Daily Archives: May 5, 2020

Tellus, telluric, tellurian

Tellus is a Roman goddess of the earth (yes, goddess in spite of being -us), and is earth personified, because earth is tellus. You may know our planet as terra, but that comes (it seems) from tersa tellus, ‘dry earth’ – yes, terra is not related to tellus but is from a word meaning ‘dry’. Tellus traces back to Proto-Indo-European *telh₂-, also source of Irish talamh (‘ground’) and Hindi तल tal (‘bottom, floor’). Adjectives relating to earth include tellurian and telluric; the element tellurium makes an ion, telluride, and from gold telluride we get the name of the Colorado town Telluride.

It deserves a poem.

Tell us, mother Tellus, come,
tell your rich telluric tale;
I’ll lay my ear upon your earth,
I’ll ground myself and I’ll be ground,
so I will understand your story
when I lie under your understorey.
Tell your intelligence, tellurian tellings
of talus and tells and tillings and deltas,
sediments, sentiments, humus and humours
and transhumant humans in tents and tenements,
and anthills, Antilles, and atolls, all told
with dust and mud and minds and mouths:
moors and mountains, tuff and tuffet,
repeated in peat and petroglyph.
Take me in your rootbound whole:
I will lie to find your truth,
for I have felt your fallow field,
I’ve been cradled in your rocks,
deposited in river banks,
turned a pirouette in your
terpsichorean petrichor.
Let me dig you, till you, Tellus,
till you take me as a seed
seen sown in sod to plan my root
so that leaves growing in relief
may let all nose all that transpires
in tellurian eternal turns.
Tellus mother, tell us, then
take our tales to you again.