« السابقةمتابعة »
applied in part, to the abele, or “white poplar,” the Populus alba of the botanists, and this may have been the tree had in view by the translators ; especially as the ancient Greeks, to whom the abele was known, called it sometimes simply deúkn, or “the white," just as in England we call the Pyrus Aria simply the “white-beam.” This brevity of appellation is exemplified not only in Theophrastus and Dioscorides, but in Theocritus. Insignificant as the circumstance may appear, to quote it is but fair, since it gives some little countenance to the rendering in the Authorized Version, which in matters of Natural History it is pleasant to find even approximate. The Authorized Version rendering is one, nevertheless, which cannot be accepted, since the natural habitat of the abele is inconsistent with what is predicated in Scripture of the libneh, at all events in the leading passage, which occurs in Hosea. “They" (the idolaters), says the prophet, “sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks, and libneh, and terebinths, because the shadow thereof is good ” (iv. 13). Whatever place the abele may hold among the trees of the Holy Land in point of frequency, it certainly is not anywhere a tree of the hills. The natural habitats are moist, and even wet meadows and fields, and groves that border on streams, near which this beautiful tree often stands in groups, the alder perhaps a neighbour. Dry and elevated situations are altogether uncongenial to it, though of course it will grow in such places when planted. The tree really meant by libneh is no doubt that one which long ago received from the Greeks the name of otúpať, by adaptation into their own language of a still older oriental word (said to be asthirak), and which in modern English we call the storax. It quite as well deserves to be called “the white," and nothing can be adduced in disfavour, while as regards the abele there is at all events the strong argument above made mention of.
Favourably situated, the storax-tree attains the stature, ordinarily, of twelve to fifteen feet, and sometimes grows much taller. The leaves are ovate, nearly two inches in length, hoary beneath, shining green above, and in general appearance like those of the quince. The pure
1 Idyll ii. 121. The usual Greek name of the abele was åxepwis, under which it appears in Homer, who refers to its lofty stature. In mythology it was sacred to Hercules,-populus Alcides gratissima, and his chaplets were woven of the leaves. The reason is given by Ovid (Epist. Deiod. Herc. 64), and by Virgil (Georgic ii. 166). Pliny confounds the snowy silk of the seed-catkins with the white under-surface of the leaves. See also Horace, Odes 2, iii. 9.
white flowers resemble those of the orange. They are developed in profusion, growing in axillary and racemose clusters of five or six; and are followed by ovoid and greenish drupes. All parts of Syria and Asia Minor are possessed of it, and in certain parts of the Holy Land it would seem to be still as plentiful as it is lovely. On Carmel, in spring, says Mr. Tristram, "mingling with the arbutus, with its brilliant red bark, the myrtle, the bay, the laurustinus, the terebinth, the lentisk, the azarole, and the Cercis,—most abundant of all, one sheet of pure white bloom, rivalling the orange in its beauty and fragrance, was the Storax.” It was brought to England at a very early period, certainly before 1597, and occasionally appears in curious gardens, not, however, in its natural condition, as a standard, the branches spreading in every direction, but trained against the wall, and then, in certain seasons, it flowers exuberantly. A famous old storax exists in the " Physic Garden” at Chelsea, from the bloom of which it was that the drawing in the Botanists' Repository, plate 631, was prepared. Another flowers beautifully in the celebrated garden of Bitton Vicarage, Gloucestershire. In its native countries, Greece and Palestine included, this tree yields a very celebrated balsamic juice or exudation, the storax of commerce, a substance employed in medicine, and used as an ingredient of incense. The good qualities of this balsam are often referred to by the ancient classical authors, as in Theophrastus, ix. 7, Dioscorides, i. 79, and in Pliny, xii. 40 and 45. They are spoken of also in the Apocrypha,—"I gave a sweet smell, like cinnamon, and aspalathus. I yielded a pleasant odour like the best stactè" (Ecclus. xxv. 15). The Authorized Version renders the latter word by “myrrh," but the allusion is no doubt to gum-storax; and this identical substance it possibly may be which the Hebrews designated nataf. At all events stactè is the Authorized Version rendering of the Hebrew word in Exodus xxx. 34. “ And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, nataf, and onycha, and galbanum, with
frankincense, ... and thou shalt make it a perfume, tempered together, pure and holy, . . . and put it before the testimony in the Tabernacle.” There is no evidence, it is true, that will serve to identify storax with nataf. Neither is there any evidence that will connect “nataf” with any different substance. The word occurs in Scripture only this once, and it is scarcely pro
i Not the well-known Arbutus Unedo or “Strawberry-tree," but the Arbutus Andrachne.
Formed and sustained by the Rev. T. N. Ellacombe.
bable that further light will ever be thrown upon its signification. Storax has at least as good a claim as anything else, and it is for people to reject or to adopt it as they think most reasonable. Stactè, it should be added, was the name likewise, with the Greeks, of the purest kind of myrrh, whence, no doubt, the rendering in Ecclesiasticus. Storax, the resinous balsam, is obtained from the branches of this tree by means of incision. In colour it is brownish-red ; in texture friable, but soft and unctuous. Climate has much to do with its production, the storax-trees grown in England being wholly incapable of yielding any. “Liquid storax," it is important to observe, though similar in name, has no connection with the genuine. The liquid variety, which was probably quite unknown to the ancients, is yielded by a tree called Liquidambar, of the Natural Order Altingiaceæ, and a native of the island of Cyprus and other parts of the Levantine region.
