This little plant, with its exquisite flowers of celestial blue, grows

most familiarly in our hedgerows throughout the Spring, and early

Summer. Its brilliant, gemlike blossoms show a border of pale

purple, or delicate violet, marked with deeper veins or streaks. But

the lovely circlet of petals is most fragile, and falls off at a touch;

whence are derived the names Speedwell, Farewell, Good-bye, and


Speedwell is a Veronica (fero, I bring, nikee, victory),

which tribe was believed to belong especially to birds. So the plant

bears the name Birds' Eyes, as well as Blue Eyes, Strike Fires,

and Mammy Die (because of the belief that if the herb were

brought [528] into a family the mother would die within the year).

Turner calls the plant Fluellin, or Lluellin, a name the

shentleman of Wales have given it because it saved her nose, which

a disease had almost gotten from her. Further, it is the Paul's

Betony, called after Paulus OEgineta. The plant belongs to the

Scroflua-curing order.

It is related that a shepherd observed how a stag, whose

hind-quarters were covered with a scabby eruption brought about through

the bite of a wolf, cured itself by rolling on plants of the Speedwell,

and by eating its leaves. Thereupon he commended the plant to his

king, and thus promoted his majesty's restoration to health.

In Germany it bears the title Grundheele, from having cured a

king of France who suffered from a leprosy for eight years, which

disease is named grund in German. At one time the herb was held

in high esteem as a specific for gout in this country, but it became

adulterated, and its fame suffered a downfall.

The only sensible quality of the Speedwell is the powerful

astringency of its leaves, and this property serves to protect it

from herbivorous foes.

It has been long held famous among countryfolk as an excellent

plant for coughs, asthma, and pulmonary consumption. The leaves

are bitter, with a rough taste; and a decoction of the whole plant

stimulates the kidneys. The infusion promotes perspiration, and

reduces feverishness. The juice may be boiled into a syrup with

honey, for asthma and catarrhs.

When applied outwardly, it is said to cure the itch; and by some it

has been asserted that a continued use of the infusion will overcome

sterility, if taken daily as a tea. The French still distinguish the

plant as the [529] The d'Europe; and a century ago it was used

commonly in Germany in substitution for tea. As a medicine, by

reason of its astringency, it became called Polychresta herba


My freckles with the Speedwell's juices washed, says Alfred

Austin, our Poet Laureate.

The Germans also name this plant Ehren-preis, or Prize of

Honour; which fact favours the supposition of its being the true

Forget-me-not, or souveigne vous de moy, as legendary on

knightly collars of yore to commemorate a famous joust fought in

1465 between the most accomplished champions of England and


The present Forget-me-not is a Myosotis, or Mouse Ear, or

Scorpion Grass.

In Somersetshire, the pretty little Germander Speedwell is known as

Cat's Eye: and because seeming to reflect by its azure colour the

beautiful blue firmament above, this pure-tinted blossom has got its

name of veron eikon, the true image (Veronica); just as the

napkin with which a compassionate maiden wiped the face of Christ

on the morning of His crucifixion, held imprinted for ever on its

fabric a miraculous portrait, which led to her being afterwards

canonised on this account as Saint Veronica.

The Emperor Charles the Fifth of Spain is said to have derived

much relief to his gout from the use of this herb. It contains

tannin, and a particular bitter principle.