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THE TREES OF THE BIBLE.
NO. XII.-THE POPLAR.
BY THE EDITOR.
THERE are differrent species of poplar. We have not sufficient data by which to determine the precise kind alluded to in the scriptures. The word LIBNEH, which is translated poplar, means in Hebrew "the white"-the white tree. This would answer very well to the poplar, which is so common a domestic tree in our own country, brought originally from Lombardy in Italy, from which it has derived its name. This tree has white bark, and very white wood, and even its leaves present a white appearance when blown upon by the wind.
This beautiful tree is only twice mentioned in the Bible. The first is in Genesis 30, 37: "And Jacob took him rods of poplar." It is said "he pilled (peeled, by tearing off strips of bark) white streaks in them.' This incidental reference to the white wood under the bark would seem to designate very clearly the Lombardy poplar. So also does the expression, "Jacob took rods of poplar;" as this species of the tree is noted for its thin, straight, long branches.
This poplar is also mentioned in Hosea, 4, 13. Speaking of the practice of the idolators of that time, the Prophet says: "They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks, and poplars, and elms, because the shadow thereof is good." It does not appear that this tree was selected to cover these idolatrous rites of heathenism, for any other reason than on account of its pleasant shadow, which is a great luxury, and much desired, in a warm climate. The pagans were very naturally inspired with a feeling of reverence and gratitude toward the tree that threw over them such a pleasant and refreshing shade while engaged in worship, and hence it became one of their sacred trees. They extended to it, as they are wont to do toward all their sacred things, a very tender protection and care. Its stately form, the graceful waving of its long slim branches, and the sheen of its white upturned leaves as seen in the distance, reminded them of their Gods, and seemed to plead for an offering; while its grateful shade invited the traveler, drawing still nearer, to rest and worship.
With us, too, the poplar is a sacred tree; but for another reason. It is dear to our associations because it is a home-tree, throwing its pleasant shadow upon the roof, and across the yard of the homestead. Three or four poplars in a row-and a willowwhat a beautiful sight are these, standing like sentinels beside the farm house, embosomed in the midst of green fields. Only the roof
and chimneys of the house, the tops of the barn, and the row of poplars are seen from the road, or from the summit of the distant hill; and there are few travelers, whose early life has been spent in the country, that do not think, when they see these poplars, of home, and parents, and childhood, with its innocent sports, its little sorrows, and its little joys.
We shall never forget those that stood guard beside our house, three and a willow-and at evening threw their shadow far, far across the meadow. Could we not run in their long shade away to the distant fence? yea, and even beyond it did it extend, and was lost among the trees in the woods. Do we not remember these trees, how they were so early green in spring-time? How their long, slim, whip-like branches bent so gracefully before the wind. How, on midsummer evenings, their heart-shaped leaves, gently moved by the breeze, made a soft clacking noise like the patter of gentle rain upon the roof; and how the leaves silvered towards the harvest moon that moved through the still sky beyond. Then, how beautifully the leaves changed in early Autumn; not suddenly, to overwhelm us with abrupt sadness; but gradually and in spots here and there, as our own looks change when we begin to move along the gentle declining slope of life; and they turned yellow, these tall trees, from the top down. It was pleasant and instructive to see how, when the tops were bare, the green leaves still hung firmly around the trunk below. So fades a family! The parental heads, highest and first, begin to show the "yellow leaf;" and while their brows are frosted, and the almond blossoms fall one by one, and "the flower"-not, as an infidel poet says, also "the fruit"of mortal life is gone, children and children's children cluster fresh and hopeful y around, to cover to the last the venerable stems of their own being with the fresh garlands of cheerful life. No won der that so true a family emblem should be a favorite domestic tree; and that it should weave its solemnly pleasant memories so lastingly into the woof of our associations.
How we remember those trees and their history. Our own mother, before we were born-so we often heard the story from her own lips-brought them from Virginia as small scions, hanging to the horn of her saddle. There were no rail-roads, and very few carriages then. She brought them from Virginia; and this fact may serve to confirm the tradition, that the first Lombardy poplar that ever grew in this country, and from which all that now grow originally spring, was brought from Europe to his homestead in Virginia by Thomas Jefferson, probably in 1769, when he returned from the mission to which he was appointed by Washington as Minister Plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of commerce with foreign nations. The scions referred to were brought from Virginia about 1806 --thus about 17 years after the first one was planted by Jefferson. In this short time the tree could not spread over a very large terri
tory; so that the three that graced our house must have sprung from the earliest generations.
The history of these three poplars and a willow goes farther. After they had grown many years, and were thick, tall, and beautiful, it was alleged against them that their roots, growing over or rather through, under the fence, were injuring a garden lately laid out near them! The subject was earnestly discussed pro and con; for some time the trees prevailed, and again the witnesses against them prevailed. Certain it was scions began to show themselves among the currant bushes inside of the garden fence, proving that these were roots below; and now and then a suspicious poplar-looking sprout would even lift its hopeful head in the hard path in the middle of the garden. Alas! it was but too evident that all around, far and near, their roots did cry from the ground against them! It began to be strongly feared that father would give judgment against them, and seal their doom.
Once more there was hope. For a kind-hearted daysman, who had love for the trees in his heart, suggested a compromise, which seemed not altogether devoid of wisdom. A deep narrow dike was to be dug along the outside of the garden fence-such was this benevolent proposal-by which device the roots of the poplars were all to be cut off so that they should not grow over again. Good, it was done; but the wisdom had one folly in it which proved disastrous to the whole scheme. The roots were already over! And these roots were as fond of life as the parent trees; and so they showed their diligence in the vocation of sprouting up anew every spring. The dike would not do! Then my father decided firmly; and behold, we who loved the trees most, were made meekly to execute the sentence. With bleeding hearts, thoughtfully, and slow, we laid the axe into their venerable trunks, stroke on stroke, first this side and then that, till crack!--crash!—their lay the lovely ruin! The work was done. We have never been able to approve of, or justify, this severe measure. How utilitarian we are. They injured the garden a little, and for this they must offer up all-be utterly demolished! These tall, beautiful trees--trees that my mother brought from afar, and with which her name was so pleasantly associated in family story, and since in memory that backward travels-trees, that were there long before the garden-these trees must give way to cabbage heads! must die for cabbage heads! Spirits of the poets! where were ye when these graceful and pleasant trees held war with cabbage heads, and fell before them!
Alas! how queer the house looked when the poplars were down. The very identity of the homestead seemed gone. The house looked as naked, cold, and simple as a sheered sheep; or as the nest. of a partridge in the meadow, when the grass and tall weeds have been shorn away above it by the scythe. Coming home from the fields at noon, it seemed as if that was not the house, nor that the
barn. Even the garden seemed ashamed and astonished, and looked squatted, inside the pailings, like a broad and ugly toad. Even the ducks and geese that were wont to sit in squads silently at the roots of the poplars now looked up and quacked, and gabbled, as if in wonder at what had happened. The slowly moving drovers gazed across and back as they passed along the road, till they were out of sight, as if they could not persuade themselves that they had ever passed that house before!
Such seemed, when it was too late to remedy the evil, to have been the true value of those trees. Esau-like we delivered them into the hands of the woodman for a mess of cabbage! While we write the paper seems to blush for the shame, and the ink at the end of our pen, boils with indignation at the graceless deed. But it is too late. May the reader be preserved from ever committing such folly, and enduring the bitter repentance that follows, and that comes too late! Then shall the sad story in this digression not have been recorded in vain.