Red Campion


Until a few weeks ago, I always called this flower pink campion, but, despite my eyes’ better judgement, it is red campion. It seems to love dark hedgerows where its riot of pink, *aherm* red, colour can be more fully admired. Its Latin name, Silene dioica, is thought to come from the Greek god Silenus, whom C.S. Lewis playfully weaves into the Chronicles of Narnia. He is the old man riding the donkey in Prince Caspian, who, when calling for refreshments, makes vines and grapes miraculously grow.

In Eudemus, Aristotle records Silenus explaining:

For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature’s excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.

The Greek philosopher summarises: “It is plain therefore, that he declared the condition of the dead to be better than that of the living.” Although I sometimes wonder if they who die in the womb are spared the horrors of a fallen world, I know for certain that they who die in Christ, even those who just escaped through the flames, are better off that the happiest denizen of earth. Campion probably comes from the Middle English champioun, from where we obviously get 'champion'. Rose campion, a relative of our red, was used in garlands for the heads of victors of sporting and military contests. Truly, those who run the race will receive the crown, the prize, the garland. Fallen, human existence is often pretty grim, but Christ offers to all those who run the race a garland of life, a victor’s laurel. This little pink flower’s two names reminds us of two very different world views and outcomes: Silenus, and his negative, nihilistic view of life, and Christ our champion, who makes us more than conquerors, who triumphed over sin and the grave. If the little flower enlives a dark hedgerow, this wonderful truth illuminates an otherwise gloomy existence.