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Violet

said to have sprung from the blood of Ajax; but how the blood of the mad boaster could produce this modest flower is past understanding. (Latin, viola; Greek,.)

As when stern Ajax poured a purple flood,
The violet rose, fair daughter of his blood.

Dr. Young: The Instalment.

Chemical test paper is steeped in syrup of violets; used to detect acids and alkalis. If an acid is present, it will change the violet paper into red, an alkali will turn the paper green. Slips of white paper stained with the juice of violets (kept from the air) will serve the same purpose. Litmus and turmeric are also used for similar purposes. The paper should be unsized.

Violet

The colour indicates the love of truth and the truth of love. Pugin says it is used for black in mourning and fasting.

The violet on the tyrant's grave.
(Tennyson: Aylmer's Field.) The reference is to Nero's grave. It is said that some unknown hand went by night and strewed violets over his grave Even Nero had one who loved him. Lemprièe states that the statues of Nero, at death, “were crowned with garlands of flowers.”

“I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.”
So says Ophelia to the Queen. The violet in flower-language is emblematical of innocence, and Ophelia says tho King, the Queen, and even Hamlet himself now he has killed Polonius, are unworthy of this symbol. Now my father is dead all the violets are withered, all the court family are stained with blood-guiltiness.

This entire posy may be thus paraphrased: Both you and I are under a spell, and there is “herb of grace” to disenchant us; there's a “daisy” to caution you against expecting that such wanton love as yours will endure long; I would have given you a “violet” if I could, but now that my father is killed all of you are blood-guilty. (Shakespeare: Hamlet, iv. 5.)

Violet

(Corporal). Napoleon Bonaparte. When Bonaparte was banished to Elba he told his friends he would return with the violets, and “Corporal Violet” was the favourite toast of his partisans. When he broke his parole and reached Frejus, a gang of women assembled with violets, which were freely sold. The shibboleth was, “Do you like violets?” If the answer given was “Oui,” the person was known not to be a confederate; but if the answer was “Eh bien,” the respondent was recognised as an adherent.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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