Page:The Oak.djvu/18

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
2
THE OAK.

In fact, everything about the oak is suggestive of durability and sturdy hardiness, and, like so many objects of human worship in the earlier days of man's emergence from a savage state, the oak instinctively attracts us. The attraction is no doubt complex, taking its origin in the value of its acorns and timber to our early forefathers, not unaffected by the artistic beauty of the foliage and habit of the tree, and the forest life of our ancestors, to say nothing of the more modern sentiment aroused when ships of war were built almost entirely of heart of oak; for the Aryan race seems to have used and valued both the fruit and the wood from very early times, and both Celt and Saxon preserved the traditional regard for them. Memories of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors are still found in the English and German names for the tree and its fruit, as seen by comparing the Anglo-Saxon āc or œc, the name of the oak, with the English word, and with the German Eiche on the one hand, and with acorn (Eichel) on the other.

In early days, moreover, there were vast oak forests in our island and on the Continent, and, although these have been almost cleared away so far as England is concerned, there are still ancient oaks in this country, some of which must date from Saxon times or thereabouts; and the oak is still one of the commonest trees in France, parts of Germany, and some other districts in Europe.

This is not the place to go further into what may be called the folk-lore of the oak—a subject which would