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I do not suppose there ever were any, for Lebanon terminates with Jebel Rihan, far to the northeast of Tyre. These lower mountains, comprising the territories of Asher and Naphtali, are the favorite zone of the oak and the terebinth. Even the pine is rarely seen, and the cedar never. It is only on the loftier ranges of Lebanon that they flourish, and the true Biblical cedar is now confined to a single locality.* Hiram, I suppose, had the control of these mountains, and brought the cedar-tree to the coast at Tripoli, Batrone, Jebail, or Beirût.
Have you ever visited these cedars?
Many times. They are situated high up on the western slope of Lebanon, ten hours southeast from Tripoli. Besherrah is directly west, in the romantic gorge of the Khadîsha, two thousand feet below them, and Ehden is three hours distant on the road to Tripoli. In no other part of Syria are the mountains so Alpine, the proportions so gigantic, the ravines so profound and awful. You must not leave the country without visiting the cedars. There are several routes to them, and all wild-exciting—delightful. One of the most romantic is to climb Lebanon from Beirút quite to the base of Jebel Knîseh, then wind northward around the heads of the stupendous gorges made by the rivers of Beirût, Antelîas, Dog River, Nahr Ibrahim, Nahr el Jous, and the Khadîsha. I have repeatedly followed that wildest of routes, with or without a path, as the case might be, clinging to the shelving declivities midway to heaven, with a billowy wilderness of rocks and ravines sinking away westward down to the sea. The very thought of it at this minute is positively intoxicating. The platform where the cedars stand is more than six thousand feet above the Mediterranean, and around it are gathered the very tallest and grayest heads of Lebanon. The forest is not large—not more
* Those travelers who speak of finding these cedars in abundance on other parts of Lebanon are simply mistaken in the tree. There are considerable groves of cedar in various places, generally along the very highest range; for example, north of Tomat Niha, above Barûk, Aphcah, and other similar localities, but they are quite different from the cedar of Lebanon.
than five hundred trees, great and small, grouped irregularly on the sides of shallow ravines, which mark the birthplace of the Khadîsha, or Holy River.
But, though the space covered by them does not exceed half a dozen acres, yet, when fairly within the grove, and beneath the giant arms of those old patriarchs of a hundred generations, there comes a solemn hush upon the soul as if by enchantment. Precisely the same sort of magic spell settles on the spirits no matter how often you repeat your visits. But it is most impressive in the night. Let us by all means arrange to sleep there. The universal silence is almost painful. The gray old towers of Lebanon, still as a
. stone, stand-all around, holding up the stars of heaven to look at you, and the trees gather like phantoms about you, and wink knowingly, or seem to, and whisper among themselves you know not what. You become suspicious, nervous, until, broad awake, you find that it is nothing but the flickering of your drowsy fire, and the feeble flutter of bats among the boughs of the trees. A night among the cedars is never forgotten; the impressions, electrotyped, are hid away
in the inner chamber of the soul, among her choicest treasures, to be visited a thousand times with never-failing delight.
There is a singular discrepancy in the statements of travelers with regard to the number of trees. Some mention seven, others thirteen – intending, doubtless, only those whose age and size rendered them Biblical, or at least historical. It is not easy, however, to draw any such line of demarcation. There is a complete gradation from small and comparatively young to the very oldest patriarchs of the forest. I counted four hundred and forty-three, great and small, and this can not be far from the true number. This, however, is not uniform. Some are struck down by lightning, broken by enormous loads of snow, or torn to fragments by tempests. Even the sacrilegious axe is sometimes lifted against them. But, on the other hand, young trees are constantly springing up from the roots of old ones, and from seeds of ripe cones. I have seen these infant cedars in
thousands just springing from the soil; but, as the grove is wholly unprotected, and greatly frequented both by men and animals, they are quickly destroyed. This fact, however, proves that the number might be increased ad libitum. Beyond a doubt, the whole of these upper terraces of Lebanon might again be covered with groves of this noble tree, and furnish timber enough not only for Solomon's Temple and the house of the forest of Lebanon, but for all the houses along this coast. But, unless a wiser and more provident government controls the country, such a result can never be realized, and, indeed, the whole forest will slowly die out under the dominion of the Arab and Turk. Even in that case the tree will not be lost. It has been propagated by the nut or seed in many parks in Europe, and there are more of them within fifty miles of London than on all Lebanon.
We have seen larger trees every way, and much taller, on the banks of the Ohio, and the loftiest cedar might take shelter under the lowest branches of California's vegetable glories. Still, they are respectable trees. The girth of the largest is more than forty-one feet; the height of the highest may be one hundred. These largest, however, part into two or three only a few feet from the ground. Their age is very uncertain, nor are they more ready to reveal it than others who have an uneasy consciousness of length of days. Very different estimates have been made. Some of our missionary band, who have experience in such matters, and confidence in the results, have counted the growths (as we Western people call the annual concentric circles) for a few inches into the trunk of the oldest cedar, and from such data carry back its birth three thousand five hundred years. It may be so. They are carved full of names and dates, going back several generations, and the growth since the earliest date has been almost nothing. At this rate of increase they must have been growing ever since the Flood. But young trees enlarge far faster, so that my confidence in estimates made from such specimens is but small.
The wood, bark, cones, and even leaves of the cedar are saturated, so to speak, with resin. The heart has the red ce