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Keats and sweet peas
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: April 28, 2003 10:03PM

According to the latest issue of Martha Stewart magazine, John Keats gave sweet peas their common name, in his poem "I Stood tip-toe upon a little hill." (No, I don't read it- but my sister does)

Anyone with information either for or against? The poem can be found here [], and the sweet pea line is about #60.


Keats - poet and herbalist ...
Posted by: ilza (200.162.247.---)
Date: April 28, 2003 10:45PM

I don't have the answer to your question ...

the name "sweet pea" is believed to have first been used by the poet
Keats ... now what ? how to confirm that ?

One has to remember Keats "had a long education" in herbal medicine,
so all this was familiar to him ( naming flowers, Latin terms, etc )
He was fluent in Italian, of course, and Latin.

Keats studied at Enfield, the town where Father Cupani had sent the first seeds a century earlier.

Francesco Cupani, a Franciscan monk, sent some seeds to England and Holland from his monastery garden in Sicily, in 1699.

Lady Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus), introduced in 1737, was, perhaps, the inspiration for Keats.

I remember reading his love for flowers had something to do with
( but I don't recall whether it was Frances his mother
or Frances his sister )

not much of a help, was it ?

and trivia :

The Sweet Pea is the flower of the month for April.
The sweet pea is popularly known as the "Queen of Annuals".
The Latin name for the sweet pea is Lathyrus odoratus.
Sweet peas come in a very wide range of colours, but not yellow.
Sweet peas are not edible, being somewhat poisonous if eaten in quantity.
Sweet peas derive their name from the Greek word lathyros for pea or pulse,
and the Latin word odoratus meaning fragrant.
Sweet peas were popular during the late 19th century
and were widely grown in 1722 for their sweet fragrance.
Sweet peas are considered to be the floral emblem for Edwardian England and were an important part of floral arrangements for every wedding and dinner party.
Dried petals of sweet peas was one of the most important ingredients for potpourris.

Re: Keats and sweet peas
Posted by: Chesil (
Date: April 29, 2003 11:04AM

OED entry

a. The common name of Lathyrus odoratus, a climbing annual leguminous plant, indigenous to Sicily, cultivated in numerous varieties for its showy variously-coloured sweet-scented flowers; formerly called sweet-scented pea (see sweet-scented b).

1732 R. Furber Flower Gard. Displ. 57 Purple Sweet Pea. This is what we call the Sweet-scented Pea. 1816 Keats ‘I stood tip-toe upon a little hill’ 57 Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight.

b. The scent of the sweet pea, esp. as used in cosmetics, etc.
1890–1 T. Eaton & Co. Catal. Fall & Winter 42/2 Colgate's perfumes—white rose, sweet pea, Cashmere bouquet. c1938 Fortnum & Mason Catal. 54/1 Soaps+sandal wood+sweet pea+verbena. 1972 [see lilac 2c].

Re: Keats - poet and herbalist ...
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: April 29, 2003 11:39AM

From [] />

"Our collection contains individual packets (containing at least 60 seeds each) of the following heirloom varieties:

‘America’ is an old-fashioned striated type with brilliant tomato red petals overlaid with creamy stippling. This sweetly perfumed antique was introduced in 1896.

‘Cupani’ is named for Father Francis Cupani, the Italian monk who discovered wild sweet peas in Sicily. This eye-catching variety, introduced in 1699, has flowers with a deep maroon upper petal and violet lower petal. Its intoxicating scent can perfume an entire garden.

Dating to 1737, ‘Painted Lady’ was the first named sweet pea cultivar, the result of a natural color mutation from the original Italian species to a beautiful rose and pastel pink or cream. The flowers of this early bloomer are deliciously scented."

Which was a surprise for me, since I thought Olive Oyl first named that baby.

Keats - poet and herbalist ...and Hugh
Posted by: ilza (200.162.247.---)
Date: April 29, 2003 05:32PM

. . . the things we learn !

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