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Etching 30  Ancient Forest  from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

#30 An ancient forest on Monte Serra d'Estrella near Petropolis, province of Rio de Janeiro.

Latin translation by Ben Hennelly

"Pan is sleeping" (1): thus the Greeks would speak with the charm of their spirit and the truthfulness of their perception, when at midday the whole of nature, as if the movements of life have been suspended, grows silent and seems to slip back wearily into itself, to be hidden in itself. The one who passes this idle time of nature with open heart, apart and alone, indulging his nature, will understand well what the Greek meant. That great cycle, by which every created thing revolves round its creator, is at that time revealed to one's spirit, and by some more sublime impetus raises up what he perceives and turns in his mind to the highest thoughts, which already Seneca professed in words truly Christian: "God, the governor of the universe, does indeed reach out to external things, but nonetheless into the whole from all directions returns into himself." (2) 

But you would be moved in a different way if you were to sit at midday in open fields or ploughed land full of happily thriving crops, than if the hidden shade of the remote forest had taken you in. It is in the fields that the omnipotent ruler throughout the whole of nature, Pan himself, vigorously, calmly, temperately, and generously acts and gives life. 

One's eyes traverse those flourishing fields or lands sown zealously by mortals in sure expectation of fertility. Throughout these plains, silence holds through nearly all the day, even when at first light, fresh life rises with the morning. To be sure, larks sing, bees hum, cicadas sing, and the crops, rustled by the gentle breeze, murmur. Yet nonetheless the middle of the day does not grow much quieter.

On the contrary, in the forests Pan is not only that force of nature which calmly stirs and benevolently protects, but he is also that god who loves the Muses, who invented the "syrinx pipe" (3), who competed with Apollo; here he leads a tumultuous parade with his wanton band of Satyrs, here are "the rustic divinities: the Nymphs, the Fauni, the Satyrs, and the mountain-dwelling Silvani." (4) The woods resound with the voice and song of birds, the bellowing of wild animals, the rustling of foliage, and the breaking and creaking of trees which the force of the winds shakes even in the remotest recess of the valleys. 

Here life is more brisk, here the desires move with greater power, here the forces that incite living beings are stronger. The lofty figures of trees fighting, as it were, for position, the thick grouping of shrubs, the tangle of vines, and the throng of parasites display the license of individual beings who demonstrate their desire. 


Etching commentary 30