Earth: A Wandering

On April 15, 2013 by admin

 

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Alfred Kentigern Siewers

 

Earth is at once both symbol and reality: both a planet with a proper name and a substance, humus, from which the human emerges in participation, along with many of our fellow travelers in the physical world – animals, plants, and others. It is thus also both a wandering and a grounding – and most of all, perhaps, a wondering, at what environmental philosopher Bruce Foltz in a new study of the ongoing life of noetic Christian tradition in environmentalism calls ‘the heavenly beauty of Earth’ (Foltz, 2012). Pre-moderns and non-moderns probably lived and articulated this more particularly than moderns do with our more abstract GreenSpeak. But we all experience the conjunction of meanings of earth at some level. The modern West often expresses it through a type of post-medieval understanding that re-centers us in a medieval middle on Earth, part of the original impetus behind Romanticism. Whether it’s J.R.R. Tolkien’s association of his retro-medieval Shire with Appalachia (Davenport, 1997); the medievalism enabled by a cyberspace that simultaneously removes us from the Earth and enables us to engage different time periods and cultures more simultaneously: or personal traditions that re-form community with Earth, as we weave them from our scholarship through the interstices of our academic lives or arts: we connect with actual people and physical environments on Earth and in earth as both refugees from the modern and ambassadors to it, enmeshed in that which we seek to proclaim.

***

As I walk through a last remnant of old-growth forest in Pennsylvania looking for our annual church Fourth of July picnic, passing through shady groves of hemlock trees amid brooks habited by bears, Amish teenagers, and, in earlier days, the nature writer Euell ‘ever eat a pine tree?’ Gibbons, I am reminded of the retro-medieval Forest of Arden.

In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the usurper duke’s wrestler Charles asks the dispossessed and out-of-favor Orlando, ‘Come, where is the young gallant that is so desirous to lie with his mother earth?’ (Shakespeare, 1992, 1.2.296).

But Orlando is thrown to earth in a different way than the duke and wrestler envision.

He flees the court for Arden. There he begins carving love poems to Rosalind on trees, in a ‘green world’ in which, as the duke-in-exile remarks, human life ‘exempt from public haunt finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything’ (2.1.299).

Arden, a disappearing forest in the Warwickshire precincts of Stratford-on-Avon, itself becomes a kind of sylvan haunt in the play, written during the time of the Enclosure movement.

Such remnant woods around England had become places where an outlaw forest economy found temporary refuge, while an expanding British Empire cut them down for ships, privatized pasturage, and witnessed a new pastoralism.

Phantoms of the Middle Ages like Robin Hood haunted such woods, while vanishing into Elizabethan stories. These forests of the imagination exemplified C.S. Lewis’ curmudgeonly remark while giving birth to his Oxford History of English Literature tome (a painful project he labeled by acronym ‘the oh hell’) that England had no Renaissance because of its insular medieval continuities (Lewis, 1954, 55–56; Coghill, 1965, 60–61).

Yet in Arden’s ‘green world’ of imagination, the denizens of Shakespeare’s forest (a locality confusable in name also with both Ardennes woods in France and biblical Eden) find empathy not only for crying deer, but for each other, ending in a metonymy of marriage rites as well as a crossing of the human and non-human.

What the exiled duke calls ‘this wide and universal theater’ (Shakespeare, 1992, 2.7.135) of Arden becomes in its engagement of the non-human, a place of experience of earth apart from the human conventions of the court.

In its back-and-forth focus between the ‘green world’ and human society, Arden comes to typify what environmental philosophers (glossing Heidegger) distinguish as earth differentiated from the world of human cultural constructions: ‘The other side of nature,’ the phusis that simultaneously both hides and discloses itself. Yet earth spans the real if ghostly Arden of Warwickshire, as well as the type of older ‘green world’ associations of English folklore identified by the critic Northrop Frye (Frye, 1949), rooted in both the mythological ‘Celtic’ Otherworld and the transplanted Desert of early Christian monasticism.

***

The integration of the real, imaginary, and symbolic in this mysterious sense of earth echoes the American Pragmatist Charles Peirce’s pioneering work in ecosemiotics. In Peirce’s model, the process of semiosis, or meaning-making (for him a definition of life), could involve a nature-text, an outward-facing triad of sign, environment and meaningful landscape, beyond de Saussure’s more arbitrary and internalized binary of signified and signifier (Maran, 2007). Landscape, as a meaningful symbolic overlay of earth, thus integrated the contexts of reader and author, while relating them directly to text and physical environment. The earth itself then reads as a nature-text, but always beyond our full comprehension, since we ourselves are allegory in the text.

