PINE >> Knowledge of the principles of personal independence
Of all the conifers, and, indeed, of all trees that grow, pines most abound in resin. It is not of so fragrant a kind as some of the Eastern aromatic resins, yet it is pleasant in odor, and healing, and, in the forms of tar and pitch, is extensively used to protect from the weather ships and cordage and houses. Indeed the idea of protection is associated with the pine in every shape. Pine forests are the best of natural shields against cold winds. Their leaves, falling in autumn, make an even winter blanket over the plants beneath, and over their own roots. Their wood is the best of all wood for boards and clapboards and shingles for the outsides of houses; and it is the most easily worked and extensively used for doors, casings, and inside finish generally, and for drawers, cupboards, and tables. The pitch pine of the South makes enduring floors, and its resinous sap, as has been said, is protection itself against rain and water.
It should not be overlooked that the seeds of some pines, as the stone pine of Europe, and the sugar pine of the Pacific slope, are edible, and are an important article of food to the native inhabitants of their respective countries. Pines, and also spruces and firs, send off their principal branches at regular intervals, separated by a year’s growth of the leading shoot; and, therefore, have a tendency to stratification. Old pines generally lose their lower branches, and expand the upper branches in a broad head, which is especially marked in the stone pine, giving it the name of the “parasol tree.” An old white pine, by losing branches at intervals, frequently shows two or three widely separated ragged floors of verdure. The pines naturally inhabit temperate or cool climates, and will thrive in sandy soil too poor to support other large trees.
The resinous quality of the pine shows that it represents a knowledge which appeals to the affections; the abundance of its inflammable sap indicates the fiery thought with which that knowledge is cherished; and the uses to which it is put show that the loved principles relate to the protection of men in the secure enjoyment of their homes, their possessions, their habits, and opinions; all these they protect from the cold of indifference, and the rain or flood of intrusive or violent instruction.
The pines, therefore, represent the principles of personal independence and the right of seclusion, in regard to natural, mental, and spiritual possessions. They are principles which, among Northern nations at least, are of all principles most vehemently defended. They are the principles which brought our forefathers across the ocean to enjoy the freedom of the New England forests; and which they expressed, more exactly than they intended, by stamping the figure of a pine tree upon their first-coined shillings. Probably a like association, with only a dim perception of its meaning, made a pine tree the banner of a Scottish clan. The Greeks worshipped Poseidon, called by the Romans “Neptune,” as the “ruler of the sea, and as the first to train and employ horses” (Murray, p. 62). His temple stood in a pine grove, upon the Isthmus of Corinth, and the prize of the Isthmian games, celebrated in his honor, was a wreath of pine; apparently as a sign of independence of thought.
There is an undeniable sense of gloom in pine woods, which characterizes also an excess of personal independence; and, on the other hand, there is a restfulness in their solitude, which represents the enjoyment of needful seclusion. As the resin of the sap, so inflammable and hot, represents the zeal which enters into the idea of independence, the sugar which often accompanies it represents the natural sweetness of the same. The edible seeds of some species represent the duty of attaining and securing some kinds of independence. But as this is a serious duty only in relation to matters of conscience and religion, a few of the nobler pines only have seeds which are of any importance as food. The habit of the pines of dropping their lower branches as they grow older, and, except in a few poorer species, never sending up new shoots from the stump, represents the usual decrease of care for matters of external independence as we mature, and the transfer of the sensitiveness to matters of conscience and of interior life. That the wood of the tree with such a representation should be easily wrought into boxes, doors, clapboards, shingles, and many forms of protection and seclusion, seems perfectly natural. The name “pine,” as it occurs in our English Bible, is probably a mistranslation, and the pine does not seem to be really mentioned in the Word, unless it is included in the most general sense of the cedar; which is not unlikely, as it is a conspicuous evergreen upon Mount Lebanon, and is nearly akin to the cedar both spiritually and naturally.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875