Sunday, February 08, 2009


The Butchers of Our Poor Trees

Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to the following entry in Léon Bloy's Journal (December 19, 1903). The rough translation is mine.
Very painful impression caused by the fall of one of the tall trees in our neighborhood. Devastation which grieves us and makes us dislike already our new home. Yesterday morning, we felt a tightness in the heart to see stretched out on the ground a row of these magnificent poplars which had drawn us here and whose rustling gave us the illusion of a forest nearby. We could have wept because of it.

But today, seeing and hearing one of them fall, I felt extreme sadness, an immense disgust for this world. Savages have a dim fear of the forces of nature, of the elementa mundi, as the ancients used to say, which can dissuade them from destroying a thing of beauty. But the bourgeois, barbarian of a superior type, is incapable of this fear. The beauty of the face of God isn't worth as much to him as the portrait of Louis-Philippe or Napoleon III on a hundred sou coin. The mother of the butchers of our poor trees, a respectable shopkeeper, gave a few days ago the real answer :- If it had not been not us, it would have been others! she said with a great nobility of expression. If Judas had sold his Lord a second time, for fifteen farthings, the profit from it would have been just as much. Why let a business deal slip by?

Impression très pénible causée par la chute de l'un des grands arbres du voisinage. Dévastation qui nous afflige et nous dégoûte déjà de notre nouvelle demeure. Hier matin, nous avions eu le coeur serré en voyant étendus par terre toute une rangée de ces magnifiques peupliers qui nous avaient attirés ici et dont le bruissement nous donnait l'illusion du voisinage d'une forêt. Nous en aurions pleuré.

Mais aujourd'hui, voyant et entendant tomber l'un d'eux, j'ai senti une tristesse extrême, une satiété immense de ce monde. Les sauvages ont une crainte obscure des forces naturelles, des elementa mundi, comme disaient les anciens, qui peut les détourner de détruire une belle chose. Mais le bourgeois, brute supérieure, est incapable de cette crainte. La beauté de la Face de Dieu ne vaut pas pour lui l'effigie de Louis-Philippe ou de Napoléon III sur une pièce de cent sous. La mère des abatteurs de nos pauvres arbres, une boutiquière illustre, donnait, il ya quelques jours, la vraie réponse :— Si ce n'était pas nous, ce serait d'autres! disait-elle avec une grande noblesse d'expression. Si Judas revendait son Maître, quinze deniers, autant en profiter. Pourquoi laisser échapper une affaire?
Bloy was living at the time in Lagny-sur-Marne, which he nicknamed Cochons-sur-Marne.

Related posts: 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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