Page images

comprehensive in his information, moderate and just, fair to his opponents and critical of his friends, such a man will exercise weight in the industrial, commercial, intellectual, social, municipal, or political community of which he is a member. If in addition to these moral lineaments, which all men may cultivate, he possesses such intellectual powers as fall to the lot of but few, his continual expression of his thoughts will widen the circle of use in which he can move. Men everywhere desire to be ruled by the ablest, taught by the wisest, led by the best. The mischief is that most men are so easily deceived as to what is true ability, wisdom, and goodness. Yet even in their mistakes, the desire expresses itself; for what they choose they, while they choose, deem to ablest, wisest, best: else they had not chosen ! He who desires to become able, wise, and good only in order that he may be chosen, proves that his real wish is simply to be thought to be able, wise, and good. Such an ambition may possibly gain its aspiration; but inevitably to be afterwards seen through, scorned, and discarded. The true man steadily walks in the way of his duty; if distinctions, honours, wide influence, great power come to him, he swerves not from the way of his duty either to meet them or to traffic with them; if distinctions come not to him, if his genuineness of character is out of harmony with the tastes and preferences of his fellows, still he swerves not from the way of his duty. To be faithful to God, loyal to his conscience, and to do so much of service to his fellows as he can render to them and they are willing to receive,these are his three laws of life. Such a man cannot make shipwreck ; and even the waves of sorrow that may roll over him shall only wash away imperfections, and fit him more fully for Heaven.1





26. THE OLEASTER (Elaeagnus angustifolia. Nat. Ord. Elæagnacea). The oleaster, the second of the three plants mentioned above as probably included in the orebim of the Old Testament, is one of the most beautiful productions of Nature. That the Hebrews reckoned it among their orebim is sustained, though this does not constitute evidence, by the fact of its being designated in the old herbals, and

The last section of this work, on "The sweet uses of adversity," will be published in the volume, which will be shortly issued from the press.

sometimes still in gardens, by the name of the "Jerusalem willow.” The Italians, because of its loveliness, have named it albero di Paradiso. Scarcely large enough to be called a "tree," it ranks, as to dimensions, with that charming class of ligneous plants which has illustrations in the lilac and the laburnum. It rises, that is to say, to the height of ten or twelve feet, yet is never so strong or stout that even a child can climb among the branches without peril; nor is it a "tree" in the sense of something umbrageous and competent to give shelter. The general habit is much the same as that of the white willow, the innumerable slender twigs being elegantly semi-pendulous, with corresponding inclination of the innumerable leaves, which are two or three inches in length, very narrow and pointed, thus fashioned quite after the willow idea, but with the additional feature of being encrusted on both surfaces with glistening scales, that seem a crystalline silver deposit, such as a chemist might produce in his laboratory. The flowers resemble those of the mezereon, to which plant the elæagnus is related, but instead of being rosy-crimson, they are of a lively golden yellow. Like those of the mezereon they exhale also a delightful and long-enduring fragrance. Even when sprays, in full bloom, are laid between papers, to be pressed and dried for the Hortus Siccus, the odour does not fail for several weeks. Thus preserved, the foliage and flowers likewise retain their beauty almost unaltered.

"Theirs is the loveliness in death

Which parts not quite with parting breath,
Expression's last-receding ray,

A gilded halo hovering round decay;

Spark of that flame, perchance of heavenly birth,
Which fills, but warms no more its cherished earth!

Unlike the mezereon, it may be well to say, the elæagnus delays its flowering till summer is established, so that leaves and bloom are intermingled, and the silver and gold stand side by side. One of these beautiful trees may be seen in the Cambridge Botanic Garden, near the margin of the ornamental water. Any one possessed of a garden where there is a pond for water-lilies, or that touches the edge of a lake or mere, may cultivate it with ease, the elæagnus growing quite as freely as a willow, though requiring like the latter plenty of moisture for the evolution of its most excellent and singular beauties. A good deal is said about it, in relation to the Scriptural orebim, in that very curious little volume, the Arboretum Biblicum of J. H. Ursinus, printed at Nuremburg in 1673, chiefly in the 12th chapter (upon willows), though with other matter on p. 365. Ursinus was one of

those early writers upon Scripture Botany who are now little accredited, but who, like Rauwolf and Hasselquist among the travellers and explorers, prepared the way, with their pens, for the commentators who from time to time have followed. That every age writes its own books is quite true; and that a subject so crowded with difficult detail as Scripture Botany should always be susceptible of new and more accurate treatment, may be granted cheerfully. But the pioneers still deserve to be remembered; and if Celsius' labours were great and honourable, so too, in their degree, were those of Ursinus. Extending, as to geographical distribution, from Spain eastwards into the Levantine countries, and thence as far as Tartary, the oleaster, so beautiful and attractive in its form and lustre, could scarcely have remained unnoticed by the early observers of trees and plants. Yet to identify it with any particular mention is not easy. The place it held in the vegetation of ancient Greece is indicated by Sibthorp, who gives a figure of the foliage and flowers in the Flora Græca (ii. 152). This of course proves simply that it grew there. The Malayvós of Theophrastus (iv. 10), described by him as having hoary leaves, and growing in moist places in Arcadia, may possibly have been this plant, or it may have been the white willow. The name, which literally signifies "olive-willow," was also written éλeayvós, or "marsh-willow." Dr. Lindley states that it was originally elaagrus, a word so like dypieλaía, literally "wild olive," that one cannot help believing that ἀγριελαία, there was some great though innocent confusion, and that the elæagnus was supposed, in primitive times, to be the wild, aboriginal, and uncivilized condition of the olive, bearing the same relation to the latter that the crab of the English hedgerow does to the apple of the garden and orchard. Remembering how scanty was the knowledge possessed in ancient times as to the differences between plants, and that there was a total want of exact views as to their true affinities, nothing would be more likely to occur than such confusion, especially as the elæagnus produces berries which to a careless observer would seem to be false olives. We have only to look down the list of the vernacular names of indigenous British plants to find that confusion of precisely the same character has ruled in our own island. Witness the names "wild celery," applied to the poisonous Enanthe; and "wild strawberry," applied to the Potentilla fragarioides. Later on, the

