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There was a time when men were not united by any tie. Deaf to the voice of Nature, the mother would snatch from her famished son the wild fruit with which he was striving to appease the craving of hunger. If calamity reconciled them for a moment, all at once the sight of an oak loaded with acorns, or a beech-tree covered with mast, made them as bitter enemies as ever. The earth was then a scene of misery. There was neither law, religion, nor language. Man knew not his high prerogatives; his reason was not yet awakened; and frequently he proved himself more cruel than the ferocious beasts, whose fearful howlings he imitated.
The gods at length took pity on men. Apollo and Mercury made presents to each other, and descended to the earth. The god of harmony received from the son of Maia the shell of a tortoise, out of which he had constructed a lyre, and gave him in exchange a Hazel stick, which had the power of imparting a love of virtue and of reconciling hearts divided by envy and hate. Thus equipped, the two sons of Jupiter sought the abodes of mortals. Apollo first sang the eternal wisdom which created the universe: he told how the elements were produced; how love unites all the parts of nature in one general bond; and, lastly, how men ought to appease by prayer the wrath of the gods. At his voice animosities were suspended, and revenge was banished from every heart. Mercury then touched men with the rod which Apollo had given to him. He loosed their tongues, and taught them to express their thoughts in words. He then explained to them that union constitutes strength, and that, without mutually assisting each other, they could not render the earth productive. Awakened by his exhortations, filial piety and love of country sprang forth to unite mankind, and he made commerce the general bond of the world. His last thought was the most sublime, for it was devoted to the gods: he taught men to resemble them in universal love and beneficence.
Adorned with two light wings, and entwined with serpents, the Hazel rod given to the god of eloquence by the god of harmony is still, by the name of caduceus, the emblem of peace, commerce, and reconciliation.
The ancients consecrated this shrub to the Furies. The smoke of its green roots was the incense which they offered in preference to the infernal gods; and they burned its berries during funerals to ban malign influences. In some parts of the Continent, the simple villager still believes that the perfume of Juniper berries purifies the air, and drives evil spirits from his humble cot.
The Juniper, which sometimes clothes itself in a golden yellow livery, rarely thrives under cultivation: when left at liberty, it loves to grow on the margin of woods. Weak and timorous animals frequently seek refuge under its long branches, which droop to the ground. The hare, when hard pressed, repairs to it, and squats with confidence beneath its sprays, the strong scent of which frequently sets the dogs at fault. Often, too, the thrush entrusts to it her young brood, and feeds upon its fruit: while the entomologist comes to study, around its branches bristling with spikes, a thousand resplendent insects, which have no other defence, and seem conscious that this shrub is destined to protect their weakness.