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of the true small people—how much poetry has left the world since Oberon and Titania

'Danced full oft in many a grene mead,'

and the cowslips were the pensioners of the fairy queen I In those days there was scarcely a flower in wood or on river bank but had its mysterious connexion with the elfin world, or with a spirit land yet more antique and shadowy; hardly a tree in the greenwood—from the great oak of Thor to the elder with its white blossoms glimmering through the shade—but had its wild legends, its marvellous properties, and sometimes its special ghostly protector. Nowadays, though the flowers are as bright, and the greenwood, though scarcely as wide-spreading, yet as pleasant and as varied as ever, the elf is but rarely seen under the blossoms, and even the memory and the honours of Boscobel are lading away from the Royal Oak. The belief, which in those old days gave life to moorland and forest, has disappeared with Oberon and Titania. Yet, 'mansit odor.' Like Aubrey's Cirencester ghost, the small people have not vanished from middle earth without leaving a 'curious perfume' behind them; and it is still possible to trace their ancient presence, not only by the dark rings on the sward, but by the mark set by them en many a plant and flower, sometimes in the names which still cling to them, and sometimes in the shape of lingering folk-lore and tradition. In this way

'The flower-inwoven mantle of the earth'

has become a sort of palimpsest—an illuminated page on which the signs of many different ages lie half-concealed, one above another. Underneath the characters of the fairies lie those of the great old Northern deities—Woden, and Thor, and Freyja; and deeper still, those of the more ancient world into which they intruded—the world of Paeon, the physician of Olympus, who bestowed his name on the peony; and of Helen of Troy, whose virtues, if not her beauty, are commemorated in the hclenium or elecampane, 'of which herbe,' says old Gerarde, • she had her hands full when she was carried off".' The decyphering of these overlying characters, if not always an easy, is for the most part a pleasant task; and one that leads us to some of the most famous of the world's centres, and into many of its most lovely nooks and corners. We propose wandering for a short time among these pleasant places, necessarily somewhat at random; since to trace the associations which crowd about the subject in due order, or at any length, would demand volumes instead of pages. _.

For the origin of the mysterious reverence with which certain I

p 2 trees

trees and flowers were anciently regarded, and of ' tree-worship,' properly so called, we must go back to that primaeval period into which comparative mythology has of late afforded us such remarkable glimpses; when the earth, to its early inhabitants, seemed not only 'apparelled in celestial light,' but when every part of creation seemed to be endowed with a strange and conscious vitality. When rocks and mountains, the most apparently lifeless and unchanging of the world's features, were thus regarded and were personified in common language, it would have been wonderful if its more lifelike—the great rivers that fertilised it, and the trees, with their changing growth and waving branches, that clothed it—should have been disregarded and unhonoured. Accordingly, sacred rivers and sacred trees appear in the very earliest mythologies which have been recovered, and linger among the last vestiges of heathenism, long after the advent of a purer creed. Either as direct objects of worship, or as forming the temple under whose solemn shadow other and remoter deities might be adored, there is no part of the world in which trees have not been regarded with especial reverence :—

'In such green palaces the first kings reigned;

Slept in their shade, and angels entertained.

With such old counsellors they did advise,
-And by frequenting sacred shades, grew wise.' *

Paradise itself, says Evelyn, was but a kind of ' nemorons temple or sacred grove,' planted by God himself, and given to man 'tanquam primo sacerdoti;' and he goes on to suggest that the groves which the patriarchs are recorded to have planted in different parts of Palestine, may have been memorials of that first tree-shaded paradise from which Adam was expelled.

How far the religious systems of the great nations of antiquity were affected by the record of the Creation and Fall preserved in the opening chapters of Genesis, it is not perhaps possible to determine. There are certain points of resemblance which are at least remarkable, but which we may assign, if we please, either to independent tradition, or to a natural development from the mythology of the earliest or primaeval period. The Trees of Life and of Knowledge are at once suggested by the mysterious sacred tree which appears in the most ancient sculptures and paintings of Egypt and Assyria, and in those of the remoter East. In the symbolism of these nations the sacred tree sometimes figures as a type of the universe, and represents the whole system of created things; but more frequently as a ' tree of life,' by whose fruit the votaries of the gods are nourished with divine strength, and are

• Waller.


prepared for the joys of immortality. The most ancient types of this mystical tree of life are the date palm, the fig, and the pine, or cedar. Of these, the earliest of which any representation occurs is the palm—the true date palm of the valley of the Nile and of the great alluvial plain of ancient Babylonia—a tree which is exceeded in siee and dignity by many of its congeners, but which is spread over two, at least, of the great centres of ancient civilisation, and which, besides its great importance as a food-producer, has a special beauty of its own when the clusters of dates are hanging in golden ripeness under its coronal of dark-green leaves. It is figured as a tree of life on an Egyptian sepulchral tablet, certainly older than the 15th century B.C., and now preserved in the Museum at Berlin. Two arms issue from the top of the tree, one of which presents a tray of dates to the deceased, who stands in front, whilst the other gives him water, 'the water of life.' The arms are those of the goddess Nepte, who appears at full length in other and later representations. In another scene, figured by Rosellini, where several generations of a distinguished family are receiving nourishment from the tree of life, one of the fig trees is the type selected—the Ficus sycamoms—the sycamore tree of Scripture. As in the former example, the goddess rises from the top of the tree, with a tray of figs in one hand, and pouring a stream of water from a vase held in the other.* Another species of fig, the peepul {Ficus religiosa), is the sacred tree of India. Under it Vishnu was born; and when Brahma appointed the various monarchs of beasts, of birds, and of plants, all of whom were ' instruments for the preservation of the world,' the holy fig tree became the sovereign ctf the trees. The sacred tree which appears so constantly in Assyrian sculpture is apparently a traditional form of the date palm; but the leaves which terminate its branches are sometimes replaced by cones, either of the pine or cedar, but probably of die former, since one species of pinus grows to a great size in the Assyrian highlands, whilst the Deodar—which, from its stately growth and from the reverence paid to it in Northern India, where its name signifies the ' tree of the gods,' we are at first inclined to look for—does not extend westward beyond the skirts of the Himalayeh. Similar cones are frequently placed in the hands of Assyrian priests, and it is probably the same fir—at all events the cones are the same— which is introduced in a solemn procession on the basement of the grand colonnade at Persepolis.

