John Palcewski (forioscribe) wrote,
John Palcewski

Fallen Tree

Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Book VIII

In among these trees there stood a massive oak, old and sturdy, a forest on its own, with wreaths, garlands, and memorial tablets close beside it, testaments to prayers that had been granted. Dryads often held their festive dances underneath this tree, and often they joined hands, formed a line, and circled around its trunk, whose huge circumference was forty feet. That oak stood taller than the other trees as much as they were higher than the grass. But such things did not stop Erysichthon taking axes to the tree. He told his slaves to cut down the sacred oak.

When he saw them hesitate to carry out his orders, the villain grabbed an axe from one of them and said these words:

“If this were not just a tree the goddess loves but the goddess herself, its crown of leaves would touch the earth.”

As he spoke and raised the axe to strike a slashing blow, Ceres’ oak tree quivered and gave a groan. At the same moment, its leaves and acorns started to turn white, and its long branches lost their color. And when his wicked hand struck the trunk and wounded it, blood flowed from the split bark, in the same way it spurts from the severed neck of a big strong bull when it collapses before the altars in a sacrifice.

Out of all those there, one man attempted to stop the evil deed and block the axe. Erysichthon looked at him and shouted: “Take this as your reward for pious thoughts!” Turning his axe from the tree to the man, he sliced his head off and went at the oak with blow after blow.

Then a sound emerged from the core of the tree, a voice that said:

I am a nymph who lives beneath this wood,
the one Ceres most loves. And as I die,
I prophesy to you that punishment
for what you’ve carried out is close at hand,
and that consoles me as I pass away.

The wicked scoundrel kept up his attack, and finally, weakened by countless blows
and tugged with ropes, the sacred tree fell over—crushing large sections of the forest there.

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