Branching I

“Branching” may be too quaint an image to use in something about forests, and in any case I’m not thinking so much about the free formation of limbs – to use another plant-metaphor (from below ground) the rhizomatic this-way-and-that way development of ideas – as a sort of bifurcation of ideas, splitting one from another. I’m doing this in an attempt to (another outdoors metaphor) to clear the field.
Starting with the the antiqua silva, we might, for example, distinguish two overarching images of the outdoors, which, at the start I’ll call the image of outdoors as a place of beauty and the image of outdoors as a place of adventure. Beauty leads us to think of the pastoral, the idyllic, to Vergil’s eclogues and the lighter passages of Wind in the Willows – a place to which we long to return, and (on another branch) a place which we try to preserve. The ambiguity of reading the phrase alone leads to the ambiguity of Poussin’s famous painting (Wikipedia   has a wide-ranging entry on the phrase itself) even before we meet the stories of Dan Brown  or other writers So beauty leads to pleasure, and to a duty of preservation.  Adventure, on the other hand, leads to danger, to the anxiety of separation from the attachment figure – here we are closest to those interests in children’s stories that are linked to folklore. We are in the Wild Wood where Mole is threatened, in the forest of (here she comes) Red Riding Hood and her dangerous creatures.

One road leads to the eclogues, and thence to Green literature (what a shorthand!); the other to a place of danger, peril to be overcome, and thence to fear or mistrust of the outdoors.

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