For the choice of two of these trees—the palm and the fig—it

* For these illustrations, and for one or two which follow, we are indebted to a paper by Dr. Barlow on the 'Tree of Life,' in the Journal of Sacred Literature for October, 1862.


is easy to account. Both rank and have always ranked among the most important food-producers of the East, and it would have been impossible to find more satisfactory types of the mystical tree of life, whose fruit imparted strength and wisdom. 'Honour,' said the Prophet of Islam, 'your paternal aunt, the date-palm; for she was created in paradise, of the same earth from which Adam was made.' * Adam,' says a later Mohammedan tradition, 'was permitted to bring with him out of paradise three things— the myrtle, which is the chief of sweet-scented flowers in the world ;, an ear of wheat, the chief of all kinds of food; and dates, the chief of all the fruits of this world.' The dates were mysteriously conveyed to the Hejaz; from them all the date-palms in the world have sprung; and Allah has decreed them all to the true believers, who have conquered all the countries in which they are found.* With such a legend in proof of the value set on the date-palm, we need hardly suppose it to have been borrowed as a sacred symbol by one country from another, nor trace Egyptian influence in the golden palm-trees of Solomon's temple. Both Jews and Arabs regarded the tree as eminently mysterious, and as possessing several properties that rendered it the emblem of a human being. If the head be cut off", it dies; if a branch, another does not grow in its place. Much was to be learnt moreover concerning things both present and future from certain mysterious movements of its leaves on a windless day; and Abraham, say the Rabbins, was well skilled in this • language of the palms.'t It was from the great maritime plain of Palestine that, • at least in recent times, came the branches which distinguished the pilgrims of Palestine from those of Rome, Compostella, and Canterbury, by the name of Palmer.' } Its very rarity, however, in the hill-country, must have given a value and interest to the palm, wherever it was found there. It is one of the Scriptural types of a righteous man; and it has been suggested that there is a reference to the palm—which was popularly believed to put forth a shoot every month, and hence to become, at the close of the year, a symbol of it—in St. John's description of the Tree of Life in the midst of the Heavenly Jerusalem, 'which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month.' § Such an allusion, indeed, appears to have been recognised at a very early period; and the Tree of Life is represented by a date-palm on some of the earliest mosaics which line the apses of Roman basilicas. It thus appears in the church of SS. Cosmas and Damian (circa A.D. 536), with

* Es-Suyootee; quoted by I.ane. t Celsius; Hierobotauicon, ii. 449.

% Stanley; Sinai and Palestine, p. 145. § Ifev. xxii. 2.

the the phoenix, a most ancient type of our Lord, on its summit. In the famous mosaic in the oratory adjoining S. Giovanni Laterano (circa 642), the palm, with the Almighty Father and the Son on either side of it, rises from the centre of an enclosure, guarded by an angel with a drawn sword. Thus the palm-branch of the Christian martyr was not only an emblem of victory, adopted from the well-known heathen use of it, but typified still more strikingly his connexion with the Tree of Divine Life, 'whose leaves were for the healing of the nations.'

It is not until after the first Crusade that the palm leaf, then brought home in abundance, appears in the churches of Northern Europe under a form which enables us to recognize it with anything like certainty among the sculptured foliage enwreathing their capitals. There is reason to believe, however, that the date palm, under one of its most ancient mystical forms, does appear in many French churches of a much earlier period; and that the sacred tree which figured so constantly on the walls of the vast palaces of Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, is to be recognized, slightly, if at all, changed, among the decorations of churches whose builders little suspected the meaning and the antiquity of the emblem they were adopting. The probable history of its introduction is sufficiently curious. During the early Merovingian period an extensive commercial intercourse was kept up between Gaul and the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Syrian merchants established themselves in Gaul; and, judging from the manner in which they are mentioned by Gregory of Tours, must, with their followers, have ranked among the most remarkable of the strangely-mixed races which then met and jostled in the streets of the larger Gallic cities. One of these merchants, at least, was a man of sufficient wealth and importance to purchase for himself the bishopric of Paris.* All of them were Christians; and, among other merchandise, they imported from the East the relics of saints, eagerly sought after by the newly-converted Franks and Burgundians; wine from Gaza and Ascalon, to be used for the holy Eucharist; roots, such as were eaten by the solitaries of the Egyptian deserts,—which formed the only food of certain 'inclusi ' (true recluses walled up in lonely towers) whose story is told by Gregory,— and which were also sought after by some of the severer monks; and the rich silken tissues of the East, to be shaped into cope or chasuble for the service of the altar. Some of these vestments

* Greg. Tutod. H. Eecles. ix. 26. On the death of Ragnomodus, Bishop of Paris,

Eusebius, quidam negotiator, genere Syrus, datis multis muneribus, in locum

ejus subrogatus est. Ieque, accepto episcopatu, omnem Fcholam decesporis sui

abjiciens, Syros de genere suo ecclesiastic* domui ministros statuit.' See also

L. vL, eh. b; and L. vii., ch. 29 and 31.


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