“I pray, what flowers are these? The pansy this, O, that’s for lover’s thoughts.” ~George Chapman
“It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”~ William Carlos Williams
“Heart’s ease! One could look for half a day Upon this flower, and shape in fancy out Full twenty different tales of love and sorrow, That gave this gentle name.” ~Mary Howitt
“Who are the violets now
That strew the lap of the new-come spring?” ~Shakespeare: Richard II
“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you. “ ~Edward Payson Rod
The modern day pansies are descendants of the wild viola tricolor also called heartsease. There are many nicknames for this plant that include: love-in-idleness, call-me-to-you, three-faces-under-a-hood, godfathers and godmothers, flower o’luce, banwort, jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me. We have always called the smaller violas johnny-jump-ups.
Violas, violets, and pansies are my absolute all-time favorite flowers. Though admittedly, I have many favorites. I often start violas and pansies from seed because I can get more varieties this way, but I also purchase the plants. I prefer the miniature violas to the larger pansies but love both. To my delight many of the smaller varieties self-seed freely. I’m not surprised they have been used in love potions. An old belief is that if the flowers were placed on the closed eyelids of a sleeping person they would fall in love with the first person they saw upon awakening.
From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin:
“On the Isle of Skye, whey in which violets had been boiled was given to feverish patients as a cooling drink. Heartsease, also known in Scotland as love-idleness, was used to treat epilepsy, asthma, heart disease and eczema.”
Bog violet was said to be a sacred plant on Skye.
Ancient Gaelic advice: “Anoint thy face with goat’s milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not a young prince on earth who would not be charmed with thy beauty.”
From A Modern Herbal:
“The flowers (1/4 to 1 1/4 inch across) vary a great deal in colour and size, but are either purple, yellow or white, and most commonly there is a combination of all these colours in each blossom. The upper petals are generally most showy in colour and purple in tint, while the lowest and broadest petal is usually a more or less deep tint of yellow. The base of the lowest petal is elongated into a spur, as in the Violet.
The flower protects itself from rain and dew by drooping its head both at night and in wet weather, and thus the back of the flower and not its face receives the moisture. The Pansy is one of the oldest favourites in the English garden and the affection for it is shown in the many names that were given it. The Anglo-Saxon name was Banwort or Bonewor
Its common name of Pansy (older form ‘Pawnce,’ as in Spenser) is derived from the French pensées, the name which is still used in France. ‘Love in Idleness’ is still in use in Warwickshire. In ancient days the plant was much used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. It is this flower that plays such an important part as a love-charm in the Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Medicinal Action and Uses: The Pansy has very similar properties to the Violet. It was formerly in much repute as a remedy for epilepsy, asthma and numerous other complaints, and the flowers were considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, from which may have arisen its popular name of Heartsease as much as from belief in it as a love potion.
“The monks of the Middle Ages called ~Viola tricolor~ common in Europe, the ~Herb of the Trinity (herba trinitatis) because they saw the symbol of the trinity in their three colors. The name ~Heartsease~ stemmed from its old use as a medicine to treat heart disease. People believed God gave the plant heart-shaped leaves for that use. The name may also come from its ancient use as an aphrodisiac and a love potion. The deep purple ~Viola odorata~ native of the Mediterranean region, is so sweet that an oil from it is used in the perfume industry.”
“Violets are also considered to be funeral flowers. It was thrown in graves for remembrance in rural England. The mourners also carried violets to protect themselves against poisonous exhalations while in the cemetery.”
Napoleon Bonaparte loved violets. When he married Josephine, she wore violets and on each anniversary Napolean sent her a violet bouquet. Josephine maintained an extensive garden of violets which became the rage in France. In 1814, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine’s tomb, before being exiled to the Island of St. Helena. There he picked the violets that were found in a locket around his neck after he died. The French thus chose the violet as their emblem, and Napoleon was nicknamed Corporal Violet or Le Pere Violet meaning the little flower that returns with spring.
“Heart’s ease of pansy, pleasure or thought, Which would the picture give us of these? Surely the heart that conceived it sought Heart’s ease.” ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne
“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.” ~Gertrude S. Wister
Images from our garden.