Tuesday, September 08, 2009


A Catalogue of Trees in Ovid

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.86-103 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
A hill there was, and on the hill a wide-extending plain, green with luxuriant grass; but the place was devoid of shade. When here the heaven-descended bard [Orpheus] sat down and smote his sounding lyre, shade came to the place. There came the Chaonian oak, the grove of the Heliades, the oak with its deep foliage, the soft linden, the beech, the virgin laurel-tree, the brittle hazel, the ash, suitable for spear-shafts, the smooth silver-fir, the ilex-tree bending with acorns, the pleasant plane, the many-coloured maple, river-haunting willows, the lotus, lover of the pools, the evergreen boxwood, the slender tamarisk, the double-hued myrtle, the viburnum with its dark-blue berries. You also, pliant-footed ivy, came, and along with you tendrilled grapes, and the elm- trees, draped with vines; the mountain-ash, the forest-pines, the arbute-tree, loaded with ruddy fruit, the pliant palm, the prize of victory, the bare-trunked pine with broad, leafy top...

collis erat collemque super planissima campi
area, quam viridem faciebant graminis herbae:
umbra loco deerat; qua postquam parte resedit
dis genitus vates et fila sonantia movit,
umbra loco venit: non Chaonis afuit arbor,
non nemus Heliadum, non frondibus aesculus altis,
nec tiliae molles, nec fagus et innuba laurus,
et coryli fragiles et fraxinus utilis hastis
enodisque abies curvataque glandibus ilex
et platanus genialis acerque coloribus inpar
amnicolaeque simul salices et aquatica lotos
perpetuoque virens buxum tenuesque myricae
et bicolor myrtus et bacis caerula tinus.
vos quoque, flexipedes hederae, venistis et una
pampineae vites et amictae vitibus ulmi
ornique et piceae pomoque onerata rubenti
arbutus et lentae, victoris praemia, palmae
et succincta comas hirsutaque vertice pinus...
Paulus Potter, Orpheus Charming the Beasts (1650, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

One of the things Ovid hated about his exile in Tomis was the lack of trees: "aspiceres nudos sine fronde, sine arbore, campos" (Tristia 3.10.75; cf. Ex Ponto 1.3.52, 3.8.13-14).

Related post: A Catalogue of Trees (in Spenser)

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