The Importance of Trees – Bill Arp, 12/20/1888

The Importance of Trees – Bill Arp, 12/20/1888

On the third day of creation God made the trees. Out of the ground he made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight
and good for food. The tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge, of good and evil. The sacred
scriptures abound in notable invention of trees-beginning with, as Milton says, “the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal
taste brought death unto the world and ail our woe.” That tree of life seems to have been a plant from heavenly gardens, for
St. John’s vision he saw a river of water clear as crystal proceeding from the throne of God, and near by was the tree of life,
which bore twelve manner of fruits, and the leaves of that tree were for the healing of the nations. Solomon in his wisdom,
spake of all the trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. But Solomon, too, was something
of a vandal among the forests, for his 4,000 hewers made sad havoc with those beautiful trees. There are no cedars on Mt.
Lebanon now and even in the sixth century Justinian could not find enough timber there to roof a single church. When Isaiah
was thundering his fearful prophecies against the Assyrians, he said: “The trees of thy forests shall be cut down save a few
and a little child shall count them,” Joshua in his last days called the priests and officers together under the shade of a tree
and made them to choose between God and Baal and he planted a stone under the tree as a witness of their promise. Absolom was suspended in the boughs of an oak and was slain as he ought to have been. Some of the strongest metaphors in scripture
are drawn from the trees. “”The wicked spreadeth himself like a green bay tree.” “As the tree falleth so shall it lie.” “A good tree brought forth good fruit.” In all the ages those have been notable trees that commemorated notable events.-Some of them still remain in England for the tourists tell us of Shamble oak that is thirty-four feet in circumference, and is 600 years old. It was
called shamble oak because about three centuries ago a butcher hid some stolen sheep in its hollow. There is Greendale oak,
700 years old, that is propped up on every side. Lords and ladies used to ride through the hollow of the arch at its base 200
years ago. Then there is Parliament oak, undar whose :shade Edward I. held a parliament in 1290.

But our famous charter oak has gone. How old it was no one knows, but it lived eighty years after the charter of Connecticut
was hidden in its hollow trunk. The poets drew many of their best inspirations from the trees. Horace wrote his pastoral odes
as he reclined, “sub tegmine fagi,” and said: “Give me again my, hollow tree, A crust of bread and liberty.” Shakspeare said:
“Our life finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, and good in everything.” One says.- “The tree of liberty only
grows when watered by the blood of tyrants.” Our own George Morris says: “Woodrnan, spare that tree, Touch not a single
bow; in youth it sheltered me, And I’ll protect it now.” The great Dr. Johnson paid to Boswell, “Every man sir, owes a debt to
his ancestors-a debt, sir, for the trees they planted: trees that are now giving us fruit and shade-and that debt he should pay
to posterity. Let him plant trees for those who are to come after him, and the debt will be discharged.” Forty years ago there
lived a man in Rome, in our state, who, for the love of the beautiful and the good, planted water oaks around the squares set
apart for the churches. That good old man is long since dead, but the trees live to give abounding shade and to adorn the
beautiful temples that have been erected there. He’s paid his debt. The year before Judge Warner died our eminent chief
justice, he visited the home of his youth in New England. He did not stay long, and on his unexpected return explained by
saying: “Ifound but three companions of my youth-only three-and one of them was in the poor house. I thought that some
of those people had heard that the youth who left there fifty years ago had become a chief justice in Georgia, and would
do me some honor, but no sir, they had other business on hand, and I was nothing but a poor old man. They jostled against
me on the sidewalk and said, “Look out old man.” But I took comfort in the trees, my friend, the magnificent elms that I
helped my father to plant around the churches and along the sidewalks. We did it for the love of beauty and not for pay,
and as I rested underneath their shade I felt that they were my friends, and their long branches waved and bowed to
me in the gentle breeze. I am proud that I planted them.”

How plaintively did poor Tom Hood lament the destruction of the trees in his tender and graphic verse-“Twas in a shady
avenue, where lofty elms abound, And from a tree there came to me, A sad and solemn sound. Among the leaves it seemed
to sigh Amid the boughs to moan, It muttered in the stem, and then The roots took up the tone. * * * * * The woodman’s heart
is in his work, His axe is sharp and good, with sturdy arm and steady aim He smites the gaping wood And well to him thee tree
might breathe A sad and solemn sound-A sigh that murmured, overhead: And groans from underground,” What. a beautiful,
sad thought is expressed in another poem, when he says: “I remember, I remember, The fir trees, dark and high, I used
to think their slender tops Were close against the sky. It was a childish ignorance, But now ’tis little joy To know I’m farther
Off from heaven Than when I was a boy.” William Cullen Bryant said: “The groves were God’s first temples. * * * This mighty
oak, by whose immorable stem I stand-not a prince in all the proud old world, ever wore his crown as loftily as he wears
the green coronal of leaves, with which Thy hand hath graced him.”, Man is a rude, rough creature, and makes fearful havoc
with the trees. If there is money in a tree he wants, it. But woman has a love for the beautiful, her heart nestles among the
trees and the flowers and the vines. For forty years I have been. intimately acquainted with a lady whose happiness it is
my pleasure to promote.-Four times I have changed my habitation, and for her sake always chose a grove rather than a
house. “We can build a house,” When General Sherman invited us with shot and shell to leave our house in Rome, Mrs.
Arp sent the faithful Tip back to beg him not to cut down our beautiful trees.-General Vandiver, who occupied the house,
took the message kindly and said the trees should not be harmed nor the dwelling either, and invited her back to occupy
it. He was a gentleman, he was. How could he help it for he came from Maryland. There was a beautiful grove of Spanish
oaks around our late dwelling in the country and my philosophic eye told me there were too many trees and that some
ought to go for the thrift of others.

