Friday, January 05, 2007

Melancholy of the Trees

A (funny) extract from The Anatomy of Melancholy...

In vegetal creatures what sovereignty love hath, by many pregnant proofs and familiar examples may be proved, especially of palm-trees, which are both he and she, and express not a sympathy but a love-passion, and by many observations have been confirmed.

"Vivunt in venerem frondes, omnisque vicissim
Felix arbor amat, nutant et mutua palmae
Foedera, populeo suspirat populus ictu,
Et platano platanus, alnoque assibilat alnus."

(Claudian. descript. vener. aulae. "Trees are influenced by love, and every flourishing tree in turn feels the passion: palms nod mutual vows, poplar sighs to poplar, plane to plane, and alder breathes to alder.")

Constantine de Agric. lib. 10. cap. 4. gives an instance out of Florentius his Georgics, of a palm-tree that loved most fervently, "and would not be comforted until such time her love applied herself unto her; you might see the two trees bend, and of their own accords stretch out their boughs to embrace and kiss each other: they will give manifest signs of mutual love." Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. 24, reports that they marry one another, and fall in love if they grow in sight; and when the wind brings the smell to them, they are marvellously affected. Philostratus in Imaginibus, observes as much, and Galen lib. 6. de locis affectis, cap. 5. they will be sick for love; ready to die and pine away, which the husbandmen perceiving, saith Constantine, "stroke many palms that grow together, and so stroking again the palm that is enamoured, they carry kisses from the one to the other:" or tying the leaves and branches of the one to the stem of the other, will make them both flourish and prosper a great deal better: "which are enamoured, they can perceive by the bending of boughs, and inclination of their bodies." If any man think this which I say to be a tale, let him read that story of two palm-trees in Italy, the male growing at Brundusium, the female at Otranto (related by Jovianus Pontanus in an excellent poem, sometimes tutor to Alphonsus junior, King of Naples, his secretary of state, and a great philosopher) "which were barren, and so continued a long time," till they came to see one another growing up higher, though many stadiums asunder. Pierius in his Hieroglyphics, and Melchior Guilandinus, Mem. 3. tract. de papyro, cites this story of Pontanus for a truth. See more in Salmuth Comment. in Pancirol. de Nova repert. Tit. 1. de novo orbe Mizaldus Arcanorum lib. 2. Sand's Voyages, lib. 2. fol. 103. &c.

If such fury be in vegetals, what shall we think of sensible creatures, how much more violent and apparent shall it be in them!

"Omne adeo genus in terris hominumque ferarum,
Et genus aequoreum, pecudes, pictaeque volucres
In furias ignemque ruunt; amor omnibus idem."

"All kind of creatures in the earth,
And fishes of the sea,
And painted birds do rage alike;
This love bears equal sway."


Cheshire Cat said...

No mention of forbidden love: the love of alder for plane, of palm for pine... More fury there :)

Alok said...

I will have to look for it. He might even have something for that too :)

Antonia said...

I really like this,the latin and all these many hints to other thinkers etc...I would love to have such a library at hand when reading such books and to lok it allup and continue reading and finally of course to get lost in this all. Oh I would love to, just today, now.

Vidya said...

Done with Anatomy of melancholy, Melancholy of resistance..So anatomy of resistance,the resistance of anatomy, the melancholy of anatomy - these combinations are up next I suppose??

Alok said...

vidya: Ohh i am despearately looking for more books on melancholy. i think i am close to solving the riddle of my life :)

antonia: yeah he (Robert Burton) was an ultimate booknerd. he had read every possible book on every possible subject. and the best part of the book is his section on love. he knows so much even though he was a life-long monk. it is good reminder that life can be found inside books too, you don't need to get out of your bed :))

Antonia said...

alok, you know what, I have the book somewhere, here at home, in translation only, and only some excerpts, but I cannot find I have to get out of bed after all:)

Of course life can be found in books, what other use do they have?

Alok said...

that is some consolation :)