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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2908

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Seen from the bay, the little red-white-and-yellow city forms but one multicolored streak against the burning green of the lofty island. There is no naked soil, no bare rock: the chains of the mountains, rising by successive ridges towards the interior, are still covered with forests;-tropical woods ascend the peaks to the height of four and five thousand feet. To describe the beauty of these woods-even of those covering the mornes in the immediate vicinity of St. Pierre-seems to me almost impossible;-there are forms and colors which appear to demand the creation of new words to express. Especially is this true in regard to hue;-the green of a tropical forest is something which one familiar only with the tones of Northern vegetation can form no just conception of: it is a color that conveys the idea of green fire.

You have only to follow the high-road leading out of St. Pierre by way of the Savane du Fort to find yourself, after twenty minutes' walk, in front of the Morne Parnasse, and before the verge of a high wood,-remnant of the enormous growth once covering all the island. What a tropical forest is, as seen from without, you will then begin to feel, with a sort of awe, while you watch that beautiful upclimbing of green shapes to the height of perhaps a thousand feet overhead. It presents one seemingly solid surface of vivid color,-rugose like a cliff. You do not readily distinguish whole trees in the mass;-you only perceiv

e suggestions, dreams of trees, Doresqueries. Shapes that seem to be staggering under weight of creepers rise a hundred feet above you;-others, equally huge, are towering above these; and still higher, a legion of monstrosities are nodding, bending, tossing up green arms, pushing out great knees, projecting curves as of backs and shoulders, intertwining mockeries of limbs. No distinct head appears except where some palm pushes up its crest in the general fight for sun. All else looks as if under a veil,-hidden and half smothered by heavy drooping things. Blazing green vines cover every branch and stem;-they form draperies and tapestries and curtains and motionless cascades-pouring down over all projections like a thick silent flood: an amazing inundation of parasitic life.... It is a weird awful beauty that you gaze upon; and yet the spectacle is imperfect. These woods have been decimated; the finest trees have been cut down: you see only a ruin of what was. To see the true primeval forest, you must ride well into the interior.

The absolutism of green does not, however, always prevail in these woods. During a brief season, corresponding to some of our winter months, the forests suddenly break into a very conflagration of color, caused by blossoming of the lianas-crimson, canary-yellow, blue and white. There are other flowerings, indeed; but that of the lianas alone has chromatic force enough to change the aspect of a landscape.

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