Saturday, October 13, 2012


Ceres Securigera

The goddess Demeter, also known as Ceres, punished Erysichthon for cutting down trees in her sacred grove. Callimachus and Ovid tell the story. Yet Ceres herself on another occasion cut down trees in a grove sacred to Jupiter, to make torches with which to hunt for her lost daughter Proserpine. See Claudian, Rape of Proserpine 3.330-381 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
So spake she and glides down upon Etna's familiar slopes, there to fashion torches to aid her night-wandering labours.

[332] There was a wood, hard by the stream of Acis, which fair Galatea oft chooses in preference to Ocean and cleaves in swimming with her snowy breast—a wood dense with foliage that closed in Etna's summit on all sides with interwoven branches. 'Tis there that Jove is said to have laid down his bloody shield and set his captured spoil after the battle. The grove glories in trophies from the plain of Phlegra and signs of victory clothe its every tree. [339] Here hang the gaping jaws and monstrous skins of the Giants; affixed to trees their faces still threaten horribly, and heaped up on all sides bleach the huge bones of slaughtered serpents. Their stiffening sloughs smoke with the blow of many a thunderbolt, and every tree boasts some illustrious name. This one scarce supports on its down-bended branches the naked swords of hundred-handed Aegaeon; that glories in the murky trophies of Coeus; this bears up the arms of Mimas; spoiled Ophion weighs down those branches. [349] But higher than all the other trees towers a pine, its shady branches spread wide, and bears the reeking arms of Enceladus himself, all powerful king of the Earth-born giants; it would have fallen beneath the heavy burden did not a neighbouring oak-tree support its wearied weight. [353] Therefore the spot wins awe and sanctity; none touches the aged grove, and 'tis accounted a crime to violate the trophies of the gods. No Cyclops dares pasture there his flock nor hew down the trees, Polyphemus himself flies from the hallowed shade.

[357] Not for that did Ceres stay her steps; the very sanctity of the place inflames her wrath; with angry hand she brandishes her axe, ready to strike Jove himself. She hesitates whether to cut down pines or lay low knotless cedars, scans likely trunks and lofty trees and shakes their branches with vigorous hand. [363] Even so when a man, fain to carry merchandise over distant seas, builds a ship on dry land and makes ready to expose his life to the tempest, he hews down beech and elm and marks the diverse utility of the yet growing forest; the lofty tree he selects as yardarms for the swelling sail; the strong he prefers as a mast; the pliant will make good oars; the waterproof is suitable for the keel.

[370] Two cypresses in the grass hard by raised their inviolate heads to heaven; Simois looks not on such in amaze amid the crags of Ida, nor does Orontes water their like, Orontes that feeds Apollo's grove and harbours rich cities on his banks. You would know them for sisters for they tower equal in height and look down upon the wood with twin tops. [376] These she would have as torches; she attacks each with vigorous blows, her gown girt back, her arms bared and armed with the axe. First one she strikes, then the other, and rains blows upon their trembling trunks with might and main. Together they crash to the ground, lay their foliage in the dust and lie upon the plain, wept of Fauns and wood-nymphs.
Claudian's Latin:
Haec fatur notaeque iugis illabitur Aetnae        330
noctivago taedas informatura labori.

Lucus erat prope flumen Acin, quod candida praefert
saepe mari pulchroque secat Galatea natatu,
densus et innexis Aetnaea cacumina ramis
qua licet usque tegens. illic posuisse cruentam       335
aegida captivamque pater post proelia praedam
advexisse datur. Phlegraeis silva superbit
exuviis totumque nemus victoria vestit.
hic patuli rictus et prodigiosa Gigantum
tergora dependent, et adhuc crudele minantur       340
adfixae truncis facies immaniaque ossa
serpentum passim cumulis exsanguibus albent,
et rigidae multo suspirant fulmine pelles;
nullaque non magni iactat se nominis arbor:
haec centumgemini strictos Aegaeonis enses       345
curvata vix fronde levat; liventibus illa
exsultat Coei spoliis; haec arma Mimantis
sustinet; hos onerat ramos exutus Ophion.
altior at cunctis abies umbrosaque late
ipsius Enceladi fumantia gestat opima,       350
summi terrigenum regis, caderetque gravata
pondere, ni lassam fulciret proxima quercus.
inde timor numenque loco nemorisque senectae
parcitur aetheriisque nefas nocuisse tropaeis.
pascere nullus oves nec robora laedere Cyclops       355
audet et ipse fugit sacra Polyphemus ab umbra.

Non tamen hoc tardata Ceres. accenditur ultro
religione loci vibratque infesta securim
ipsum etiam feritura Iovem: succidere pinus,
haud magis enodes dubitat prosternere cedros       360
exploratque habiles truncos rectique tenorem
stipitis et certo pertemptat brachia nisu.
sic, qui vecturus longinqua per aequora merces
molitur tellure ratem vitamque procellis
obiectare parat, fagos metitur et alnos       365
et varium rudibus silvis accommodat usum:
quae longa est, tumidis praebebit cornua velis;
quae fortis, clavo potior, quae lenta, favebit
remigio; stagni patiens aptanda carinae.

Tollebant geminae capita inviolata cupressus       370
caespite vicino: quales non rupibus Idae
miratur Simois, quales non divite ripa
lambit Apollinei nemoris nutritor Orontes.
germanas adeo credas: sic frontibus aequis
exstant et socio despectant vertice lucum.       375
hae placuere faces. pernix invadit utramque
cincta sinus, exserta manus, armata bipenni
alternasque ferit totisque obnixa trementes
viribus impellit. pariter traxere ruinam
et pariter posuere comas campoque recumbunt,       380
Faunorum Dryadumque dolor.


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