Salting the Earth
September 15, 2010 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me find a good quotation about a piece of earth being cursed?

I know the Romans salted the fields of conquered foes to ensure they couldn't use the fields again.

I would like other examples of plots of ground being cursed.

Specifically, I would like examples in verse. Something from Shakespeare, for instance, would be terrific.

And it doesn't have to be "I curse you, oh ground!" but also (especially?) "I have just realized the problem: the very ground we stand on is cursed."

The shorter, the better. I'm trying to find something that could serve as a title for a short work.

Thank you for you help with all of this!
posted by jefficator to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From the bible:
Acts 1:18-19 (New King James Version)

18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)

This is referring to the field that Judas purchased with his 30 pieces of silver that he got from betraying Jesus.
posted by CathyG at 6:23 AM on September 15, 2010

A quick romp through opensourceshakespeare turned up these two:

Cursed be thy stones for thus deceiving me! (Midsummer Night's Dream V, 1) (but it's actually about a wall)

And if you crown him, let me prophesy:
The blood of English shall manure the ground,
And future ages groan for this foul act;
(Richard II, IV, 1)

I know there are more examples in my head somewhere...will ponder.
posted by devotion+doubt at 6:24 AM on September 15, 2010

I think Genesis 3 is probably the *cough* canonical quotation:

"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

The KJV isn't necessarily the most scholarly or accurate translation, but it can't be beat for its poetry.
posted by valkyryn at 6:26 AM on September 15, 2010

Here's Edward Gibbon's description of scorched earth tactics in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
The extensive region that lies between the River Tigris and the mountains of Media...was in a very improved state of cultivation. Julian might expect, that a conqueror, who possessed the two forcible instruments of persuasion, steel and gold, would easily procure a plentiful subsistence from the fears or avarice of the natives. But, on the approach of the Romans, the rich and smiling prospect was instantly blasted. Wherever they moved...the cattle was driven away; the grass and ripe corn were consumed with fire; and, as soon as the flames had subsided which interrupted the march of Julian, he beheld the melancholy face of a smoking and naked desert. This desperate but effectual method of defence can only be executed by the enthusiasm of a people who prefer their independence to their property; or by the rigor of an arbitrary government, which consults the public safety without submitting to their inclinations the liberty of choice.
"The melancholy face of a smoking and naked desert" is pretty good. And of course there's Genesis 3:17-19
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“ Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
posted by jedicus at 6:26 AM on September 15, 2010

Love Canal is a plot of land outside of Niagara Falls, New York that was blessed by so much industrial waste that in the late 1970s it was a metaphor for a polluted, cancer-ridden, cursed piece of land.
posted by three blind mice at 6:40 AM on September 15, 2010

Of course, there's always Poltergeist:

"You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn't you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!"

But maybe not so much what you're looking for...
posted by devotion+doubt at 7:03 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil before the settlers, before the the Indians. The evil is there waiting. -- William S. Burroughs
posted by chrchr at 7:28 AM on September 15, 2010

Best answer: "And then away for home! Away to the quickest and nearest train! Away from the cursed spot, from this cursed land, where the devil and his children still walk with earthly feet!"

Dracula, Bram Stoker
posted by Very Nice Person at 8:22 AM on September 15, 2010

One of Cromwell's Generals said of the Burren in Ireland:
There's no tree to hang a man, enough water to drown a man nor soil to bury a man.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 8:41 AM on September 15, 2010

I have always liked this message that was designed for placing near nuclear waste. It may be too long for you, but is definitely excerptable.

This place is a message… and part of a system of messages… pay attention to it!

Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

This place is not a place of honor…no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.

What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

The danger is in a particular location… it increases toward a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us.

The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.

The danger is to the body, and it can kill.

The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.

The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.

posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:56 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all great. Thank you so much for your help everyone!
posted by jefficator at 5:08 PM on September 15, 2010

As Wink Ricketts said above -
"One of Cromwell's Generals said of the Burren in Ireland:
There's no tree to hang a man, enough water to drown a man nor soil to bury a man."

Cromwell (spit when you say that name out loud) then banished those who wouldn't submit to the English Crown "To Hell or to Connaught" which would be the province housing The Burren.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 6:20 PM on September 15, 2010

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