Saturday, May 07, 2011


That Odious Crime

Dear Michael,

Here are two passages that perhaps you might like to add to your pithy collection on that odious crime, Arboricide. Both consider it from the point of view of the animals. (In each case I copy a few lines from before and after to show the context; translations mine):

Vergil, Geo. 2.203-217 (from a passage describing the different kinds of soil):
Earth black and fat beneath the piercing share,
the crumbly soil our ploughing tries to rival,
is best for grains. From no plain can you see    205
more heavy wains with slow bulls moving homeward.
        Or whence an angry farmer has ripped forest
and toppled groves for years asleep, uprooting
by its deep roots an ancient house of birds.
Lost, nests and nestlings gone, they seek deep sky
and where a share pressed rude, young fields are shining.
        But steeper country’s hungry gravel scarcely
supplies bees with ground-hugging spurge and rosemary.
There flaky tufas, black-snake-hollowed chalks,
tell you that no fields better serve the serpents    215
with such sweet food, such crooked hiding-places.

        nigra fere et presso pinguis sub uomere terra
et cui putre solum (namque hoc imitamur arando),
optima frumentis: non ullo ex aequore cernes
plura domum tardis decedere plaustra iuuencis;
        aut unde iratus siluam deuexit arator
et nemora euertit multos ignaua per annos,
antiquasque domos auium cum stirpibus imis
eruit; illae altum nidis petiere relictis,
at rudis enituit impulso uomere campus.
        nam ieiuna quidem cliuosi glarea ruris
uix humilis apibus casias roremque ministrat;
et tofus scaber et nigris exesa chelydris
creta negant alios aeque serpentibus agros
dulcem ferre cibum et curuas praebere latebras.
Jacob Balde, Silvae, 9.25.41 ff. (Balde wants to burn the accoutrements of war):
If you would have your names become an heirloom
for grandsons and great-grandsons, if a real
        hunger for praise consumes you
        and eagerness for fame,
bring torches hither: here outside the walls
and the uneven plains of mother Münster,
        where a space is, rebuild
        the Trojans’ funeral pyre.
There is no need now of Neronian cities
for kindling: nor of ancient pine and ash
        and beech: no need to plunder
        the undeserving forest.
Leave the delight of Fauns and Dryads whole.
Why rummage in the houses of the birds,
        unwarlike nests, the caves
        of the four-footed beasts?
Here bring your flames. Materials for the pyre
are vast; just heap them. Pile in heaps the weapons:
        shields, spears, the chariot wheels,
        the helmets, the long swords,
the coverings of a lofty head, the crests,
pikes, shafts, reins, the horse-trappings (etc.)

Mandare quod si vestra nepotibus
Haesura vultis nomina Posteris:
        Magnasque mentei verus urit
                Laudis amor, studiumque famae:
Huc ferte taedas; et Mimigardiae
Parentis extra, qua spatium iacet,
        Muros, inaequalesque campos,
                Dardanidum renovate bustum.
Neronianis non opus urbibus
Iam nunc cremandis non opus abiete
        Ornisque, fagisque et senecta
                Immeritam spoliare silvam.
Stet tuta Fauni, stet Dryadum suo
Loco voluptas. Cur avium casas
        Scrutemur, imbellesque nidos,
        Antraque quadrupedum ferarum?
Huc ferte flammas: materies rogo
Non deerit ingens. In cumulum struis
        Congesta surgant arma: peltae,
        Tela, rotae, galeaeque, et enses,
Cristaeque et alti tegmina verticis,
Et pila , et hastae, et frena, et ephippia (etc.)
Karl Maurer


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