Skip to main content

Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 5 page 10


Young Albert meets Flora on the village green and develops a passion for her, because:

Flora was fair, and blooming as that flower
Which spreads its blossom to the April shower

By name, Flora = the goddess of flowers. In a footnote, Oliver specifies that the flower Flora is as fair as is the mayflower, “indigenous to the wilds of Acadia.” Hence, one supposes, Flora = Acadia. (The mayflower is even today Nova Scotia’s official flower.) We also know that the pioneers took the mayflower as a harbinger of spring, therefore Flora = the fertile earth. But there’s more, because the Mayflower was the ship that brought the pilgrims to the New World in 1620, therefore Flora = the whole New World endeavor.

Now Albert makes her his promise:

In silence, blushing sweetly, Flora heard
His vows of love and constancy preferred;
And, as his soft and tender suit he pressed,
The maid, at length, a mutual flame confessed.

Albert is vowing "constancy," and “Constance” was the cousin that our Oliver Goldsmith, qua Tony Lumpkin, vowed never to marry. The wedding day is set for winter. Why winter? Nine months from spring? In any event, Albert is a no-show:

Albert had promised that his bosom's pride
That very morning should become his bride;
Yet morn had come and passed; and not one vow
Of his had e'er been broken until now.

Flora agonizes all day. In evening a letter from Albert arrives: he tells her he has gone away “and fate forbids that we shall meet again.” He says:

Forgive the hand that deals this treacherous blow,
Forget the heart that can afflict this woe;
Farewell! and think no more of Albert's name,
His weakness pity, now involved in shame.

Crazed, with just a mantle round her shoulders, Flora plunges into the winter night. Leaning into the wind, clambering thru snowdrifts, she goes in search of Albert:

Until, benumbed, her fair and fragile form
Yielded beneath the fury of the storm;
Exhausted nature could no further go,
And, senseless, down she sank amid the snow.

She is rescued next morning by a poor “peasant” who carries her to his cabin where his wife ministers to her till she revives:

And hapless Flora wakes once more to woe:
But all their friendly efforts could not find
A balm to heal the anguish of her mind.

That’s where our Oliver Goldsmith leaves poor Flora — condemned to madness, apparently, and Albert on the lam.