Saturday, April 17, 2010


The Ban of All the Woods

Charles Turner (1808-1879), Written at the Wood-Sale of Messrs. Blank and Co. Non-Resident Proprietors, from Small Tableaux (London: Macmillan and Co., 1868), p. 78:
Shall not the phantom-axe, with viewless strokes,
The quiet purlieus of your traffic vex?
And the grim voice of all these aged oaks
Go storming o'er your ledgers, to perplex
Your clerks with sylvan horror? This fair haunt
Of light and shadow, and divine repose,
Low-fallen at last beneath your ruthless blows,
Waits its last shame, the hammer. Do not vaunt
The pelf your ravage brings you; for the ban
Of all the woods is on you! you have spared
No shelter for the dreams of god or man—
Who stirred the wood-god's bile, what risks he ran
Of old! ay, even the heedless swain, who dared
To tune his pipe across the nose of Pan!
Turner's note (on p. 114):
The last four lines of the sonnet allude to these of the Idyll:
Οὐ θέμις, ὦ ποιμὴν, τὸ μεσαμβρινόν, οὐ θέμις ἄμμιν
Συρίσδεν· τὸν Πᾶνα δεδοίκαμες: ἦ γὰρ ἀπ᾽ ἄγρας
Τανίκα κεκμακὼς ἀμπαύεται· ἔστι δὲ πικρός,
Καί οἱ ἀεὶ δριμεῖα χολὰ ποτὶ ῥινὶ κάθηται.

                                    THEOCR. Εἰδύλλιον α’
This is Theocritus 1.15-18, here translated by C.S. Calverley:
I durst not, Shepherd, O I durst not pipe
At noontide; fearing Pan, who at that hour
Rests from the toils of hunting. Harsh is he;
Wrath at his nostrils aye sits sentinel.
"The hammer" in line 8 of Turner's sonnet is the auctioneer's hammer. The Rev. Charles Turner (Tennyson's elder brother) was vicar of Grasby—I haven't been able to discover the Sitz im Leben behind the sonnet, but see Alfred J. Church, The Laureate's Country: A Description of Places Connected with the Life of Alfred Lord Tennyson (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1891), p. 68, n. 1:
A characteristic story is told of Charles Turner's love of trees. Just outside the larder may be seen the stump of what must have been a splendid specimen of the willow. He paid £10 to the owner of the tree on the condition that it should not be cut down in his lifetime.
Note to myself: check Charles K. Rawding, The Lincolnshire Wolds in the Nineteenth Century (Lincoln: Soc. for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, 2001).


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