The trees Cosimo lives in symbolize the specific connections that Cosimo forms with the rest of the world, and more generally, the Age of Enlightenment as a whole. Cosimo moves through the trees around Ombrosa, spreading his Enlightenment-inspired ideas and his focus on coming together as a community, in much the same way that books and pamphlets circulated throughout the Western world and connected people during the Enlightenment. Biagio notes that in the years after Cosimo’s death, the native trees that Cosimo lived in were cut down and replaced with exotic trees from all over the world. The destruction of the old ones mirrors the end of the Enlightenment era’s connectedness and free-flowing ideas.
Ombrosa’s Native Trees Quotes in The Baron in the Trees
From the window I strained my ears to that irregular breath and tried to imagine how it would sound, without the familiar womb of the house, to someone who was just a few yards away but completely entrusted to it, with only the night around him, the only friendly object to which he could cling the trunk of a tree with its rough bark traveled by tiny endless tunnels in which the larvae slept.
Cosimo’s first days in the trees had no goals or plans but were dominated only by the desire to know and possess that kingdom of his. He would have liked to explore it immediately to its furthest boundaries, study all the possibilities it offered, discover it tree by tree and branch by branch.
That need to enter an element difficult to possess which had driven my brother to make his the ways of the trees was now working in him again, unsatisfied, and communicated to him the desire for a more detailed penetration, a relationship that would bind him to every leaf and scale and feather and flutter. It was the love that man the hunter has for what is alive but doesn’t know how to express except by aiming the gun; Cosimo couldn’t yet recognize it and tried to let it out by intensifying his exploration.
“Rebellion is not measured in yards,” he said. “Even when it seems just a few handbreadths, a journey may have no return.”
But I couldn’t always escape to join him in he woods. Lessons with the abbé, studying, serving Mass, meals with our parents kept me back: the hundreds of duties of family life to which I submitted, because in essence the sentence that I heard constantly repeated—“One rebel in a family is enough”—wasn’t unreasonable, and left its imprint on my entire life.
Thus by his art he helped to make nature in Ombrosa, which he had always found so benign, increasingly favorable to him, friend at once of his neighbor, of nature, and of himself. And in old age especially he enjoyed the advantages of this wise way of working, when the shape of the trees increasingly made up for his loss of strength.
And there, with naive youthful fervor, he explained the ideas of the philosophers and the wrongs of sovereigns and how states could be governed according to reason and justice.
He saw her: she was circling the pool, the little gazebo, the amphoras. She looked at the trees that had grown enormous, with hanging aerial roots, the magnolias that had become a forest. But she didn’t see him, he who sought to call her with the cooing of the hoopoe, the trill of the pipit, with sounds that were lost in the dense warbling of the birds in the garden.
“You reason too much. Why in the world should love be reasoned?”
“To love you more. Everything increases its power if you do it by reasoning.”
“You live in the trees and you have the mentality of a lawyer with gout.”
“The boldest enterprises should be experienced with the simplest heart.”
He continued to spout opinions until she ran away; then he, following her, despairing, tearing his hair.
And to say that Cosimo in that time had written and distributed a Plan of a Constitution for a Republican City with Declaration of the Rights of Men, Women, Children, Domestic and Wild Animals, Including Birds, Fish, and Insects, and of Plants Both Forest Trees and Vegetables and Grasses. It was a beautiful work, which could serve as a guide for all who govern; instead no one took it under consideration, and it remained a dead letter.
Then, the vegetation has changed: no more the holm oaks, the elms, the oaks; now Africa, Australia, the Americas, the Indies extend branches and roots here. The ancient trees have retreated upward: on top of the hills the olives, and in the mountain woods pines and chestnuts; down on the coast it’s an Australian red with eucalyptus, elephantine with ficus, enormous and solitary garden plants, and all the rest is palms, with their disheveled tufts, inhospitable desert trees.