Friday, November 22, 2013


A Cathedral of Trees

John Fryer (d. 1733), A New Account of East-India and Persia, in Eight Letters. Being Nine Years Travels, Begun 1672. And Finished 1681 (London: Ri. Chiswell, 1698), p. 40 (from Letter I, Chapter V):
These Plants set in a Row, make a Grove that might delude the Fanatick Multitude into an Opinion of their being sacred; and were not the Mouth of that Grand Impostor Hermetically sealed up, where Christianity is spread, these would still continue, as it is my Fancy they were of old, and may still be the Laboratories of his Fallacious Oracles: For they masquing the face of Day, beget a solemn reverence, and melancholy habit in them that resort to them; by representing the more inticing Place of Zeal, a Cathedral, with all its Pillars and Pilasters, Walks and Choirs; and so contrived, that whatever way you turn, you have an even Prospect.
Cf. Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 41.3 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
If ever you have come upon a grove that is full of ancient trees which have grown to an unusual height, shutting out a view of the sky by a veil of pleached and intertwining branches, then the loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the spot, and your marvel at the thick unbroken shade in the midst of the open spaces, will prove to you the presence of deity.

si tibi occurrerit vetustis arboribus et solitam altitudinem egressis frequens lucus et conspectum caeli densitate ramorum aliorum alios protegentium summovens, illa proceritas silvae et secretum loci et admiratio umbrae in aperto tam densae atque continuae fidem tibi numinis faciet.
Related post: American Gothic Forests.

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