Page images

the attacks of disease, or gratify the fastidious and stimulate the blunted taste of the voluptuous European. What a paradise ! if we could but transport thither civilisation and morality.

2. It is there that the ground produces the sugar-cane, the coffee-tree, the palm, the bread-tree, the immense baobab, the date, the cocoa, the vanilla, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the pepper and the camphor-tree. There are also various sorts of dye-wood, and particular kinds of corn, which almost exclusively belong to the torrid zone; while this zone is not destitute of any species which grows under a less warm sun. The plant which in Siberia vegetates in the plain, is found at the highest summits of the mountains under the line, and the sides of these same mountains correspond to the climate of the temperate zone.

3. The appearance of vegetation under the equator enchants the imagination. It is there that plants display the most majestic forms. As in the frosty regions of the north the bark of the trees is covered with lichens and moss, so between the tropics the vanilla and kindred orchids adorn the trunks of the gigantic fig and other trees. The fresh verdure of the leaves forms a contrast to the flowers of the orchis, variegated by a thousand different colours. The climbing passion-flowers, and the banisteria, with its flowers of gold, twine around the trunks of the forest trees.

4. In the midst of this exuberant vegetation, and this confusion of climbing plants, it often costs the naturalist trouble to ascertain to what stem the leaves and flowers belong In the torrid zone, the plants which are most abundant in juices present a brighter verdure, and larger and more magnificent leaves than in the northern climates.

The vegetables which live in groups, and which render the countries of Europe of so monotonous an aspect, are very seldom to be met with in the equatorial regions.

5. Trees twice as high as our oaks are decked with flowers as large and as beautiful as our lilies. Upon the shady banks of one of the rivers of South America grows a climbing plant, the flowers of which are four feet in circumference. Children amuse themselves by covering their heads with them. We may add to this description the gigantic forms of the baobabs, whose circumference sometimes extends to 70 or 80 feet, and the elegantly bold shape of the eucalyptus, and of the gummy palm trees, which rising to the height of from 150 to 180 feet form aerial porticoes above the forests.

6. The extraordinary elevation to which whole tracts of country rise, under the tropics, and the cold temperature of that elevation, present to the inhabitants of the torrid zone an extremely singular prospect. Besides the groups of palm and banana trees, they see also around them the. vegetable forms which appear to belong only to the regions of the north. Cypresses, firs and oaks, barberries and alder trees nearly resembling ours, cover the mountainous districts of the south of Mexico as well as the chain of the Andes under the equator.-Malté Brun (1775–1826).

Questions on the lesson :- What is said of the fruits of the Torrid Zone? Of the aromatics? Of every kind of vegetation? The sap? The uses of the balms, gums, &c. ? What valuable articles are obtaired from trees in this zone? Of what class of plants is it not destitute? How do the plants which belong to temperate regions flourish in the torrid zone? What covers the bark in frosty regions ? What takes the place of lichens in tropical countries? What shows the abundance of creeping plants there? What examples are given of the splendour of the flowers on trees and climbing plants ?

The Torrid Zone extends 23} degrees on either side of the equator. As the sun is vertical twice a year on every place within this region and its rays are never far from being vertical to any place within it, the temperature is very high.

Orchids.-A class of plants much prized for their beauty and the strange forms of their flowers. Many of them are found on the branches and trunks of trees.


1. Slow o'er the Apennine, with bleeding feet,

A patient Pilgrim wound his lonely way,
To deck the Lady of Loretto's seat,

With all the little wealth his zeal could pay:
2. From mountain-tops cold died the evening ray,

And stretch'd in twilight slept the vale below;
And now the last, last purple streaks of day

Along the melancholy west fade slow.
3. High o'er his head the restless pines complain,

As on their summit rolls the breeze of night; Beneath, the hoarse stream chides the rocks in vain:

The Pilgrim pauses on the dizzy height,
4. Then to the vale his cautious step he pressed:

For there a hermit's cross was dimly seen,
Cresting the rock, and there his limbs might rest,
Cheered in the good man's cave by faggot's sheen,

On leafy beds, nor guile his sleep molest.
5 Unhappy Luke! he trusts a treacherous clue!

Behind the cliff the lurking robber stood !
No friendly moon his giant shadow threw

Athwart the road, to save the Pilgrim's blood : 6. On as he went a vesper hymn he sung, —

The hymn that nightly soothed him to repose.

Fierce on his harmless prey the ruffian sprung!
The Pilgrim bleeds to death, his eyelids close:
Yet his meek spirit threw no vengeful care,
But, dying, for his murderer breathed—a sainted prayer.

-Mrs. Radcliffe (1764–1823).

Loretto or Loreto, a town of Italy, south of Ancona. It is said that the Santa Casa (Holy Cottage), the dwelling of the Virgin Mary in which she received the angel Gabriel, was carried by angels from Nazareth to Loretto. The Holy Cottage is contained in a vast church, and is annually visited by thousands of pilgrims. The name Loretto is derived either from “the sacred grove (lauretum), or the lady (Loreta) under whose shelter the House is believed to have descended.


1. The troops, refreshed by a night's rest, succeeded early on the following day in gaining the crest of the sierra of Ahualco, which stretches like a curtain between the two great mountains on the north and south. Their progress was now comparatively easy, and they marched forward with a buoyant step as they felt they were treading the soil of Montezuma.

2. They had not advanced far, when, turning an angle of the sierra, they suddenly came on a view which more than compensated the toils of the preceding day. It was that of the Valley of Mexico, which, with its picturesque assemblage of water, woodland and cultivated plains, its shining cities and shadowy hills, was spread out like some gay and gorgeous panorama before them.

In the highly rarefied atmosphere of these upper regions, even remote objects have a brilliancy of colouring and a distinctness of outline which seem to annihilate distance.



« PreviousContinue »