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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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---continuation commentary #9b----

This form of vegetation will for the most part be apparent to the kind reader in etching #1. But that forest of the river bank seems to have been loved only by river pigs (Hydrochoeri Capibara) and large black crocodiles (Crocodili nigri), of which the former receded in fear from us as we neared, into the shrubs of the river bank; but those frightful amphibians swam around without fear, breathing forth from their vast mouths, and thereby rendering still gloomier and more frightening these deserted places, where the spirit continuously vacillates between fear and desire. 

Crocodilus sclerops from Cuviers Le Regne Animal, Paris 1836. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections !

After we had traveled in these canals about two miles from the river proper, as the waters became more sluggish, we went up onto land in a wood that differed in its entire character from those preceding. The Indians cried out, "Aique Caâ-etê" ('this is the true forest, the ancient one'). There was here a heavy dusk and healthful coolness, since trees of great girth, all extremely tall, were so tightly and densely woven together as they stretched out the crowns of their foliage that there rarely was an opening for the sunlight. And it seemed especially strange that here humbler trees of lesser wood were almost wholly lacking and the ground was almost entirely without a covering of grasses and plants. It was clearly apparent that those giants, as if envious, did not offer room or life to any other vegetation, since, with their lofty peaks spread out roughly 100 feet into the air, they took away from plants lesser in age or stature the light necessary for their life and vigor. 

Etching 9 Ancient trees from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

Next we progressed some distance into the interior parts of the ancient forest and at length came to those trees that we have presented to you in this etching #9, kind reader. Here I seemed to enter a magnificent temple -- not one built by the labor of human beings, but one which the great creator of nature, which God himself had constructed, so that he might fill and shake the hearts of those looking upon it with holy fear of the divine presence. In this sublime shrine of the grove, I was affected by that same pious and prophetic feeling with which my spirit is accustomed to be moved when in the stillness and solitude of the night I turn my eyes toward the immeasurable depth of the heavens and the innumerable multitude of the stars. 

As if mighty columns of that temple, three trunks stood out such as I had never before seen. They seemed to be living rocks rather than trees. For, bare throughout the great surface of the trunk and lacking leaves, they stretch out their foliage-crowned branches at so great a remove from the ground that the shape of the leaves could no longer be discerned well. And so it was not a richness of foliage that falls and quickly passes that filled me and us all with wonder, but the great mass and abundance of the firm and enduring part, the vast measure of the wood. I had neither heard at any time nor foreseen in my mind anything about such and so great a magnitude of nature, of this power of the creator, of such vigor and firmness imparted to the life of individual beings that it can last through the most distinct ages.

Etching commentary #9b