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Etching 39 Pine Forest  from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

#39 Grove of Brazilian evergreens in the province of Minas Gerais.

Latin translation by Ben Hennelly

We have stated often that a characteristic feature of the forests in Brazil is that they are not composed of some one species of trees or a few associated species, but of a varied group of many species. From these forests differ only a few palm-groves, which we saw were Mauritia vinifera or Mauritia flexuosa, or Attalea phalerata, or Copernicia ceriferaform, as well as groves of Araucaria [evergreens], one of which I offer in this etching in a copy of the original image by our most distinguished artist, Maurice Rugendas. We are led back in this picture to the southern part of the province of Minas. We call this grouping of the exceedingly magnificent Araucaria a grove, not a forest, because it seems a sacred place... a great, august temple supported on one hundred columns, as it were.

As many times as I entered a grove of Araucaria, shady and often thickly scented in the morning, I was without fail affected in a remarkable way and delightfully soothed.They were not only my fatherland's pine groves, my memory of which then grew fresh again, but the tree itself, with its very large trunk that rises like a column, its far-stretched branches, now bent
upwards and now sinking all the way to the ground, which are bare at the bottom but at their ends bear numerous (10-30), short (1-3 feet), thickly foliated little branches, so that the tree looks like a kind of huge candelabrum, its scaly, dark-brown bark, its stiff needles, then the black shade underneath the trees, often sufficient for only sparse growth of grasses or for scattered bushes-- all these things move my spirit passionately and compel me to be mindful of the serious, though trifling and empty, affairs of humankind.

Now from afar this tree, with a form much different from tropical forms, resembles, so to speak, a sorrowful, morose, surly human being. You would believe that this singular species is a relic preserved and handed down from earlier ages of our world, over which the order of the Coniferae -- now attested in Brazil by only this one species -- reigned freely across unbounded stretches of forest, and today is a mash that has been transformed into cheap coal.The deeper you have passed into the shadows of the forest, the more forcefully that thought will occupy you, while your trailing fellow travelers tread one after another on a narrow, unused path that winds around powerful trees, while at one moment the horses' hooves clatter against roots that run out a long way, and at another everything is silent, since they are passing across ground made smooth by fallen, needle-shaped leaves.

But nighttime travel affected me most of all, when the pale moon can be seen through the breaks in the clouds or the stars burn in the black

Southern sky, photo by Gary Becker from astronomy.org

depths of the sky, the whole surrounding region lies still, while you do not know if a hospitable roof will receive you, a foreigner desiring rest, or if you will have to pass the night awake under the open sky. Then the field stretches out cloaked in darkness wherever the prospect lies open, then the grove's recesses frighten, secrets disclose secrets. The trees stand motionless between the radiant white of the moon and shadow. All life withdraws and death holds sway, unless a surprised boar starts suddenly or a vulture cries, aloft on full wings, or those nocturnal flying creatures screech and clamor, which with their strange, broken voices strike now terror, now amazement into a foreigner.

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