Above, from left to right: common myrtle is grown in pots at The Cloisters and brought indoors before frost; detail of the ivory-white blossoms of Myrtus communis; detail of the blue-black fruits of the common myrtle.
In myrtle shades oft sings the happy swain,
In myrtle shades despairing ghost complain.
The myrtle crowns the happy lovers’ heads,
Th’ unhappy lovers’ graves the myrtle spreads.
—Verses Written at The Request of a Gentleman to whom a Lady had Given a Sprig of Myrtle, by Samuel Johnson
This eighteenth-century verse is a deft summation of many centuries of the myrtle’s association with love, lovers, and the goddess of love. Read more »