The other Scriptural allusion to the libneh occurs upon a very early page, namely, in Genesis xxx. 37, where we have the curious narrative of the measures adopted by Jacob when he was intent upon increasing the fecundity of his cattle. “And Jacob took him rods of libneh, and of the almond-tree, and of the plane-tree, and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering-troughs, when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ring-streaked, speckled, and spotted.” The individuals thus marked were, by previous agreement with Laban, to be Jacob's own property, Laban's share consisting of the animals in which the colour of the skin was plain. The scheme was not only characteristic of a son of the crafty Rebekah, but eminently successful. By means of this curious policy in regard to the flocks and herds placed in his charge by the wealthy farmer, Jacob himself became “rich " in cattle, and “increased exceedingly, and had maid-servants and men-servants, and camels and asses.”
To account, on physiological principles, for the service rendered by the “ rods” is perhaps scarcely possible. Nothing that would facilitate Jacob's designs is known to pertain to the storax-tree, nor yet to the almond-tree or to the plane, in the Authorized Version called “hazel” and “chestnut.” It has pleased God that it should be so recorded, and beyond this there seems no ability for man to go, at all events as regards the reason for Jacob's selecting these three particular kinds of tree. To assume that they were employed because the first that came to hand is to be irreverent, since we may be sure that whatever is told in Scripture is told for a definite purpose, and if once the principle of casual or accidental employment of a thing is admitted, we must be prepared to surrender thousands of the most important statements and associations that Scripture contains. The narrative must be taken as one of those which waits elucidation. Some day perhaps a discovery may be made in connection with one or other of the three trees in question which may throw light upon Jacob's procedure, since the virtues, whatever they were, must needs have been shared by all three, and whichever discloses the secret, will speak for the rest. Meantime it must stand as we find it. The curious may consult the article “ Sheep" in Smith's “Dictionary of the Bible,” but except in respect of references to other writers, it will be found to convey little real information.
36. The Plane (Platanus orientalis. Nat. Ord. Platanacece). Of this noble and famous tree, in Hebrew called armôn, mention is made in the Old Testament twice, but in each case the reference is obscured through the unfortunate mistranslation of the original, which the Authorized Version renders by "chestnut.” Neither the sweet chestnut nor the horse-chestnut occurs in Palestine as an indigenous tree, and there is no reason to suppose that the Hebrews were acquainted with even the sweet one in a state of cultivation.
The first reference occurs in the celebrated narrative in Genesis xxx., where the armôn is said to have supplied a portion of the “rods" employed by Jacob for the curious purpose taken notice of in the preceding article. What motive there was for going to the plane for some of these “ rods” cannot be seen any more distinctly than the reason for cutting other rods from the storax-tree and the almond-tree; nor can anything more be said upon the subject, in addition, that is, to what has been stated under Storax.
Secondly, in Ezekiel xxxi. 8, the plane is one of the trees which the prophet employs as an emblem of the magnificence of the Assyrian empire, when that great and renowned power was in its zenith. “The cypresses were not like his boughs, and the plane-trees were not like his branches.” It is again adduced as an image of majestic appearance in that beautiful passage in the Apocrypha, where we have the personification of “Wisdom” at the time when she “doth show her glory :"
_“I was exalted like a cedar in Lebanon, ... and grew up as a plane-tree by the water” (Ecclus. xxiv. 13, 14).
The employment of the plane as an image of grandeur and consummate dignity, though the Scriptural comparison is acknowledged to be below the requirements of the splendid reality, is without question one of the happiest that could be selected for this glorious tree. Not only was it so used by the Hebrews. The poets of ancient Greece and Rome bear corresponding testimony to its fitness ;-one of them, curiously enough, selecting it to give an idea of a beautiful virgin. Galatea, says Ovid, was more conspicuous in her loveliness than “the goodly plane.”] No tree, in its general character, is more imposing. There are loftier trees, and greener ones, and more flowery ones, but few possess so large an aggregate of excellent qualities, these latter including a certain air of gentleness and repose, and a capacity for affording a peculiarly agreeable shade, though no tree produces fewer leaves in proportion to the general plenitude of foliage. Many of the planes that existed in early times appear to have been gigantic. Among them were individuals that were reckoned with the wonders of the world, and which, like certain famous examples of the oak and the pine, were held sacred. Of Xerxes, the great Persian monarch, there is related what is probably quite true as an illustration of the honour he paid in general to magnificent trees. So profound, it is said, was his admiration of a venerable plane which grew in Lydia, that he gave orders for it to be adorned with bracelets and jewels. All the ancient classical authors who were fond of trees make mention of the plane, and of the pleasure it gave to accomplished and tasteful minds. Pliny, as if to do it special honour, leads off his “History of Trees” with an account of the plane: legend has festooned it with many a beautiful tale, as when we read that the first tree of the kind which grew in Europe was planted beside the tomb of Diomed, his companions, at the same time, being changed into sea-fowl, which have never yet forsaken the ancient shrine. That the tree, as regards native country, is extra-European, hardly needs saying, this being expressed in the epithet orientalis. The south-western parts of Asia, Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor in particular, are the lands of its special inheritance, while eastwards, according to Royle, it extends as far as Cashmere.
The height of the plane is ordinarily about 70 feet, and so rapid is the growth at first that half this stature is often reached in the comparatively short period of ten to fifteen years. The boughs spread widely, but not in disproportion to the altitude of the general fabric, and in summer are concealed by a luxuriant growth of large and rather
1 “Platano conspectior alta.” Met, xiii. 794)