It was a clear case of the survival of the fittest.-But Mrs. Arp clung to them as a mother clings to her children. She could not
spare a single tree. In course of time she left us on a visit to her kindred and like a vandal I hired help and upheaved several
of those trees that living did languish and languishing did live. We carried away every root and branch and chips liend sign
recovered the ground with grass and left no mark. The children and servants kept my secret, and for two months she never
missed them, One evening while sitting on the veranda the flying squirrels began to meander among the branches of an oak
and as she watched them I saw her bewildered thoughts at work. “Why, where is the tree the squirrels used to fly to from that
right hand limb?” she said. “Don’t , you know they used to run to the top of that linib and sail to a tree that was right there-yes,
right there.” She looked at me with her inquiring eyes and I smoked my tranquil pipe and called the dog and played possum
but the children could not keep calm and serene and their tell-tale looks betrayed me. “I’ve been wondering,” she said, “how
it was ‘that I could see those hills and Mr. Munford’s house so plain. I do believe you have cut down half the trees in the grove.
I won’t dare to leave home again; and then the children all take bides with you and keep your secrets. But never mind; I will
pay them for it and you too.” I bought her some flowers next day and diverted her thoughts. There is nothing like diverting a woman’s thoughts. How much of character there is in trees, Away down in our low grounds there was a huge red oak that
had died from lack of company. It was seven feet in diameter, and without a branch for fifty. Two great limb towered aloft and
bent their long arms as if calling the land to prayer. For years they reached toward us, and I felt as Moses did. As long as
those arms were up I would prevail against my enemies. One gloomy morning I looked that way, and one of the great arms
was gone. The good prophet was failing me at last and I felt like there was some calamity impending. There is a splendid
oak in our meadow that is so proud and lofty and stands so firm on its broad base and has such graceful, leafy curves upon
its high top that we named it Roscoe Conking, and not far away was a large black locust that the poison oak had wound
around, and its sharp veonmous thorn defied all loving approach.

“What shall we name that tree?” said I to Mrs Arp “Sherman,” she said. “He loves to sting and seems to hate everybody.”
Mrs Arp does not love Sherman. An old unlettered man who had learned much from observation, said to me; “Providence
was very kind in making the trees to grow by laps at the top instead of stretching up the body. The limbs of tree never get
any higher from the ground, and so the three chops or the fore and aft blaze that the surveyor made fifty years ago is just
where he put them-no higher, no lower. If the chops that were made when the tree was small had climbed with the tree, we
would have to run the lines with a ladder now. Some of them would have run out at the top I reckon, unless a pole had been
stuck up for them to run on, like the Texeans do their old steers when the wrinkles on their horns run out to the tips.” “But
how did that grape vine reach the limb on that poplar?” said I. “It swings clear for fifty feet. “That vine,” said he, “is as old
as the tree. At first it clung to the limbs or twigs near ground. As these decayed the instinct of the vine made it reach to a
higher one, and then a higher one still, untill it climbed to where you see it. That limb is dying at the end and the vine will
go higher. All the trees that have long trunks were full of branches when they were small and young.” I was traveling with a northern woman to Brunswick and for the first time in her life she had a view of the piney woods from the car window. She
went into rhapsidies over the beautiful forests of long leaf pines, and said: “I declare I never saw anything so strangely
charming, but I do think they have trimmed these trees too high. These piney woods of the south provoke a world of
thought. There are millions of acres of these trees that are of uniform age and that age is just about one hundred
years. Did they all grow up together and have an even start? Was the ground they now occupy unoccupied before
they sprang from their mother earth? Was it all an open prairie? Did Dame Nature wait until she knew our sixty
million of people would need timber for houses and brides and fences and railroads?

When they are all cut down what will be the next rotation? Forty years, ago a pioneer in the iron business in our county
cut away the timber on all the hillsides around him, and left the mountain slopes all bare, but not barren. They are now
covered with nearly as much timber as they had before. Nature reproduces and protects herself. If there is prairie that
will generate a tree, it is because there ought to be. Let us not be alarmed, for Providence is always kind. Nature makes
no mistakes, and if we do our duty her laws will protect us even against human waste and the wanton destruction of her
bounties and her blessings.

Last Updated on March 22, 2021 by Bill Arp

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