good authority for making a dissyllable of tuberose.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

THE CRITIC,
WHO HAD TO READ FOUR VOLUMES OF MODERN POETRY.
March 30.

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