Arden’s ecosemiotics of ‘tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, / sermons in stones, and good in everything’ thus provides context, grounding, and redefinition for Jaques’ famous notion in the play that ‘all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women, merely players’ (Shakespeare, 1992, 2.1.16–17; 2.7.305). Linking that stage to a physical environment offers earth to Orlando not only as ground of humiliation, and not just Jaques’ placeless theater, but as experience of place leading to what deep ecology terms self-realization in the environment of earth. Deleuzean terms take it further into a rhizomic realization. And pre-modern Christian traditions literally and figuratively offer us a vision of the cross between the immanent and the transcendent, the anthropomorphic and the cosmic.

***

When the Apollo 8 astronauts looked back on our planet from lunar orbit in 1968 and recited the Creation account from Genesis, they offered perhaps the most famous attempt to subsume ancient traditions of earth into the world of modern technology. But their words still evoked a pre-modern sense of our planet as mystery: ‘In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.’ In Hebrew, Greek and Latin versions of Genesis 1, the terms used for ‘earth’ integrated meanings of essence and element, a span referenced here in the term ‘Earth.earth.’ Medieval schoolmen later split that relationship, demarcating essence and existence, supernatural versus natural, as if trying to forget the living, integrative metaphor of the earth mother, Gaia, referenced by earlier church fathers.

Earth to the ancients meant a realm including land and sea, ultimately planet and soil, native country and the dust of Genesis, from which humans were energized by God’s breath, pneuma, in Greek meaning wind and spirit, as well as breath. In medieval Greek usage, following the Septuagint γ (from which also developed the root of geology, geometry, geography, and geophilosophy, not to mention Gaia), ‘earth’ metaphorically stood also for the human mind, the realm of material things, the Promised Land, and heaven, following references in Psalms (Lampe, 1961, s.v.).

And the living breath from God in Hebrew and Greek in the clay or dust was related to earth by more than just simple infusion to early exegetes of Genesis. Its pneuma entwined the logoi of the speaking-into-being of Creation, in which logos could mean at once harmony, word, discourse, story, reason, and purpose. The kalos, or goodness, of Creation referenced in the Septuagint Genesis, likewise referred at once to the beautiful and the good, also spanning the physical and the spiritual. A speaking or breathing of harmonies, pre-moderns realized, involved chanting or music. St. Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century declared ‘the order of the universe is a kind of musical harmony of varied shapes and colors with a certain order and rhythm’ (Gregory of Nyssa, 1999, 27–30). He identified music with the spoken word of God’s Spirit-breath as an essential if dynamic pattern of earth. Music, like a Deleuzean ‘body without organs,’ or colors, as in the early Irish and Native American colors of the winds, span the physical and the spiritual with an energy. The musical description of the logoi echoes this verse from the Wisdom of Solomon: ‘For the elements were changed in themselves by a kind of harmony, like as in a harp notes change the nature of the tune, and yet are always sounds’ (LXX 19:18; emended from Brenton, 1851). St. Basil of Caesarea described the aerial waters and the deeps as both singing hymns of praise to God’s glory – reflecting one another chiastically on the second day of creation, even as man in the image of God in a sense reflects the divine on the sixth day of Creation in Hebrew parallel poetics (Basil of Caesarea, 1999, 71). Music or chanting is a way to indicate the iconographic incarnation of the cosmic logoi in the Creation story, as energy but also as metonymic breath of the Spirit (pneuma), so to speak, the same Spirit that Basil refers to as ‘cherishing’ the waters (using the Syriac version of Genesis), vitalizing seeds of life in the sea as if breathing on them. Man himself is described in corporeal terms as a musical instrument for the nous or energy of the soul/spirit, shaped in the image and likeness of God, the image of God being the Logos in whom man is made. And while articulating a sense of divine logoi as cosmic music, Basil differentiates such cosmic semiosis from the Classical ‘music of the spheres.’ In the latter, to Basil, the human mind dualistically could be considered the objectifying observer-conceptualizer of the music-generating spheres, rather than a liturgical instrument of the very networks of cosmic semiotics that constitute human reason. The latter for him is the dominion of human beings in Paradise over the earth, but in harmonizing semiosis (the making of meaning) rather than arbitrary control. And the human body is not the only participant in that cosmic music of meaning-making. Basil describes the aerial and terrestrial waters as singing hymns, and the Spirit’s cherishing of the waters brings forth life. And humans as cosmic musical instruments interweave color as well as sound in their sub-creation. St. Gregory, associating color with music in describing the cosmic harmonies, evoked hues as virtues, which overlay Creation with layers of incarnational qualities associated with divine likeness (Gregory of Nyssa, 1994, 391).

