Monday, July 06, 2009


So Foul a Deed

Thanks very much to Dr. Robert J. O'Hara for the following email:
I'm enjoying your series of blog posts on trees and groves. Here's another you may like -- George Wither's "When I behold the havocke and the spoyle" (1635):

And there's also Stanley Kunitz's "The War Against the Trees" (1958):

Many thanks for the interesting posts.
George Wither, When I behold the havocke and the spoyle:
When I behold the Havocke and the Spoyle,
Which (ev'n within the compasse of my Dayes)
Is made through every quarter of this Ile,
In Woods and Groves (which were this Kingdomes praise)
And, when I minde with how much greedinesse,
We seeke the present Gaine in every thing;
Not caring (so our Lust we may possesse)
What Dammage to Posterity we bring:
They doe, me-thinkes, as if they did foresee,
That, some of those, whom they have cause to hate,
Should come in Future-times, their Heires to be:
Or else, why should they such things perpetrate:
For, if they thinke their Children shall succeed;
Or, can believe, that they begot their Heires;
They could not, surely, doe so foule a Deed,
As to deface the Land, that should be theirs.
What our Forefathers planted, we destroy:
Nay, all Mens labours, living heretofore,
And all our owne, we lavishly employ
To serve our present Lusts; and, for no more.
 But, let these carelesse Wasters learne to know,
That, as Vaine-Spoyle is open Injury;
So, Planting is a Debt, they truely owe,
And ought to pay to their Posterity.
Selfe-love, for none, but for it selfe, doth care;
And, onely, for the present, taketh paine:
But, Charity for others doth prepare;
And, joyes in that, which Future-Time shall gaine.
 If, After-Ages may my Labours blesse;
 I care not, much, how Litle I possesse.
Stanley Kunitz, The War Against the Trees:
The man who sold his lawn to standard oil
Joked with his neighbors come to watch the show
While the bulldozers, drunk with gasoline,
Tested the virtue of the soil
Under the branchy sky
By overthowing first the privet-row.
Forsythia-forays and hydrangea-raids
Were but preliminaries to a war
Against the great-grandfathers of the town,
So freshly lopped and maimed.
They struck and struck again,
And with each elm a century went down.
All day the hireling engines charged the trees,
Subverting them by hacking underground
In grub-dominions, where dark summer's mole
Rampages through his halls,
Till a northern seizure shook
Those crowns, forcing the giants to their knees.
I saw the ghosts of children at their games
Racing beyond their childhood in the shade,
And while the green world turned its death-foxed page
And a red wagon wheeled,
I watched them disappear
Into the suburbs of their grievous age.
Ripped from the craters much too big for hearts
The club-roots bared their amputated coils,
Raw gorgons matted blind, whose pocks and scars
Cried Moon! On a corner lot
One witness-moment, caught
In the rear-view mirrors of the passing cars.
Related posts: Like Another Erysichthon; The Fate of Old Trees; Scandalous Misuse of the Globe; The Groves Are Down; Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Hornbeams; 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; Hornbeams; 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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