Biagio tells the reader that he’s not sure what the 19th century has in store. It started badly and continues to get worse. Innovators have been defeated, and absolutism and the Jesuits are in charge. The ideals of the Enlightenment are gone. He can only express his ideas in this notebook. It was different when Cosimo was still alive. The only reason Biagio knows now that things have changed is because Cosimo is no longer here. Now, Biagio studies and follows the papers, but he cannot find what Cosimo wanted to say.
Here, Biagio casts Cosimo as an interpreter of Enlightenment ideas and events. Now that he’s gone, Biagio cannot understand those ideas. However, it’s also worth noting that Biagio is writing sometime in the 1820s, so the Enlightenment itself is long gone and is no longer revolutionary, as it was in Cosimo’s youth and middle age. Therefore, it’s simply not as compelling as it once was.
Biagio says that Cosimo started sleeping in the walnut tree in the square. He refused to come down but accepted the help of an old woman and the doctor. Biagio and the townsfolk hoisted a mattress and then an armchair into the tree, but one morning, they found Cosimo in the very top of the tree. A doctor and a priest went up, but couldn’t get Cosimo down. Then, Englishmen in a hot air balloon lost control of their balloon in a gust of wind. It flew towards the tree and Cosimo caught hold of an anchor hanging over the side. The balloon landed on the other side of the gulf without Cosimo; the balloonists noticed nothing. Everyone believes that Cosimo dropped off over the sea. In the family tomb, Cosimo’s marker says that he lived in the trees, loved the earth, and ascended into the sky.
Cosimo’s death is fitting for him: it encapsulates the tension between the two eras, for one, as he stands firm in his ideals while also dying in a very dramatic fashion. Further, the first manned hot air balloon flights happened in the 1790s, right around the time that the Enlightenment was giving way to the Romantic era. In this way, Cosimo’s cause of death is a concise representation of the two eras he lived in.
Biagio says that as he writes, he stops and goes to the window. Now, the sky is empty—there are no more trees. Where there are trees, they’re now exotic trees. Native trees only live up on the hills. Ombrosa is no longer around, and Biagio wonders if it ever really existed. He wonders if the region only existed because of Cosimo’s life in the trees. It could all just be a story.
The exotic trees make it clear that it’s impossible, in Biagio’s present, for anyone to lead a life like Cosimo did. Cosimo is now a thing of the past, along with his ideas. What will go on is Biagio’s story of Cosimo’s life, which will allow readers to follow along Cosimo’s journey and make the same leaps he did—even if they cannot, in practice, embody Cosimo.