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Twelve Poems of Michael Vince

photo of Michael Vince in Rome


VISITING THE GREAT TREE


The great tree stands on a knoll behind the farmhouse.

People walk in, for its rotted core was burnt out

two hundred years ago. A group of villagers

sat inside to dine, their story enriching the tree

which had already leafed in legend long before,


the rings of its years having wrapped it up in waves

while invading tribes advanced from fell to wold

with their gutturals and aspirates to weave a winter language.

Centuries of weather have tensed its sprung shape:

its branches quiver from within as well as from without


in a motion of pent up spirits. The great tree stays still

today, and from inside its body peers a wood-nymph,

nine years old, with glasses. Hereward the Wake

is homework to her, though the tree waved over him

perhaps, its arches of branches rounded with traceries,


keeping pace with the stone-masons. It shuffles

and hems and shifts like an old man muttering

of Odysseus recalling Delos, where a young palm tree

awed him with beauty; or how the Great King thankful

for a plane-tree’s shade decreed it a shrine for ever.