Earth.earth shares much in common with what could similarly be called Nature.nature. Nature, from the Latin natura, mysteriously means both the essence of something and of all of us, both something enveloping and outside of us, and an organic presence that has emerged naturally through nativity. Similarly, earth apophatically remains both more and less physical than what we mean today by ‘world’ as a globalized human semiosphere, or bubble of meaning. The latter incorporates multitudes of virtual individual Umwelts (the term coined by the Baltic biologist Jakob von Uexküll in the early twentieth century for ‘meaningful environment of an organism’, foundational to biosemiotics). Uexküll, too, heard them singing: ‘The countless Umwelts represent the keyboard upon which nature plays its symphony of meaning…not constrained by space and time. In our lifetime and in our Umwelt we are given the task of constructing a key in nature’s keyboard, over which an invisible hand glides’ (von Uexküll, 1982, 78).

In the semiotics of earth, Umwelts gather into larger semiospheres, including human cultural communities and temporalities (such as overlays of Jewish, Byzantine, Chinese, Julian, and Gregorian calendars sharing the same physical environment). Semiospheres in turn can overlap within ecosemiospheres in eco-regions (such as the peasant-tended wooded meadows of Estonia, Native American-managed prairies of the Upper Midwest, or the urban ecosystems of New York City’s archipelago, celebrated in Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale [Helprin, 2005]). Ecosemiospheres overlap in the Earth.earth. But our own poetics don’t often perceive, celebrate, or experience such overlapping realms of meaning. In the twenty-first century we may still occasionally speak in 1960s space-age terms of ‘planet Earth,’ or even more awkwardly, ‘Spaceship Earth.’ But always, as in the iconic Disney nature documentary Earth, our technological outer-space iconography of earth since the 1960s projects a crisp bright mimetic concept from the outside, a machino-morphic ecosystem of quantitative inputs and outputs. This ‘real’ image, now digitalizable between our iPhone fingers and iPad palantiri (similar to what we used to do between our real fingers with the moon in the sky as children, as if the optical-illusion hotdog between digits), spins around in our electronic extensions, only to disappear in technological magic tricks. So too with the Earth.earth, as Stephen Hawking advocates space colonization to save humanity, leaving behind a trashed planet as we search for more galactic landfills. Technology as a philosophy of Creation erases it. But, in the service of a love for Creation (of which the pre-moderns remind us), the same technology (more as personal techné or craft) can help extend our engagement with the Earth.

***

Living at a cultural distance from high-tech centers likelier to follow Hawking’s vision of the Singularity, our home lies in the central Susquehanna Valley, which some geologists call one of the oldest valleys on earth, and some political commentators unflatteringly call Pennsyltucky, amid the rolling hills and larger ridges and mini-mountains of the northern Appalachians, itself one of the oldest mountain ranges. The Appalachians formed a modern model for Tolkien’s retro-Middle-earth, Migarr or Middangeard, a northern European medieval image of Earth embraced by the roots and branches of the cosmic tree Yggdrasil linking different worlds. The Susquehanna River survived various types of primordial foldings related to the movement of continents and the swallowing of part of it by the sea into the lost estuary now known as the Chesapeake Bay. The cosmic tree of the Iroquois in this region morphed into the peace tree of Onondaga Lake, now a Superfund Cleanup site. And while there are no millennia-old Sequoia trees in this eco-region, near us grow the old-growth hemlock groves of Tall Timbers nature preserve, once home to the nature writer Euell Gibbons and now a favorite haunt of Amish teens on buggy dates. To enter into it, as we do for Fourth of July church picnics and family hikes, is to experience a real-world green-world peace that evokes Shakespeare’s Arden.Eden in Penn’s Woods. Nearby the renowned trout of Penns Creek run past an old Boy Scout camp (Karoondina, ‘land of shining waters’ in Delaware), still groaning with summer campers. If there are no salmon of wisdom, there are plenty of fly-casting fishermen.

