Monday, March 30, 2009


The Groves Are Down

Gary Snyder, Myths & Texts, number 14:
The groves are down
                cut down
Groves of Ahab, of Cybele
Pine trees, knobbed twigs
        thick cone and seed
        Cybele's tree this, sacred in groves
Pine of Seami, cedar of Haida
Cut down by the prophets of Israel
        the fairies of Athens
        the thugs of Rome
                both ancient and modern;
Cut down to make room for the suburbs
Bulldozed by Luther and Weyerhaeuser
Crosscut and chainsaw
        squareheads and finns
        high-lead and cat-skidding
Trees down
Creeks choked, trout killed, roads.

Sawmill temples of Jehovah.
Squat black burners 100 feet high
Sending the smoke
of our burnt
Live sap and leaf
To his eager nose.
In this poem Snyder combines references from ancient and modern times, East and West, the Old World and the New.

King Ahab made a grove for idol worship. See 1 Kings 16.33: "And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him." Such groves were cut down by Hezekiah and reformers like him, e.g. 2 Kings 18.4: "He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves..."

Cybele was a Phrygian goddess worshipped in mountain groves.

Seami, or Zeami (1363-1443), was a Japanese playwright. Among his plays is The Old Pine Tree.

The Haida are an Indian tribe of the Pacific northwest.

Robert Kern, Orientalism, Modernism, and the American Poem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 253, identifies Luther and Weyerhaeuser with "Protestantism and corporate capitalism," i.e. Martin Luther and the pulp and paper company Weyerhaeuser.

A squarehead is a German.

Cables are used in high-lead logging.

A skidder transports logs, and a cat-skidder is a skidder manufactured by Caterpillar.

Snyder worked as a lumberjack.

Paul Nash, We Are Making a New World

Related posts: Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Protection of Sacred Groves; Lex Luci Spoletina; Turullius and the Grove of Asclepius; Caesarian Section; Death of a Noble Pine; Two Yew Trees in Chilthorne, Somerset; The Fate of the Shrubbery at Weston; The Trees Are Down; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

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