Ave atque Vale, Treebeard

A boy and a big black pine in Oxford, 2012.

A boy and a big black pine in Oxford, 2012.

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post about the famous black pine in the Oxford Botanical Gardens called “Twists in the Plot.”  As I found out only today, the pine had to be taken down this past summer, after a large branch collapsed.  Though clearly its time had come, I’m sad to see the old tree go.  Why do we love old trees? asks a columnist for the Independent on the occasion, though she does not really get around to an answer.  And why is it so heartbreaking to see them go?  I’ve had occasion to ask this myself about a tree in Sewanee, now gone.  I suppose there’s no better answer than that we might infer from a poet who himself knew Oxford well:

   Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Still better, also by Hopkins:

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Advertisements

About Uncomely and Broken

I teach Latin and Greek at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Oxford, Poetry, Sewanee, Trees & Flowers. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ave atque Vale, Treebeard

  1. Pingback: Twists in the Plot | uncomelyandbroken

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s