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

# 9 Trees born before the birth of Christ, near the Amazon River

Latin translation by Ben Hennelly

Just as I would not think any man of sound mind to whom it did not happen within the bounds of this life that he find, by chance or by habit and experience, some other person who moves him with his speech and mind to such an extent, that an unperishing image of that person becomes fixed in his heart, so a similar thing can happen in the nature of things without mental powers; for some thing, though it lack tongue, sense and mind, can nonetheless strike us so forcefully and leave so firm a memory in our mind, that it does not usually happen any more forcefully on account of some lofty and sublime human intellect. The mind of mortal beings, flowing out from self-awareness as if from a center, spreads out into whatever parts of nature and, to those things and bodies that surround it.

The mind gives a voice with which people might speak, and a heart which is stirred in the same way as it itself is stirred by the force of the desires or of love or of hate -- and so that voice of things, as if it were an external image of the mind, turns back towards the human mind, teaches it, and stirs it. Whence it happens that the thoughts and feelings the human being had transferred from the mind to things placed outside the mind itself, those thoughts return to the heart and are increased many times over and strengthened, as if they were the thoughts and opinions of another human being, which we perceive either through speech or writing.

I am impelled by some inner urge to tell you, gentle reader, these thoughts of my mind, since I am presenting to your eyes a picture of those most ancient trees which I once saw beside the Amazon River. Even today, after many years have gone by, I feel myself struck by the appearance of those giants of great age, in the same way as by the face of some giant human being. Even today those trees speak to me and fill my spirit with a certain pious fear, even today they excite in my breast that silent wonder with
which my spirit was held at that time. This wonder is like a broad and deep river; the thoughts of the human mind are its waves; not all feelings of the heart are to be expressed with words.

Amazon region from Martius's expedition map from Flora Brasiliensis 1840	Thanks to Green Library, Stanford U.

The Amazon river

These very thoughts and feelings lead the minds of mortals to that eternal and infinite dominion of the supreme divinity, into which we do not enter except with holy and pious reverence. This is that "thaumazein"(1) which Plato says is the beginning of philosophy and which I would say is also its end. Or do you perhaps think that that bold attempt of the mind to discover what is supreme and absolute, what the boundaries of the world are, according to what plan it is governed by God, from where the material came, what of good and what of bad falls upon humankind -- do you think that bold attempt of the mind achieves more and is more powerful than a fear full of reverence and that holy divination of the mind full of wonder?

This divination holds us caught not in some clever intellectual exercises, but in a pious understanding, when we open our minds to it and to the great impact of all those things that God placed outside of us --- placed no doubt with the plan that those things outside of us should, by means of their conversation with us, touch the mind and deeply move the spirit of human beings with the fiery blasts of that divine wind which everywhere reigns, creates and makes to grow, and which is heard with its resounding voice wherever someone offers ear.

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