Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

they are not so. Probably, therefore, they never handle serpents when they are really poisonous; or, if they do, they may have some art in handling them, which prevents them from discharging their poison even when they bite or sting. I have sometimes thought that some men really did possess the power, while others only pretended to possess it. But it is a difficult subject; and I can only say that I believe there may be such a power as that which these men profess to have.

285

CHAPTER XVI.

PLANTS.

Uncle Oliver. We are now come to the regetable productions of Persia. They are numerous and valuable; but as many of them are also known in this country, and others will be better described when we come to other countries to which they more properly belong, there are many that I shall only mention by name, that you may know what sort of trees, plants, and fruits the Persians have.

As to the trees, most of those which are common in this country are to be found in some part or other of Persia ; and there are, besides, several that we have not. But except the walnut, willow, ash, and poplar, few of our common trees arrive at any considerable size in Persia. The products of the provinces to the south of the Caspian Sea most resemble those of our own country. The walnut-tree is very common in most parts of Persia, and is perhaps one of the two noblest trees of the country. As I may forget it another time, I will mention now that it is customary for the little boys in Persia to play with walnuts in the same way that you do with marbles. I remember that, in order to see if it was the same game, I got a Persian boy to play at it with me

Jane. With you, uncle!

U.O. Yes, me. I proceeded as in your game at marbles; and found that the boy was quite satisfied that I could play at walnuts, and I was quite satisfied that he could play at marbles.

Frank. Then you can play at marbles ?

U. O. Not now. I know how to do it, indeed; but I am become old, and cannot easily stoop to pick up my marble.

Henry. You said the walnut was one of the two noblest trees of Persia ; pray, which is the other ?

U. O. The plane-tree, called by the Persians Chinar, which, in my opinion, far eelipses all the other trees of the country. Its appearance bears considerable resemblance to that of the sycamore; but it is much larger than I ever saw that tree in England. In its size it is, of all the trees which you know, second only to the oak. The Persians have a curious fancy about this tree: they believe that when it reaches the age of a thousand years, it takes fire of its own accord, and is consumed. I don't know what could lead them to be of this opinion.

Mr. Dillon. When old and dry, I suppose the tree might easily take fire; and if the people were not aware of the cause of the fire, they might connect it with the age of the tree, and find out this foolish way of accounting for it.

U. O. Very likely; for the people in the East have a thousand such ways of accounting for things, the real causes of which they have not seen, or do not understand. It might easily happen that a dry old tree should be set on fire in Persia, as travellers continually kindle fires in the open air. This they often do near or under trees, and the sparks are blown about in all directions. The Persians are not the only people who like the easy way of accounting for things out of their own heads, better than to take the trouble of making inquiries and observations.

The cypress-tree does not thrive very well in the north of Persia ; but is common enough in the central parts of the country. Those near Shiraz are equal, I think, to any I ever saw in Turkey, where the tree is more common.

H. I have often seen the name of the cypress in poetry. It is the melancholy tree, is it not ?

U. O. Among the Greeks it was the emblem of grief and mourning for the dead, and was used in funeral ceremonies, and planted near graves; and we have learned to regard it in the same way that the Greeks did.

H. Do the Persians look on it in the same way?

U. O. I think not; but the Turks do.

H. How odd that the Turks, being Mohammedans and barbarians, should view the tree like the Greeks! :

U. O. But you will consider that the Turks are in a country which was formerly possessed by the Greeks, and did no more than continue the practice, which they already found in the country, of planting this tree near graves.

If we add to the trees I have mentioned a species of fir-tree (the pinaster), and a bushy species of elm, which grows in such formal shapes, that it seems as if it had been cut into them, I think the list of timber-trees is com. pleted. I ought to mention that the Persians do not generally like to cut down trees, except when it is quite necessary to do so. I have observed

« FöregåendeFortsätt »