All this, water and worn-down mountains and woods, in a watershed paradoxically worried now both by gas-drilling fracking and declining river towns, is the earth. From the small plot of enclosed land my wife gardens behind our river-view townhouse in ‘downtown’ Lewisburg (population 5620, give or take a few births and deaths since the last census), to the polluted mud deposited by the river outside our door when it floods and turns our neighborhood into a Venetian-like scene, to old oak trees of the grove in the hilly center of the college campus down the street, and into Amish farmland farther west, this all too is the earth.

Traveling out that way to bike and to get to the rural house-chapel we attend in Beavertown (population 870) on Beaver Creek, we skirt horse-drawn carriages as we go up and down through the rich farmland of West Union and Snyder Counties. The late Davy Jones of the Monkees moved to Beavertown, to find refuge from rock n’ roll celebrity, on a horse farm whose landscape undoubtedly reminded him of rolling countrysides in his native Britain. It’s forgiveable to compare the countryside to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire as well. Tolkien, enamored of America’s archaic Appalachia while seeking refuge from the mechanized destruction of earth in twentieth-century European warfare, drew on a Kentucky friend’s lore for the Shire as the heartland of his twentieth-century Arden in Middle-earth. Names of Hobbit families, their love of tobacco, and speech and lifestyles, draw on the culture of an Appalachian state.

The Susquehanna in our Appalachian valley remains a sacred river in native tradition, interconnected with all the waters of the world, according to river steward Gere Reisinger, a naturopath of Seneca descent, who keeps watch over the hyper-polluted old industrial and coal region of the Susquehanna’s North Branch, known as the Wyoming Valley (Brubaker, 2002, 68). Mormons also hold sacred the river, where they first began their baptisms, and the watershed offered Edenic refuge too for Slavic Eastern Christians along with their Inferno. Slavic immigrants often died in the mines of its watershed but founded Holy Trinity Monastery, whose grounds at a cypress marsh near Cooperstown dip into the farthest edge of the Susquehanna’s headwaters, appropriately, in Jordanville, NY, named for the sacred river of Israel by now-vanished Baptists there.

The urban archipelago of New York City’s islands (population 8,175,133), or the ‘end’ of the river in the Chesapeake near Annapolis’ historic mini-urbanity, both seem a long way from local frameworks of earth in the mid-Susquehanna Valley, but are only each about 3 hours away by car. The mythical headwaters are more distant, about 4 hours by expressway, less time than it takes earth to flow in the river from the headwaters to our mid-valley confluence of the West and North branches. At the headwaters, Otsego Lake still opens up a clearing in imaginary endless Eastern Woodlands, as it did under its name of Lake Glimmerglass for Hawkeye in James Fenimore Cooper’s legendary green world, and in the pioneering nature writing of his daughter Susan Fenimore Cooper. In summer the pristine green Doubleday field of the Baseball Hall of Fame coexists with the lawn that marks the site of the Cooper manse, a traffic jam of American ‘green world’ mythology where a statue of James Fenimore broods over crowds visiting the baseball museum but not him.

It is all of course both the same and different earth, and Earth, as the overgrown garden that I tended with my grandfather as a boy in a backyard in inner-city Chicago, listening to his memories of growing up on a nearby farm swallowed by the city, fantasizing my own Eden in a raspberry patch amid grids of streets flowing downtown to the Loop from out of Thomas Jefferson’s right-angled head, shooting the occasional rapids of a lost diagonal Indian trail. Chicago’s grid, now featuring sodium streetlights blocking the stars and security cameras focusing us back on ourselves in the self-proclaimed ‘city in a garden,’ like myself, and the Susquehanna Valley, are all earth and the Earth, but different worlds amid it. As in Yggdrasil’s entwinements, the worlds entangle both rhizomically and arboreally, as in the cosmic tree in Genesis, however bifurcated by the objectifying gaze of Adam and Eve.

Martin Heidegger helped apply his friend Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in physics to views of the earth, and while in postwar isolation in a Black Forest cottage helped lay the groundwork for current environmental philosophy, despite his politically reprehensible past. Heidegger described Earth as the region of the withholding of what he termedphusis, the mystery of nature that is not objectively present Being. As environmental philosopher Bruce Foltz glosses Heidegger today, ‘The earth is that whence phusis arises… the closed and self-secluding region that ultimately eluded Greek ontology… Nature as earth is not primarily that “from which” things are made but rather that “whence” self-emerging, self-unfolding, and self-opening arise and “unto which” they recede… The earth allows coming-forth’ (Foltz, 1995, 136).

