Thursday, April 08, 2010



Greek Anthology 9.3 (tr. W.R. Paton):
They planted me, a walnut-tree, by the road-side to amuse passing boys, as a mark for their well-aimed stones. All my twigs and flourishing shoots are broken, hit as I am by showers of pebbles. It is no advantage for trees to be fruitful. I indeed, poor tree, bore fruit only for my own undoing.

Εἰνοδίην καρύην με παρερχομένοις ἐφύτευσαν
  παισὶ λιθοβλήτου παίγνιον εὐστοχίης·
πάντας δ' ἀκρεμόνας τε καὶ εὐθαλέας ὀροδάμνους
  κέκλασμαι πυκιναῖς χερμάσι βαλλόμενη·
δένδρεσιν εὐκάρποις οὐδὲν πλέον· ἦ γὰρ ἔγωγε
  δυσδαίμων ἐς ἐμὴν ὕβριν ἐκαρποφόρουν.
Epigramma Bobiense XLIV is a Latin translation of the above:
Rusticus imprudens plantam nucis hic posuit me
  saxorum iaculis ludibrium pueris.
namque omnes oculi generosaque bracchia pomis
  iactibus et crebro fragmine rupta mihi.
ferre quid immensas fruges iuvat? has ego gratis,
  in mea damna ferax, pro meritis tetuli.

4 rupta Munari, pulchra cod.
Apparently oculi in the third line means "buds" (see Lewis & Short, s.v. oculus, I.B.4.a) — I would have expected virgae or rami as a straightforward translation of Greek ἀκρεμόνας.

Aesop, Fable 152 Chambry (tr. Laura Gibbs):
There was a nut tree standing by the side of the road who had a great many nuts and the people walking along the road used to knock them off by throwing sticks and stones at the tree. The nut tree then said sadly, 'Woe is me! People gladly enjoy my fruits, but they have a terrible way of showing their gratitude.' The fable indicts those ungrateful and wicked people who requite good deeds with cruelty.

Καρύα, παρά τινα ὁδὸν οὖσα καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν παριόντων λίθοις βαλλομένη, στενάξασα πρὸς ἑαυτὴν εἶπεν· Ἀθλία εἰμὶ ἐγώ, ἥτις κατ' ἐνιαυτὸν ἐμαυτῇ ὕβρεις καὶ λύπας παρέχω. Ὁ λόγος πρὸς τοὺς ἐπὶ τῶν ἰδίων ἀγαθῶν λυπουμένους.
In the Latin elegaic poem Nux, attributed to Ovid, a nut tree complains that it is being pelted with stones. The only English translation known to me is by J.H. Mozley in the Loeb edition of Ovid's The Art of Love and Other Poems (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929). The poem is too long (182 lines) to reproduce here. Some bibliography on Nux (most of which I haven't read):Erasmus wrote a commentary (tr. A.G. Rigg) on Nux.

Bohm (op. cit.) thinks that the pseudo-Ovidian Nux was known to William Wordsworth and influenced him when he wrote Nutting:
                                        It seems a day,
(I speak of one from many singled out)
One of those heavenly days which cannot die,
When forth I sallied from our cottage-door,
And with a wallet o'er my shoulder slung,
A nutting crook in hand, I turn'd my steps
Towards the distant woods, a Figure quaint,
Trick'd out in proud disguise of Beggar's weeds
Put on for the occasion, by advice
And exhortation of my frugal Dame.
Motley accoutrement! of power to smile
At thorns, and brakes, and brambles, and, in truth,
More ragged than need was. Among the woods,
And o'er the pathless rocks, I forc'd my way
Until, at length, I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough
Droop'd with its wither'd leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation, but the hazels rose
Tall and erect, with milk-white clusters hung.
A virgin scene! - A little while I stood,
Breathing with such suppression of the heart
As joy delights in; and with wise restraint
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed
The banquet, or beneath the trees I sate
Among the flowers, and with the flowers I play'd;
A temper known to those, who, after long
And weary expectation, have been blessed
With sudden happiness beyond all hope. -
- Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves
The violets of five seasons re-appear
And fade, unseen by any human eye,
Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on
For ever, and I saw the sparkling foam,
And with my cheek on one of those green stones
That, fleeced with moss, beneath the shady trees,
Lay round me scatter'd like a flock of sheep,
I heard the murmur and the murmuring sound,
In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay
Tribute to ease, and, of its joy secure,
The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,
Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones,
And on the vacant air. Then up I rose,
And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash
And merciless ravage; and the shady nook
Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower
Deform'd and sullied, patiently gave up
Their quiet being: and unless I now
Confound my present feelings with the past,
Even then, when from the bower I turn'd away
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings
I felt a sense of pain when I beheld
The silent trees and the intruding sky. -

Then, dearest Maiden! move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch, - for there is a spirit in the woods.
Carol Rumens, "The Romantic Poets: Nutting by William Wordsworth," The Guardian (January 26, 2010), sensibly downplays the supposed sexual imagery of Wordsworth's poem: "[T]his poem is not about rape, in the usual sense, but rapacity."

Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to Wordsworth's poem and Bohm's article.


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