The Trees Are Down

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696 – 1770)


—and he cried with a loud voice:
Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees—


They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the gardens.
For days there has been the grate of the saw, the swish of the branches as they fall,
The crash of the trunks, the rustle of trodden leaves,
With the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas,’ the loud common talk, the loud common laughs of the men, above it all.
I remember one evening of a long past Spring
Turning in at a gate, getting out of a cart, and finding a large dead rat in the mud of the drive.
I remember thinking: alive or dead, a rat was a god-forsaken thing,
But at least, in May, that even a rat should be alive.
The week’s work here is as good as done. There is just one bough
   On the roped bole, in the fine grey rain,
             Green and high
             And lonely against the sky.
                   (Down now!—)
             And but for that,
             If an old dead rat
Did once, for a moment, unmake the Spring, I might never have thought of him again.
It is not for a moment the Spring is unmade to-day;
These were great trees, it was in them from root to stem:
When the men with the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas’ have carted the whole of the whispering loveliness away
Half the Spring, for me, will have gone with them.
It is going now, and my heart has been struck with the hearts of the planes;
Half my life it has beat with these, in the sun, in the rains,
             In the March wind, the May breeze,
In the great gales that came over to them across the roofs from the great seas.
             There was only a quiet rain when they were dying;
             They must have heard the sparrows flying,
And the small creeping creatures in the earth where they were lying—
             But I, all day, I heard an angel crying:

             ‘Hurt not the trees.’

Mew (1869 – 1928)
‘“Man is senescent, that is to say is programmed to die, but a plane tree is not,” says French botanist Francis Hallé. After its leaves have fallen, life begins again in the spring and the tree recovers its youthful genomes. If it is not subjected to accidents, diseases or humans, the plane tree could live for centuries . . . .’


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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. quite eloquent and powerful – it’s always so “interesting” when a painful moment is simultaneously so beautiful and it’s delivery stirs the depths, redirecting one towards the positive – a genuinely dynamic inversion – the Tiepolo detail is an excellent compliment to the text- thanks for sharing this-

    • Yes – I don’t come up with any positive from within it, but–again–the overwhelming emotion of finding someone who can express my profoundest–and so incoherent–feelings, so magnificently; the relief. and yes, a sort of joy.
      Thank you. AND, I realized that I had certainly seen your gorgeous photographs, and not only admired them, but sent a link & some samples to my brother. There is another way of giving utterance to voiceless beauty.

  2. For me the positive comes from the overall message – such pathos urges me into action – get out there and do something/do more and do it more effectively – yes, thoughtless mistakes are made (all too often) but there’s a lesson to be learned and as expressed above, even that God-forsaken rat has a right to life – if it’s true for the God-forsaken, then what about the more “noble”? – it’s an unfortunate thing that we humans have a pattern of only learning from our mistakes after the horrifying tragedy, the devastating disaster, or when it’s just too late…- I have grave concerns that this is exactly what will transpire with global warming, GMO’s and pesticide usage… Yikes! a gloomy note for starting my day…. all the more impetus to make it an exceptional one!
    and an extra big thanks for linking and sending on the photos!
    Yes, beauty can be voiceless (but never impotent) and sometimes needs a vocal and active advocate….

    • It is heartening to know that you–and a few like you– are out there.
      But there are all too few.
      And how did so much devastation go by before there was a perceptible response?
      Even those who refused to make the effort to examine what the effects of their actions would be–are now IN THE MIDST OF THOSE EFFECTS. What do they propose should be done about it now?
      Do they not remember butterflies? Do they not believe there was once pure water in our wells? Do they not care that their children take pesticides into their bodies every day? What do they expect their families to breathe in the future?

  3. This is very sad – and we are losing our trees all over the world!

  4. This speaks to me so nearly and poignantly. Oh, Secret Gardener, you find such peculiarly, heartbreakingly wonderful things – thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • I owe you an email response to your compassionate, true, important message. But I was possessed with this for a bit. I read about CM, realizing at once that I was going to recognize something vital in her. And it was one thing after another, and everything.
      But this—The desperation with which I’ve tried to make people pay attention, the desperately alone battles (she had no idea what the sound of a chainsaw would be like), the helplessness against stupid, stupid landlords and needless arbitrary destruction, the sickening losses -with the profound consequences everyone seems so unconcerned with: conservation, ecology, environmental fragility never seem to apply in those instances–it’s always for someone else to deal with. The cutter doesn’t care, the overseer doesn’t care, the company doesn’t care, people on the property don’t care, the managers don’t care, and the property-owners don’t care. No one in my neighborhood–well-to-do, ‘educated’, self-satisfied as to their social consciences–could even be bothered to restrain the local ‘gardeners’ (mowers & blowers as they are humorously called) from gashing the hedges for a simple matter of weeks so that the birds might have a chance to nest and not have their nests destroyed. I’m sure they tut tut over the devastating loss of songbirds in America, but won’t bother interfering with the idiotic cycle of wasting water, then slashing back what grows so that it’s no good for anything—shade, shelter, respiration, screening pollution and noise . . . Ever see the idiots all fighting for the one patch of shade in a parking lot? But they wouldn’t think for a moment of refraining from doing away with more trees -let alone of actually planting more trees there.
      I wouldn’t dare talk about the beauty.

  5. Dear Secret Gardener,
    I have nominated you for three awards, Seeds of Light, Best Moment, and Versatile Blogger. If you choose to accept my nomination (which I sincerely hope you do), you will find indications of the next steps in my (lengthy) posting. Apparently there’s no time limitation on acceptance but I will be removing the posting after two weeks and make it a page filed under Uncategorized.
    Many Blessings

    • OK–My heartfelt apologies for my unforgiveable silence.
      I started to respond to another kind nomination from months ago, became snarled in it, got caught up in both doubts about how much I should say while explaining my reasons for starting the blog, and the ever-so-slightly related preparations for a journey to a family reunion, and just allowed the whole effort to collapse.
      I owe you an acknowledgement of the honor, my gratitude for your kindness, your efforts, and your patience
      –and a damned response already!
      Thank you so much.
      Don’t give up on me.

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