"I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over canopied with lush woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with Eglantine"

--Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, II, 2


This, if Japanese,
Would represent grey boulders
Walloped by rough seas

So that, here or there,
The balked water tossed its froth
Straight into the air.

Here, where things are what
They are, it is thyme blooming,
Rocks, and nothing but--

Having, nonetheless,
Many small leaves implicit,
A green countlessness.

Crouching down, peering
Into perplexed recesses,
You find a clearing

Occupied by sun
Where, along prone, rachitic
Branches, one by one,

Pale stems arise, squared
In the manner of Mentha
The oblong leaves paired.

One branch, in ending,
Lifts a little and begets
A straight-ascending

Spike, whorled with fine blue
Or purple trumpets, banked in
The leaf-axils. You

Are lost now in dense
Fact, fact which one might have thought
Hidden from the sense,

Blinking at detail
Peppery as this fragrance,
Lost to proper scale

As, in the motion
Of striped fins, a bathysphere
Forgets the ocean.

It makes the craned head
Spin. Unfathomed thyme! The world's
A dream, Basho said,

Not because that dream's
A falsehood, but because it's
Truer than it seems.

--Richard Wilbur, from Walking to Sleep (1969)

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(Thymus species)

The Greeks saw it as an emblem of courage; the Romans, a cure for melancholy. The English still use it as a tea to revive and refresh the sickly. And the Arabs adore it as the base for all the variations of their famous spice mixture zatar. It originated in the mountainous regions of Southern Europe. Its alliance with bees is storied--producing exquisite honey, going back to the renown ancient Hymettus honey.

Here's a recipe with it from 1600 that's kept in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum:

TO ENABLE ONE TO SEE THE FAIRIES: A pint of sallet oyle and put in into a vial glasse; and first wash it with rose-water and marygolde water; the flowers to be gathered towards the east. Wash it till the oyle becomes white, then put into the glasse, and then put thereto the budds of hollyhocke, the flowers of marygolde, the flowers or toppes of wild thyme the budds of young hazle, and the thyme must be gathered near the side of a hill where fairies use to be; and take the grasse of a fairy throne; then all these put into othe oyle in the glasse and sette it to dissolve three dayes in the sunne and then keep it for thy use.

And, last but not least, who could forget Tosca's song of love to Caravadossi in Act I:

Non la sospiri la nostra casetta
Che tutta ascosa nel verde ci aspetta?
Nido a noi sacro, ignoto al mondo inter,
Pien d'amore e di mister?
Al tuo fianco sentire
Per le silenziose
Stellate ombre, salire
Le voci delle cose!
Dai boschi, dai roveti,
Dall'arse erbe, dall'imo
Dei franti sepolcreti
Odorosi di timo,
La notte escon bisbigli
Di minuscoli amori
E perfidi consigli
Che ammolliscono i cuori.
Fiorite, o campi immensi palpitati,
Aure marine, nel lunare albor.
Ah...piovete voluttà, volte stellate!
Arde in Tosca un folle amor!
("Do you not long for our little house/ That is waiting for us, hidden in the grove?/ Our refuge, sacred to us and unseen by the world,/ Protected with love and mystery?/ Oh, at your side to listen there/ To the voices of the night/ As they rise thorugh the starlit,/ Shadowed silences:/ From the woods, from the thickets/ And the dry grass, from the depths/ Of shattered tombs/ Scented with thyme,/ The night murmurs/ Its thousand loves/ And false counsels/ To soften and seduce the heart./ Oh wide fields, blossom! and sea winds, throb/ In the moon's radiance, ah,/ Rain down desire, you vaulted stars!/ Tosca burns with a mad love!")