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those of the banian-tree, of which the leaves, says Sir James Forbes, are large, soft, and of a lively green; the fruit a small bright scarlet fig. The Hindoos are peculiarly fond of this tree; they consider its long duration, its outstretching arms, and overshadowing beneficence, as emblems of the Deity, and almost pay it divine honours. The Brahmins, who thus "find a fane in every sacred grove," spend much of their time in religious solitude, under the shade of the banian-tree; they plant it near the dewals, or Hindoo temples; and in those villages where there is no structure for public worship, they place an image under one of these trees, and there perform morning and evening sacrifice. The size of some of these trees is stupendous. Sir James Forbes mentions one which has three hundred and fifty large trunks, the smaller ones exceeding three thousand; and another, whereunder the chief of the neighbourhood used to encamp in magnificent style; having a saloon, dining room, drawing-room, bedchambers, bath, kitchen, and every other accommodation, all in separate tents; yet did this noble tree cover the whole, together with his carriages, horses, camels, guards, and attendants; while its spreading branches afforded shady spots for the tents of his friends, with their servants and cattle. And in the march of an army it has been known to shelter seven thousand men.
Such is the banian-tree, the pride of Hindustan: which Milton refers to as the one which served "our general mother" for her first essay in the art of needlework.
"Both together went
Some of the most interesting incidents in Holy Writ turn on the occupation of needlework; slight sketches, nay, hardly so much, but mere touches which engage all the gentler, and purer, and holier emotions of our nature. For instance: the beloved child of the beautiful mother of Israel, for whom Jacob toiled fourteen years, which were but as one day for the love he bare her—this child, so eagerly coveted by his mother, so devotedly loved by his father, and who was destined hereafter to wield the destinies of such a mighty empire—had a token, a peculiar token, bestowed on him of his father's overwhelming love and affection. And what was it? "A coat of many colours;" probably including some not in general use, and obtained by an elaborate process. Entering himself into the minutiae of a concern, which, however insignificant in itself, was valuable in his eyes as giving pleasure to his boy, the fond father selects pieces of various-coloured cloth, and sets female hands, the most expert of his household, to join them together in the form of a coat.
But, alas! to whom should he intrust the task / She whose fingers would have revelled in it, Rachel the mother, was no more; her warm heart was cold, her busy fingers rested in the tomb. Would his sister, would Dinah execute the work? No; it was but too probable that she shared in the jealousy of her brothers. No matter The father apportions the task to his handmaidens, and himself superintends the performance. With pleased eye he watches its progress, and with benignant smile he invests the happy and gratified child with the glowing raiment.
This elaborate piece of work, the offering of paternal affection to please a darling child, was probably the simple and somewhat clumsy original of those which were afterwards embroidered and subsequently woven in various colours, and which came to be regarded as garments of dignity and appropriated to royalty ; as it is said of Tamar that " she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled." It is even now customary in India to dress a favourite or beautiful child in a coat of various colours tastefully sewed together; and it may not perhaps be very absurd to refer even to so ancient an origin as Joseph's coat of many colours the superstition now prevalent in some countries, which teaches that a child clothed in a garment of many colours is safe from the blasting of malicious tongues or the machinations of evil spirits.
In the Book of Samuel we read, <e And Hannah his mother, made him a little coat." This seems a trivial incident enough, yet how interesting is the scene which this simple mention conjures up! With all the earnest fervour of that separated race who hoped each one to be the honoured instrument of bringing a Saviour into the world, Hannah, then childless, prayed that this reproach might be taken from her, Her prayer was heard, her son was born; and in holy gratitude she reared him, not for wealth, for fame, for worldly honour, or even for her own domestic comfort,—but, from his birth, and before his birth she devoted him as the servant of the Most High. She indulged herself with his presence only till her maternal cares had fitted him for duty; and then, with a tearful eye it might be, and a faltering footstep, but an unflinching resolution, she devoted him to the altar of her God.
But never did his image leave her mind: never amid the fair scions which sprang up and bloomed around her hearth did her thoughts forsake her first-born; and yearly, when she went up to the Tabernacle with Elkanah her husband, did she take him "a little coat" which she had made. We may fancy her quiet happy thoughts when at this employment; we may fancy the eager earnest questionings of the little group by whom she was surrounded; the wondering about their absent brother; the anxious catechisings respecting his whereabouts; and, above all, the admiration of the new garment itself, and the earnest criticisms on it; especially if in form and fashion it should somewhat differ from their own. And then arrives the moment when the garment is committed to its envelope; and the mother, weeping to part from her little ones, yet longing to see her absent boy, receives their adieux and their thousand reminiscences, and sets forth on her journey.
Again she treads the hallowed courts, again she meekly renews her vows, and again a mother's longings, a mother's hopes are quenched in the full enjoyment of a mother's love. Beautiful and good, the blessing of Heaven attending him, and throwing a beam of light on his fair brow, the pure and holy child appears like a seraph administering at that altar to which he had been consecrated a babe, and at which his ministry was sanctioned even by the voice of the Most High himself, when in the solemn stillness of midnight he breathed his wishes into the heart of the child, and made him, infant as he was, the medium of his communications to one grown hoary in the service of the altar.
The solemn duties ended, Hannah invests her hopeful boy with the little coat, whilst her willing fingers lingeringly perform their office, as if loth to quit a task in which they so much delight. And then with meek step and grateful heart she wends her homeward way, and meditates tranquilly on the past interview, till the return of another year finds her again on her pilgrimage of love—the joyful bearer of another " little coat."
And a high tribute is paid to needlework in the history of Dorcas, who was restored to life by the apostle St. Peter, by whom "all the widows stood weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.""In these were read The monuments of Dorcas dead: These were thy acts, and thou shalt have These hung as honours o'er thy grave: