The Africa of Albert Schweitzer

The Africa of Albert Schweitzer

The Africa of Albert Schweitzer

The Africa of Albert Schweitzer

Excerpt

The world is still young at Lambarene. River and sky and forest-- they have been there for long millennia--unchanged. The little fish in schools see no danger as they glide down the stream. But the pelican stands behind the rock waiting. Over the water at the edge of a sandbank a stork stands on his long stilts. He, too, is fishing. Where the river meets the shore, lovely flowers in yellow and rose return the sun's greeting. Parrots fly overhead, their broad tails spread out like a fan. Monkeys chatter as they swing from branch to branch high in the giant trees.

Lambarene stands at the center of a network of rivers, the highways of Africa; but all around it is the jungle, black and mysterious. A few native trails, hidden under the tall trees and rife with peril, penetrate the jungle, but it is largely inchoate and unknown. Where it is still virgin, towering mahogany trees, kapoks and okoumes cut off the sun from the earth, and there is little undergrowth. Only where the high trees have been cut does the secondary forest grow dense and impenetrable.

Here at Lambarene the earth still steams as in the earliest days. The nearness of the equator, only forty miles away, makes the night and day approximately equal the year around, and there are only two seasons, the wet and the dry. The dry season is cooler than the wet, and the wet season is sunnier than the dry. The torrential rains come usually at night, and during the day the earth gives off its vapor under the incandescence of the sun. The heat is oppressive, the humidity high.

I am sitting on the stone steps that lead to the lower garden in Lambarene, here in the heart of this primeval world. To the right, tender plants just set out are protected from the patching heat of a merciless sun by palm branches stuck in the soil. Only yesterday these branches were cut from the top of the oil palms under my direction, but already they are beginning to wither. To the left, the men are turning the soil, the soil which is always red here in this country because of the iron in the earth. Beyond the breadfruit tree I can see the huge kapok that marks the end of the garden, and behind it the graceful palms of Atadi. A growth of tall reeds separates the garden from the swift-flowing Ogowe . . .

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