That ultimately postmodern view of the earth finds suggestive parallels in the ninth-century Periphyseon by the early Irish philosopher John Scotus Eriugena. He defined Nature as both being and non-being, and earth (terra, land or region) as a ‘mystic name’ signifying the restored wholeness of nature, imbued with the divine energies, in theophany or divine manifestation (Eriugena, 1987, 589). ‘Our bodies are placed on this earth or surrounded by this air…bodies within bodies’ like ‘the fish in the sea’ (Eriugena, 1987, 70). His exegesis in his Periphyseon, Book 4, Chapter 4, compares Christ’s Resurrection to a re-synergized ‘earth of nature,’ or ‘His earth,’ uniting earth and Paradise as non-objectified process, in an experiential dialectic of apophasis:Paradise is not a localized or particular piece of woodland on earth, but a spiritual garden sown with the seeds of the virtues and planted in human nature, or, to be more precise, is nothing else but the human substance itself created in the image of God, in which the Tree of Life, that is the Word and wisdom of God, gives fruit to all life; and in the midst of which streams forth the Fountain of all good things, which again is the Divine Wisdom. … In this intelligible Paradise God goes walking. (Eriugena, 1987, 500)

Eriugena throughout the Periphyseon uses the Latin term terra – earth, land, or region – as a mystical name for Creation when experienced in relation with Paradise through the Tree of Life. Terra in its energized (or, as we might term it, non-objectified) state is for him ‘the bliss of eternal life and the stability of the Primordial Causes, from which all things which are have their origin…the fertile soil of the Primordial Causes’ (Eriugena, 1987, 520–521). The primordial causes are Eriugena’s adaptation of the logoi that St. Maximus the Confessor developed as activities of the Logos. In their effects as theophanies, these ‘word-harmonies’ interpenetrate and emerge from the earth. The earth thus functions in a sense as the ultimate Deleuze-Guattarian-style ‘plane of immanence,’ a relational sense of desire as different from Western possessive desire of lack as psychoanalytic models are from the Tao, while also however participating in transcendent meaning.

If earth, like Shakespeare’s Arden, is a palimpsest of layered memories and physicalities, words flickering in and out of metonymy, the divine logoi (or harmonies) are typed in some respects by today’s ecosemiotics. They open a sense of the dominion given unfallen humanity in the earthly garden of Paradise (which, restored, spans the earthly and the heavenly) as reason in the sense of harmony – an experiential semiosis constituting the natural symbolism of the body as described by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1970). ‘All living things are critics,’ interpreting signs, as Kenneth Burke noted in the opening of his Permanence and Change (Burke, 1984, 1). Modern physics, in notions of the multiverse, quantum entanglements and the anthropic principle, likewise emphasizes potential relationality in the cosmos that turns our abstracting old scientific matrix of sociobiological time on its head. Resulting postmodern notions of temporality and non-temporality oddly remind us of the more ancient and personal senses of Earth.earth as experience.

C.S. Lewis, translating medieval and Renaissance notions of planets into fantasy and science fiction, included in his space trilogy the idea that each planet hosts an embodying spirit, an Oyarsa. Although Earth’s angel is ‘bent,’ a.k.a. Satan, a figure of what in modern terms might be called the objectification of Earth, ‘There is no Oyarsa in Heaven who has not got his representative on Earth,’ explains the hero Ransom (a space-traveling philologist loosely based on Tolkien, in the same way that Tolkien loosely based Treebeard on Lewis). ‘And there is no world where you could not meet a little unfallen partner of our own black Archon, a kind of other self. That is why there was an Italian Saturn as well as a Heavenly one, and a Cretan Jove as well as an Olympian. It was these early wraiths of the high intelligences that men met in old times when they reported that they had seen the gods’ (Lewis, 1996, 313). But if the chief spirit of our objectified ‘silent planet’ was ‘bent,’ a.k.a. the fallen angel, then who is the pre-modern type of Earth.earth, originally good and beautiful? A feminine figure of Mother Earth, in various forms, becomes today reconfigured in the Gaia Hypothesis, as advanced by the late biologist Lynn Margulis among others. The complementarity of biological sex becomes a symbolic reality, subverting social modern constructions of binarized gender and of essentialized/consumerized sexualities, in experience of Earth.

