The Illustrated London Reading Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.

[Illustration:  PALMS OF ARIMATHEA.]

The flowers of most of the palms are as beautiful as the trees.  Those of the Palma real are of a brilliant white, rendering them visible from a great distance; but, generally, the blossoms are of a pale yellow.  To these succeed very different forms of fruit:  in one species it consists of a cluster of egg-shaped berries, sometimes seventy or eighty in number, of a brilliant purple and gold colour, which form a wholesome food.

South America contains the finest specimens, as well as the most numerous varieties of palm:  in Asia the tree is not very common; and of the African palms but little is yet known, with the exception of the date palm, the most important to man of the whole tribe, though far less beautiful than the other species.

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[Illustration:  Letter I.]

    It waved not through an Eastern sky,
    Beside a fount of Araby;
    It was not fann’d by Southern breeze
    In some green isle of Indian seas;
    Nor did its graceful shadow sleep
    O’er stream of Afric, lone and deep.

    But fair the exiled Palm-tree grew,
    ’Midst foliage of no kindred hue: 
    Through the laburnum’s dropping gold
    Rose the light shaft of Orient mould;
    And Europe’s violets, faintly sweet,
    Purpled the moss-beds at its feet.

    Strange look’d it there!—­the willow stream’d
    Where silv’ry waters near it gleam’d;
    The lime-bough lured the honey-bee
    To murmur by the Desert’s tree,
    And showers of snowy roses made
    A lustre in its fan-like shade.

    There came an eve of festal hours—­
    Rich music fill’d that garden’s bowers;
    Lamps, that from flow’ring branches hung,
    On sparks of dew soft colours flung;
    And bright forms glanced—­a fairy show,
    Under the blossoms to and fro.

    But one, a lone one, ’midst the throng,
    Seem’d reckless all of dance or song: 
    He was a youth of dusky mien,
    Whereon the Indian sun had been;
    Of crested brow, and long black hair—­
    A stranger, like the Palm-tree, there.

    And slowly, sadly, moved his plumes,
    Glittering athwart the leafy glooms: 
    He pass’d the pale green olives by,
    Nor won the chesnut flowers his eye;
    But when to that sole Palm he came,
    Then shot a rapture through his frame.

    To him, to him its rustling spoke;
    The silence of his soul it broke. 
    It whisper’d of his own bright isle,
    That lit the ocean with a smile. 
    Aye to his ear that native tone
    Had something of the sea-wave’s moan.

    His mother’s cabin-home, that lay
    Where feathery cocoos fringe the bay;
    The dashing of his brethren’s oar,
    The conch-note heard along the shore—­
    All through his wak’ning bosom swept: 
    He clasp’d his country’s tree, and wept.

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The Illustrated London Reading Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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