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The trees formed the first temples of the gods, and even at the present day, the country people, preserving in all their simplicity their ancient rites, consecrate the finest among their trees to some divinity;1 indeed, we feel ourselves inspired to adoration, not less by the sacred groves and their very stillness, than by the statues of the gods, resplendent as they are with gold and ivory. Each kind of tree remains immutably consecrated to its own peculiar divinity, the beech2 to Jupiter,3 the laurel to Apollo, the olive to Minerva, the myrtle to Venus, and the poplar to Hercules: besides which, it is our belief that the Sylvans, the Fauns, and various kinds of goddess Nymphs, have the tutelage of the woods, and we look upon those deities as especially appointed to preside over them by the will of heaven. In more recent times, it was the trees that by their juices, more soothing even than corn, first mollified the natural asperity of man; and it is from these that we now derive the oil of the olive that renders the limbs so supple, the draught of wine that so efficiently recruits the strength, and the numerous delicacies which spring up spontaneously at the various seasons of the year, and load our tables with their viands—tables to replenish which, we engage in combat with wild beasts, and seek for the fishes which have fattened upon the dead corpse of the shipwrecked mariner—indeed, it is only at the second4 course, after all, that the produce of the trees appears.

But, in addition to this, the trees have a thousand other uses, all of which are indispensable to the full enjoyment of life. It is by the aid of the tree that we plough the deep, and bring near to us far distant lands; it is by the aid of the tree, too, that we construct our edifices. The statues, even, of the deities were formed of the wood of trees, in the days when no value had been set as yet on the dead carcase5 of a wild beast, and when, luxury not yet deriving its sanction from the gods themselves, we had not to behold, resplendent with the same ivory, the heads of the divinities6 and the feet of our tables. It is related that the Gauls, separated from us as they were by the Alps, which then formed an almost insurmountable bulwark, had, as their chief motive for invading Italy, its dried figs, its grapes, its oil, and its wine, samples7 of which had been brought back to them by Helico, a citizen of the Helvetii, who had been staying at Rome, to practise there as an artizan. We may offer some excuse, then, for them, when we know that they came in quest of these various productions, though at the price even of war.

1 Desfontaines remarks, that we may still trace vestiges of this custom in the fine trees that grow near church porches, and in church-yards. Of course, his remark will apply to France more particularly.

2 It is doubtful whether the æsculus of the Romans was the same as the bay-oak, the holm-oak, or the beech. See B. xvi. c. 4.

3 See further on this subject in Phædrus's Fables, B. iii. f. 17.

4 Reckoning the promulsis, antecæna, or gustatio, not as a course, but only a prelude, the bellaria, or dessert, at the Roman banquets, formed the second course, or mensa. It consisted of fruits uncooked, sweetmeats, and pastry.

5 He alludes to the pursuit of the elephant, for the purpose of obtaining ivory, which was extensively used in his day, in making the statues of the divinities.

6 A sarcastic antithesis. And yet Dalechamps would read "hominum" instead of "numinum"!

7 Præmissa, The exact meaning of this word does not appear. Though all the MSS. agree in it, it is probably a corrupt reading. Plutarch, in his Life of Camillus, says that the wine of Italy was first introduced in Gaul by Aruns, the Etruscan.

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