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Etching 6 Ancient forest from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

#6 An ancient forest on Serra dos Orgaos, in the province of Sebastianopolis, Rio de Janeiro

Latin translation by Ben Hennelly

The first European who directed his attention to the beauty and great Baron von Langsdorff, unknown artist. Thanks to richness of Brazilian plant life was George von Langsdorff. When at the start of my adolescence I read his outstanding descriptions of the plant life of the island of Santa Catarina, which he had come to know in the company of that most distinguished man, Krusenstern, as he was circumnavigating our world, I was seized with wonder at the description of the beautiful variety and plenty of that plant life which the great serenity of the sky and the almost unbroken harmony of elements make to rise up.

My heart was powerfully shaken by the magnificence and beauty of that Brazilian vegetation, and I certainly did not foresee then that ten years later, I would myself travel through those fruitful regions and peer into the superior nature of that land with the very same man as my guide. And yet fortune so favored me that I stayed the greater part of July and August 1817 with that kind man, and from his estate, Mandiocca, which is

Mandiocca farm from Rugendas's Voyage pittoresque dans le Bresil, Paris 1835. Thanks to Princeton U.

situated up under the Monte dos Orgaos and offers rest to travelers in the area called Serra d'Estrella who pass on the way between the land of Minas and the Sebastianopolitan province, I was able to wander through the forests of that wonderful region. Langsdorff was himself witness to the amazement with which the foreign travelers --- Spix, Mikan and Thomas Ender, the illustrator, in addition to myself --- were overcome as they looked upon the proud magnificence of that nature, as he writes in a letter which Cl. de Eschwege, a man very close to me, published at the time (1). Although I saw many different ancient forests in Brazil, I nonetheless cannot deny that in no other place did they appear more beautiful and pleasing to me than around the city of Rio de Janeiro and in the sloping places of the mountains that run with the name Serra do Mar throughout a large part of the Sebastianopolitan province. These pleased me more than the others did and left an undying memory in my mind, not only because they were the first offered to my amazed eyes, but because they truly stand out for their beauty and pleasantness. For it can justly be said that the land's immense power of procreation is here subject to the dictates of beauty, and that everything is filled with the sweet breath of harmony, and the vegetation is not only constructed with plenty and majesty, but is also pleasingly arranged and ordered.

Etching 59 Serra dos Orgaos from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

Serra dos Orgaos, province of Rio de Janeiro

From this it happens that the appearance of the ancient forest in the windings of the mountains generally called Serra dos Orgaos, on account of the veins of spotted-red granite that shoot up steeply, discrete from one another in the manner of a pipe organ, does not display a rough and disorderly abundance, or the fertility of a land that does not cease from producing life, as Pliny says, where each and every plant flourishes and bears fruit as if born out of some storm and struggle, so that soon it is overpowered by another plant that is stronger; -- rather, here we cannot fail to perceive that the manner of the life and death of individual beings is organized according to a certain law which in some beneficial way affects, soothes and uplifts the spirit of the viewer. Life seems so wisely governed, as if by the gentle hand of its author, in order to conceal death. This disposition of nature cannot fail to resonate with human sentiment, which is so constructed as to be filled with joy at the sight of life spread out everywhere and to rejoice with strong emotion in the majesty of the universe, while it is affected with sorrow and great sadness at the demise of the universe's individual parts.

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