We’re blessed with more than a comment from Malty today. Here he considers the cultural ramifications of trees.

One of the pleasures of returning home, after time spent away from the ranch, used to be sitting on the favourite window seat and reading through the accumulated pile of letters. Letters : pieces of paper covered in inky squiggles, after having filtered out the long brown enveloped rendered invoices, summonses, demands, threats etc. As a result of the coming into being of various clever clogs, Messrs Turing, Dell, Jobs et al, oh, and the bloke who brewed up university information exchange, that pleasure is a dim and distant memory. It has however given us a not at all shabby new kid on the block, the means of transmission that has led to the excellent company of Dabblers, whilst dragging a full tower PC onto the window seat is a sure fire hernia inciter at least the window is just over the shoulder.

Upon my recent return from far flung foreign fields and the weather being akin to Gordon Brown’s countenance I duly proceeded to browse the aforementioned bloggery, blowse? At the Dabbler and over at Nige’s spot I happened upon two interesting posts covering trees in education and books, the translation thereof. Coincidence or what? I muttered to myself, a not uncommon occurrence in this materialistic age of ours. Why, not many days ago I was reclining in the above mentioned foreign field under a Ginko tree reading a translated book, Here’s a bit from it, the opening paragraph….

Isolated here in the North, planted long ago by a Roman pilgrim, a chestnut grew, strong and solitary, by the colonnade of rounded double arches at the entrance to the cloister of Mariabronn : a noble, vigorous tree, the sweep of its foliage drooping tenderly, facing the winds in bold and quiet assurance; so tardy in spring that when all glowed green around it and even the cloister nut trees wore their russet, it awaited the shortest nights to thrust forth, through little tufts of leaves, the dim exotic rays of its blossom, and in October, after wine and harvests had long been gathered, let drop the prickly fruits from its yellowing crown; fruits which did not ripen every year, for which the cloister schoolboys fought one another, and which Gregory, the Italian sub-prior, burned amid the logs of the fireplace. The lovely tree, aloof and tender, shadowed the entrance to the cloister, a delicate, shuddering guest from a warmer clime, secretly akin to the slender double columns of the gateway, the pillars and mouldings of the window arches, loved by all Latins and Italians, gaped at, as a stranger, by the inhabitants.

From the sublime Hermann Hesse novel, Narziss and Goldmund. Hesse, undoubtedly, the twentieth century’s greatest German writer although the Günter Grass fan club may disagree. The book has lost none of its original timbre through translation, my copy by Geoffrey Dunlop.

Narziss is a 300-pager and therefore not an arduous task, reading in both German and English, the problem is however and as Nige notes, how do we know that what we have read is what the author wrote. Would any of us be prepared, after having toiled and laboured our way through Remembrance of Things Past in English, then gird our loins and dive in again, with the French version, simply to check the authenticity of the original.

Übersetzers… there is upon your collective shoulders the heaviest of burdens.

Wayfarers please note…

Hessen’s Ginko trees this year are dropping their fruit early and whilst it is claimed that they possess medicinal properties they also pong, stink, reek, clothes stained by them become toast, take the bull by the horns, sit under a plane tree, there’s lots of them.

Whilst on the subject of trees, here’s an arboreal audio delight from the composer Muriel Herbert, much underrated and seldom played, the tenor is James Gilchrist, revival courtesy of the redoubtable Linn Records:

Like all else in life, trees have pros and cons, they require management, tlc and the occasional talking to, personally I have felled approximately two hundred plus in the past ten years, to aid the survival of the remainder or as fuel. If you insist, I will upon myself place a penance.

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4 thoughts on “Trees

    September 12, 2011 at 14:57

    Thank you Malty – not least for putting some meat on the bones of my sketchy knowledge of Muriel Herbert. I knew she was Claire Tomalin’s mum but, until today, I hadn’t taken the trouble to seek out any music. What a lovely faded Edwardian atmosphere is created in that short song – and how wonderfully out of fashion that sort of parlour-music is in these brash times.

    September 12, 2011 at 22:10

    An arboreal treat, Malty, thankee. Personally I’ve never trusted trees since that terrifying telly version of Day of the Triffids.

    What sort of penance did you have in mind?

      September 12, 2011 at 23:24

      Barking at myself whilst leafing through the ‘how to birch yourself’ handbook.

  3. Gaw
    September 12, 2011 at 22:44

    A visit to Kenwood – at the top of Hampstead Heath – yesterday and we were virtually rained upon by arboreal fruit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many acorns. It seemed to make the sherberty parakeets very happy.

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