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Har. Are acorns good to eat ?
Geo. No, that they are not. I have tried, and did not like them at all.
Tut. In the early ages of man, before he cultivated the earth, but lived upon such wild products as nature afforded, we are told that acorns made a considerable part of his food; and at this day I believe they are eaten in some countries. But this is in warmer climates, where they probably become sweeter and better flavoured than with us. The chief use we make of them is to feed hogs. In those parts of England where Oak woods are common, great herds of swine are kept, which are driven into the woods in autumn, when the acorns fall, and provide for themselves plentifully for two or three months. This, however, is a small part of the praise of the Oak. You will be surprised when I tell you, that to this tree our country owes its chief glory and security.
Har. Ay, how can that be?
Tut. I don't know whether in your reading you have ever met with the story, that Athens, a famous city in Greece, consulting the oracle how it might best defend itself against its enemies, was advised to trust to wooden walls.
Har. Wooden walls ? - that's oddĮ should think stone walls better; for wooden ones might be set on fire,
Tut. True: but the meaning was, that as Athens was a place of great trade, and its people were skilled in maritime affairs, they ought to trust to their ships. Well, this is the case with Great Britain. As it is an island, it has no need of walls and fortifications, while it possesses ships to keep all enemies at a distance. Now, we have the greatest and finest navy in the world, by which we both defend ourselves, and attack other nations, when
they insult us; and this is all built of oak.
Geo. Would no other wood do to build ships ?
Tut. None nearly so well, especially for men of war; for it is the stoutest and strongest wood we have; and therefore best fitted, both to keep sound under water, and to bear the blows and shocks of the waves, and the terrible strokes of cannon balls. It is a peculiar excellence for this last purpose, that Oak is not so liable to splinter or shiver as other woods, so that a ball can pass through it without making a large hole. Did you never hear the old
Heart of Oak are our ships, hearts of Oak are
our men, &c. ?
Tut. It was made at a time when England was more successful in war than had ever before been known, and
success, was properly attributed chiefly to our fleet, the great support of which is the British Oak; sp I hope you will henceforth look upon Oaks with due respect. Har. Yes—it shall always be my
Tut. Had not Pope reason, when he said, in his Windsor Forest,
Let India boast her plapts, nor envy we
These lineş refer to its use as well for merchant ships as for men of war; and in fact all our ships are built either of native or foreign Oak.
Geo. Are the masts of ships made of Oak ?
Tut. No-it would be too heavy. Besides, it would not be easy to find trunks of Oak long and straight enough for that purpose. They are made of various sorts of fir or pine, which grow very tall and taper.
Geb. Is Oak wood used for any thing beside ship-building ? Tut. O yes—It is one of the prin
. cipal woods of the carpenter, being employed wherever great strength and durability are required. It is used for door and window-frames, and the beams that áre laid in walls to strengthen them. Floors and staircases are sometimes made with it; and in old houses in the country, which were built when Oak was more plentiful than at present, almost all the timber about them was Oak. It is also occasionally used for furniture, as tables, chairs, drawers, and bedsteads; though mahogany has now much taken its place for the better sort of goods, and the lighter and softer woods for the cheaper; for the hardness of Oak renders it difficult and expensive to work. It is