To early medieval Christians, such mystery of a feminine-gendered earth resonated bodily in the figure of the Mother of God, identified in Byzantine hymns as the noetic Paradise, Jacob’s Ladder spanning earth and heaven, containing the Creator in her womb, while contained in God. Luce Irigaray has noted how a double-enfolding landscape of the female body models a landscape in consonance with nature that is both being and non-being, but in personal bodily ways (Casey, 1998, 321–330). Iconography identified the Mother of God with the enclosed garden, the ‘park’ at the root meaning of the biblical word Paradise, the garden and the life-giving stream of Eden, both bride and Mother of God, and in a sense thus transforming the nature of both the human and the divine. In the seventh-century words of St. Andrew of Crete: ‘Conception without seed; nativity past understanding, form a Mother who never knew a man; childbearing undefiled. For the birth of God makes both natures new. Therefore, as Bride and Mother of God, with true worship all generations magnify thee’ (Matthewes-Green, 2006, 179). The Mother of God, at once the Bride of God, turns the sense of Earth.earth inside out. Our sense of both the natures of God and humanity are transformed in that figure of Earth.earth as Mother and Bride of God.

The twentieth-century writer Philip Sherrard, a translator of the collection of patristic writings known as the Philokalia[‘the love of the beautiful’], related the figure of Mary to both the feminine-gendered divine Wisdom or Sophia of theLogos, flowing forth from Paradise, and to Earth.earth:She is Earth as a single immaterial feminine divinity, and she is earth as a manifold, material reality. She is herself the Body of the cosmic Christ, the created matrix in whom the divine Logos eternally takes flesh. She is the bridge that unites God to the world, the world to God, and it is she that bestows on the world its eternal and sacred value. She is the seal of its sacred identity. (Sherrard, 2004, 181)

In medieval cosmology that touches the postmodern but lightly skips across modernity, Mary becomes ‘real symbol’ of Earth.earth spanning Arden.Eden. In her figure the semiotics of life come charged with energy. Thus monasteries became known as the gardens of the Theotokos, and so in the manmade deserts of clear-cut Ethiopian highlands, Google Earth today discloses green groves around ancient churches that guarded and nurtured their trees (like the sacred trees of early Irish monasteries) as living memories of the savanna of Paradise. Such non-modern insights extend social justice to environmental justice, by a realization of ‘our’ supposed objects as indeed numinous gifts shared by us all.

Human song as life mingles with that of birds under the cosmic tree on earth. The logoi or harmonies and purposes of Creation, including ourselves, sing as birds in the branches of the tree of contemplation of the Logos/Harmony, as Maximus put it (Thunberg, 1997, 138–139). Yet the singing or semiosis of the earth calls into question the normality of the discourses of our simulacra worlds of self and society. It engages us with the other as we put on and shed disguises in layers of meaning amid our vanishing Ardens, still personalized in the intersections of time and eternity embodied in the living symbols of trees – medievally the ‘cross’ between the transcendentally semiotic and the immanently incarnational.

Amiens, a courtier-in-exile in As You Like It, thus appropriately put the ambivalent yet beguiling terms of our earthly sojourn into homely song in the twilight borderland of Arden, finished and countered by the self-styled fool Jacques. Very simply, under a cosmic-yet-real tree, the song touches first on the medieval forest of adventure and trans-species harmony, then suggests ascetic sustainability in the greenwood, hinting of post-human futures interweaving categories of human and non-human on earth:

Amiens

Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird’s throat:
Come hither, come hither, come hither.
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.
Who doth ambition shun
And loves to live i’th’sun
Seeking the food he eats
And pleased with what he gets:
Come hither, come hither, come hither.
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.Jacques:
If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease,
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame:1
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An [if only] he will come to me.
(Shakespeare, 1992, 2.5.302–303)

 

Notes

1 It has been suggested that ‘ducdame’ is a nonsense word, but also could mean ‘lead him to me’ (from Latin), ‘come to me’ (from Welsh), or a Gypsy term to attract customers, meaning ‘I foretell.’ It could also reference a woman (‘dame’) leading a man, which we here could interpret in terms of Mother Earth.

 

References

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  22. Sherrard, P. 2004. Human Image: World Image. The Death and Resurrection of Sacred Cosmology. Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey.
  23. Thunberg, L. 1997. Man and the Cosmos: The Vision of St. Maximus the Confessor. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
  24. Von Uexküll, J. 1982. The Theory of Meaning. Semiotica 42(1): 25–82.

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Alfred Kentigern Siewers is an Associate Professor of English and an Affiliated Faculty Member in Environmental Studies at Bucknell University. The essay first appeared in PostMedieval 4.1.He also co-edits the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley.

 

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