In a circle of trees

A tree God set in paradise, and its fruit forbade to Adam and Eve.

An angel of light offers Eve a fruit from the tree in the garden of Eden, in an Anglo-Saxon manuscript
Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Junius 11, p. 24. Photo: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

And him bi twegin beamas stodon
þa wæron utan ofætes gehlædene,
gewered mid wæstme, swa hie waldend god,
heah heofoncyning handum gesette,
þæt þær yldo bearn moste on ceosan
godes and yfeles, gumena æghwilc,
welan and wawan. Næs se wæstm gelic!

Genesis B, ll. 460-66, via the University of Virginia

And between them stood two trees —
they were laden with fruits at that time,
covered with blossoms, just as the Sovereign God,
the High Heaven’s King had set them there with his hands,
so that the children of men were allowed to choose
either good and evil. Each one, either prosperity or trouble.
Their fruit was not alike!

Translated by Aaron K. Hostetter

Adam and Eve ate their destruction from that tree; this the Creator remedied through the tree above all trees.

Opening of the hymn 'Pange lingua' in a 9th century French manuscript
London, British Library Add MS 24193, f. 17r

The Creator, grieving for the first-created parent when he was ruined to death by the bite of the wicked apple, then noted a tree, that he might undo the harms of a tree.

Quotation from 'Pange lingua' in a ninth-century French manuscript
London, British Library Add MS 24193, f. 17v

Faithful cross, the one noble tree among them all. No forest brings forth anything so great in flower, in leaf, or in bud. Sweet wood, sweet nails, bearing a sweet weight.

A tree of trees – cypress and cedar, pine and box – one tree of four woods.

Four woods are useful to humanity: yew and birch, ash and oak.

Yew tree, with a quote from the Old English Rune Poem

ᛇ eoh byþ utan unsmeþe treow,
heard, hrusan fæst, hyrde fyres,
wyrtrumun underwreþyd, wyn on eþle.

ᛒ beorc byþ bleda leas, bereþ efne swa ðeah
tanas butan tudder, biþ on telgum wlitig,
heah on helme hrysted fægere,
geloden leafum, lyfte getenge.

ᚪ ac byþ on eorþan elda bearnum
flæsces fodor, fereþ gelome
ofer ganotes bæþ; garsecg fandaþ
hwæþer ac hæbbe æþele treowe.

ᚫ æsc biþ oferheah, eldum dyre,
stiþ on staþule, stede rihte hylt,
ðeah him feohtan on firas monige.

The Rune Poem, ll. 35-7, 51-4, 77-83, via the University of Virginia

Yew is a tree unsmooth on the outside,
hard, fast in the ground, a guard against fire,
supported by spreading roots, a joy on the home turf.

Birch has no fruit, yet still it bears
branches without produce; it is beautiful in its boughs,
high in its well-adorned crown,
laden with leaves, touching the sky.

Oak is on the earth as fodder for livestock
for the sons of men. It travels often
over the gannet’s bath: Neptune tests
whether oak is trustworthy for the nobleman.

Ash is very tall, dear to humans,
firm in its foundation: it holds its place well,
yet is fought by many men.

(My translation; the full poem can be found translated by Aaron K. Hostetter here)

Oak imprisons the Wife, in a circle of trees, as she suffers loss.

Heht mec mon wunian on wuda bearwe,
under actreo in þam eorðscræfe.
Eald is þes eorðsele, eal ic eom oflongad.

The Wife’s Lament, ll. 27-29, via the University of Virginia

My lord had me live in a thicket of trees,
beneath an oak, in a cave of earth.
This earthen hall is old; I am utterly longing.

(My translation; the full poem can be found translated by Aaron K. Hostetter here)

Trees suffer loss, they mourn their fallen leaves.

Image of fallen leaves, with the words:

Beam sceal on eorðan
leafum liþan, leomu gnornian …

Sele sceal stondan, sylf ealdian.
Licgende beam læsest groweð.
Treo sceolon brædan ond treow weaxan,
sio geond bilwitra breost ariseð.

Maxims I, ll. 25a-26, 157-60, via the University of Virginia

A tree must lose its leaves upon the earth, its limbs must grieve …
A hall must stand, it must grow old.
A tree lying down grows the least.
A tree must broaden and truth must grow: it arises in the hearts of the merciful.

(My translation; the full poem can be found translated by Aaron K. Hostetter here)

But no leaves fall where the Phoenix dwells, in paradise where God set a tree.

A phoenix sitting on some branches
London, British Library Harley MS 4751, f. 45r

Wæstmas ne dreosað,
beorhte blede, ac þa beamas a
grene stondað, swa him god bibead.
Wintres ond sumeres wudu bið gelice
bledum gehongen … Þær him niþ gescod
ealdfeondes æfest, se him æt gebead,
beames blede, þæt hi bu þegun
æppel unrædum ofer est godes,
byrgdon forbodene.

The Phoenix, ll. 34b-38a, 400b-404a, via the University of Virginia

The flowers never fail,
the bright blossoms, but the trees ever stand green,
just as God commanded. The woods in winter and summer
are alike, hanging with fruit …
There hatred harmed them, the malice of their olden-foe,
who offered them eat the fruit of the tree, which they
both ate, with ill counsel over the mercy of God,
and they tasted the forbidden apple.

Translated by Aaron K. Hostetter

OxBodJun11p31 Tempter with Adam and Eve
Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Junius 11, p. 24. Photo: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

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