At this some young men, not thoroughly acquainted with Ammonius's humor, being abashed, privately tore their chaplets; but I, perceiving that Ammonius proposed this only for discourse and disputation's sake, applying myself to Trypho the physician, said: Sir, you must put off that sparkling rosy chaplet as well as we, or declare, as I have often heard you, what excellent preservatives these flowery garlands are against the strength of liquor. But here Erato putting in said: What, is it decreed that no pleasure must be admitted without profit? And must we be angry with our delight, unless hired to endure it? Perhaps we may have reason to be ashamed of ointments and purple vests, because so costly and expensive, and to look upon them as (in the barbarian's phrase) treacherous gar ments and deceitful odors; but these natural smells and colors are pure and simple as fruits themselves, and without expense or the curiosity of art. And I appeal to any one, whether it is not absurd to receive the pleasant tastes [p. 262] Nature gives us, and reject those smells and colors that the seasons afford us, because forsooth they blossom with delight, if they have no other external profit or advantage. Besides, we have an axiom against you, for if (as you affirm) Nature makes nothing vain, those things that have no other use were designed on purpose to please and to delight. Besides, observe that to thriving trees Nature hath given leaves, for the preservation of the fruit and of the stock itself; for those sometimes warming sometimes cooling it, the seasons creep on by degrees, and do not assault it with all their violence at once. But now the flower, whilst it is on the plant, is of no profit at all, unless we use it to delight our nose with the admirable smell, and to please our eyes when it opens that inimitable variety of colors. And therefore, when the leaves are plucked off, the plants as it were suffer injury and grief. There is a kind of an ulcer raised, and an unbecoming nakedness attends them; and we must not only (as Empedocles says)
By all means spare the leaves that grace the palm,but likewise the leaves of all other trees, and not injuriously against Nature robbing them of their leaves, bring deformity on them to adorn ourselves. But to pluck the flowers doth no injury at all. It is like gathering of grapes at the time of vintage; unless plucked when ripe, they wither of themselves and fall. And therefore, like the barbarians who clothe themselves with the skins more commonly than with the wool of sheep, those that wreathe leaves rather than flowers into garlands seem to me to use the plants according to neither the dictates of reason nor the design of Nature. And thus much I say in defence of those who sell chaplets of flowers; for I am not grammarian enough to remember those poems which tell us that the old conquerors in the sacred games were crowned with flowers. Yet, now I think of it, there is a story of a rosy [p. 263] crown that belongs to the Muses; Sappho mentions it in a copy of verses to a woman unlearned and unacquainted with the Muses:
Dead thou shalt lie forgotten in thy tomb,But if Trypho can produce any thing to our advantage from physic, pray let us have it.
Since not for thee Pierian roses bloom.