same belief was expressed in the names olea sylvestris and oleaster, the latter signifying "mock-olive,"-aster, which is a contraction of ad instar, supplying, when used as an affix, the sense of "like." The

question belongs immediately to Scripture Botany, since it is this identical word dypieλaía, slightly altered in the terminal syllable, which is employed by St. Paul in the celebrated passage in Romans xi., "If some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being an dypéλatos, were graffed in amongst them, and with them. partakest of the root and fatness of the laía (the true olive), boast not against the branches. If thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. . . . If thou wert cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by nature, and were graffed, contrary to nature, into a good olive-tree, how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?" (17-24). A difficulty exists, perhaps, in the circumstance that the elæagnus and the olive, belonging to totally different vegetable families, are totally incapable of being grafted together. Trees unite by grafting only where there is a certain degree of relationship between them-a congeniality, so to speak, between the juices and the inmost life—and of such relationship there is between the present couple not the least. Contrariwise, as it was not the custom of the ancients, any more than it is our own, to graft the inferior thing upon the superior one, but vice versa, the elæagnus would suit the Apostle's purpose as an illustration quite as well as the uncultivated olive. In the absence of all knowledge of the extent of St. Paul's information in matters of horticulture and physiology, the question does not allow of being pressed too closely. It has to be shown also how far an allegory in the Epistles may use natural objects and natural phenomena as illustrations, without being tied down to absolute scientific accuracy in the details. Happily there is no doubt as to the doctrine; nor as to the tree-emblem of Blessedness -which in verse 24 stands as κadiéλaia, or "the beautiful olive."

27. THE AGNUS-CASTUS (Vitex Agnus-castus; Nat. Ord. Verbenacea). This pretty little tree, smaller even than the elæagnus, is adverted to by Hasselquist, and again by Mr. Tristram, who speaks of it as one of the "obvious" plants about Jericho, and as being associated in that neighbourhood with a kind of bamboo. According to the observations of other botanists, it occurs upon the banks of all the rivers of Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece, flourishing very frequently in company with the oleander. It is found also in Egypt and the north of Africa, and may reasonably be supposed to be another of the plants intended in the collective term orebim. The long and pliant shoots are by no means unlike those of such willows as the Salix fragilis and the Salix alba; and although the leaves differ in being opposite and digitate, the willow-like character is still preserved by the leaflets, which are narrow, lanceolate, and acuminate. The flowers, which are small and purplish, or white with a purple tinge, grow in terminal and paniculate racemes, the complexion of the aggregate corresponding with that of the lemon-verbena, a plant of the same Natural Order. The agnus-castus was introduced to this country in 1570, but is by no means frequently met with. It blossoms in September, or shortly before the foliage drops. Homer is believed to refer to it under the

name of Avyós (П. xi. 105; Od. ix. 427, x. 166). Some consider it to have been the λatayvós of Theophrastus, under which name it is figured by old Lobel (Icon. ii. 138).

28. THE TEREBINTH (Pistacia Terebinthus; Nat. Ord. Anacardiacea). It is best to take the terebinth next in order, on account of the references that were made to it while dealing with the oak. The English name never once occurs in the Authorized Version, where the translation of the Hebrew word believed to denote the terebinth, alâh or eláh, is uniformly either "oak" or "plain." The number of instances in which it occurs, not reckoning repetitions, appears to be about ten. Elâh is unquestionably one of the derivations of the older and simpler word el, and any tree to which that significant name would be extended, must necessarily be understood as remarkable for size and strength. At the present day there are in Palestine few or no terebinths that give ideas of great magnitude, or that answer to the primitive sense of the original name; and hence there is in books upon Scripture Botany a disposition now and then to ignore this famous tree as a biblical one, to contend that it is too small to have served for the purposes in connection with which it is mentioned, and to assert that alâh is only another way of spelling alon, the name of the oak. That in the Palestine of the 19th century there may be no such terebinths as were familiar objects in the days of the prophets, is quite likely. Certainly there are none now standing intact, or even in ruins, that would compare with the renowned and massive giants which, unmolested by man, had been growing and thriving for ages, dating from the same birth-period as the great oaks that were their companions, and which, 2500 years ago, served the people of the country as landmarks. A second series of such trees as belonged to the world in its infancy, or of such as are met with even now in countries that have only recently been attacked by civilization, will probably never exist. Those first magnificent specimens rose to their manhood when there were none to interfere, and only a very few to admire they were memorials of a time of vegetable peace and tranquillity, a sort of "pre-Adamite age," during the long leisure of which they could become stupendous, and the like of which would never be known again. Trees may be multiplied and be rendered more useful; we have illustrations of this on every hand; it is one of the functions and the privileges of intelligent man, both to increase their number, and to develope their utilities; but the probability is that few trees, if any, will ever again attain the patriarchal age and dignity that in the primæval times there was nothing to hinder: the huge Sequoias of California themselves, once overthrown, will probably never have successors of equal or even approximate dimensions. Even in England, though care is taken to preserve and protect them, how few relics remain of the mighty oaks it once possessed; once gone, as go they must, their deserved epitaph will be there were giants in those days." In Britain, if anywhere, trees will have a fair chance of keeping abreast of Time; whatever a

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »