« AnteriorContinuar »
MHE history of sacred plants is always an interesting and
I instructive study; more so when it extends into a remote antiquity, and is associated with such great and advanced nations as those of Egypt and India. Much has been written and speculated concerning the Lotos of old authors; and great confusion has existed in many minds, on account of the desire to make all allusions and descriptions to harmonise with one ideal plant--the classic Lotos. At the outset of our remarks we must clearly intimate that it is impossible to combine all the fragments of history and description applied to some plant, or plants, known by the name of Lotos—and met with in the pages of Herodotus, Homer, Theophrastus, and others-into one harmonious whole, and apply them to a single mythical plant. It is manifest, from the authors themselves, that more than one Lotos is spoken of, and it was never intended to convey the notion that, like immortal Jove, the Lotos was one and indivisible. Starting, then, with the conviction that the one name has been applied to more than one or two very distinct and different plants, we shall have less difficulty than were we to attempt the futile task of reconciling all remarks about the Lotos to a single plant.
In the first instance, it is perfectly clear that the Lotos of Homer, which Ulysses discovered, and which is alluded to in the ninth book of the “ Odyssey," is quite distinct from any of the rest. It is the fruit of this tree to which interest attaches, and not to the flower, as in some others. For the sake of distinction, we shall speak of this as the “ arborescent Lotos," and attempt its identification.
The allusion to it by Homer will be more vividly present in the minds of readers than that of any other Lotos, since the story forms the basis of the “Lotos-eaters” of our own Tennyson. It is thus rendered by Pope :
We touched, by various errors tossed,
This tree, the fruit of which was eaten by the Lotophagi, is mentioned by Herodotus, Theophrastus, Polybius, Dioscorides, and Pliny, and from them we gather the following particulars. 6 Of the Lotos, this particular kind is of a considerable size, about as large as a pear-tree, or somewhat less, having a leaf serrated like that of the Quercus ilex. The wood is of a dark colour" (Theophrastus). “ The Lotus is a tree of no great height, rough and thorny, and bears a yellowish-green leaf, somewhat thicker and broader than that of the bramble” (Polybius). “The Lotos-tree is of a considerable size” (Dioscorides). “Of the size of a pear-tree, though Cornelius Nepos speaks of it as a shrub; the leaf is more serrated, otherwise it might be taken for the leaf of the evergreen oak” (Pliny). Virgil also includes it amongst trees. Hence we gather that it is a small, rough, thorny tree, with serrated leaves, and a dark wood, for Pliny adds, “the wood is of a black colour, and in request to make pipes to play upon.” So much for the tree, and now as to its fruit. “This fruit of the Lotos is in size about as large as that of the Lentiscus (mastic); in sweetness it is like the fruit of the palm-tree. From this fruit the Lotophagi also make wine” (Herodotus). “The fruit is like the bean (Egyptian bean, or Kyamos); as the grape, it changes colour as it ripens; but, like myrtle-berries, it is produced thick and close upon the shoots. It is eaten by those people called Lotophagi; it is innocent, of an agreeable sweetness, and good for the bowels. There is one kind which has no stone, and that is sweeter; of this wine is made. The army
of Ophellas, on his march to Carthage, being short of pro-
Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
We will accept the romance, and be thankful for the beautiful, even though it be romance, but the Lotos of the Lotophagi bore only a common-place sort of fruit which satisfied hunger, was sweet and pleasant, and could yield wine.
The next evidence to be adduced is that of modern travellers. First of these is Dr. Shaw, who states that the seedra of the Arabs “is a shrub very common in the Jereede, and other parts