Monday, 11 May 2009

More Trees

I looked out of my window today and saw a poem in action.

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin

I don't know whether it's just because leaf rhymes with grief, but this isn't the only poem which connects trees and mortality. There's Spring and Fall, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and New Hampshire by T S Eliot. Feel free to let me know of others!


  1. What about Patrick Kavanagh's On Raglan Road?

    On Raglan Road on an autumn day
    I saw her first and knew
    That her dark hair
    Would weave a snare
    That I might one day rue
    I saw the danger, yet I walked
    Along the enchanted way
    And said 'Let grief
    Be a fallen leaf
    At the dawning of the day.'

    I have Sinead O'Connor doing a beautiful version of it (though it's a man's song really). I think I also have a version with Van Morrison singing it with the Chieftains. I love that, 'I saw the danger, yet I walked.'

  2. Grief and doomed love mingling here I see. As also in Yeats' Down by the Salley Gardens:

    Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
    She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
    She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
    But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.

    In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
    And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
    She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
    But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.