and the last was named Elm



and the last was named Elm,

Original French:  le dernier eut nom Vlmeau,

Modern French:  le dernier eut nom Ulmeau,



Nom berrichon de l’ormeau, Ulmus campestris, Smith. (Ulmacée.)

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre
p. 364
Abel Lefranc [1863-1952], editor
Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931


Ormeau; on employait l’écorce de l’orme pour cicatriser les plaies.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Le Tiers Livre
p. 573
Pierre Michel, editor
Paris: Gallimard, 1966


Inter has atque frugiferas materie vitiumque amicitia accipitur ulmus. Graeci duo genera eius novere: montanam quae sit amplior, campestrem quae fruticosa. Italia Atinias vocat excelsissimas (et ex is siccaneas praefert quae non sint riguae), alterum genus Gallicas, tertium nostrates, densiore folio et ab eodem pediculo numerosiore, quartum silvestre. Atiniae non ferunt samaram—ita vocatur ulmi semen—omnesque radicum plantis proveniunt, reliquae et semine.

Among these and the fruit-bearing trees a place is given to the elm, because of its timber and the friendship between it and the vine [The elm ranges with the timber trees because it supplies timber and with the fruit-trees because vines are grown on it as a trellis]. The Greeks are acquainted with two kinds of elm: the mountain elm which makes the larger growth, and the elm of the plains which grows like a shrub. Italy gives the name of Atinian elm to a very lofty kind (and among these values highest the dry variety, which will not grow in damp places); a second kind it calls the Gallic elm, a third, which has thicker foliage and more leaves growing from the same stalk, the Italian elm, and a fourth, the wild elm. The Atinian elm does not bear samara—that is the name for elm seed—and all the elms are grown from shoots of the roots, but the other kinds also from seed.

Pliny the Elder [23–79 AD]
The Natural History. Volume 4: Books 12–16
Harris Rackham [1868–1944], translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1945
Loeb Classical Library


elm. Forms: elm, elme, elm. Also ulm, ulme. [Old English elm = Old High German elm: -West Germanic *elmo-z; the same word with difference of ablaut appears as Old Norse álmr (Swedish alm, Danish alm, ælm) etymologically = Latin ulmus.]

The name of well-known trees belonging to the genus Ulmus.

C. 1000 Sax. Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England II. 52 Eft enim elmes rinde, ebærn to ahsan.

1382 John Wyclif Bible Isaiah xli. 19, I shal sette in desert fyrr tree and vlm and box togidere.

C. 1440 Promptorium parvulorum sive clericorum 138 Elm, tre, ulmus.

1541 Act. 33 Hen. VIII. c. 9 §5 Two other bowes… of ashe, elme, wyche, hasyll or other wood mete for the same.

1567 Drant Horace Epist. i. vii. D vj, Our cittizen is now a Corridon. He trimmes his ulmes.

Elm in mythology and literature

In Greek mythology the nymph Ptelea (Πτελέα, Elm) was one of the eight Hamadryads, nymphs of the forest and daughters of Oxylos and Hamadryas. In his Hymn to Artemis the poet Callimachus (3rd century BC) tells how, at the age of three, the infant goddess Artemis practised her newly acquired silver bow and arrows, made for her by Hephaestus and the Cyclopes, by shooting first at an elm, then at an oak, before turning her aim on a wild animal.

The first reference in literature to elms occurs in the Iliad. When Eetion, father of Andromache, is killed by Achilles during the Trojan War, the Mountain Nymphs plant elms on his tomb («περὶ δὲ πτελέoι εφύτεψαν νύμφαι ὀρεστιάδες, κoῦραι Διὸς αἰγιόχoιo»).[Hom. Il. 6.424] Also in the Iliad, when the River Scamander, indignant at the sight of so many corpses in his water, overflows and threatens to drown Achilles, the latter grasps a branch of a great elm in an attempt to save himself («ὁ δὲ πτελέην ἕλε χερσὶν εὐφυέα μεγάλην».[Hom. Il. 21.114]
The Nymphs also planted elms on the tomb in the Thracian Chersonese of “great-hearted Protesilaus’’ («μεγάθυμου Πρωτεσιλάου»), the first Greek to fall in the Trojan War. These elms grew to be the tallest in the known world; but when their topmost branches saw far off the ruins of Troy, they immediately withered, so great still was the bitterness of the hero buried below, who had been loved by Laodamia and slain by Hector.[55][56][57] The story is the subject of a poem by Antiphilus of Byzantium (1st century AD) in the Palatine Anthology.

55 Philostratus, ̔Ηρωικός, 3,1

56 Quintus Smyrnaeus, Τα μεθ’ `Ομηρον, 7.458–462
57 Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 16.88




Posted 27 January 2013. Modified 2 March 2019.

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