Snowdrops, pale and shy and still,
As if they’re afraid to face the bracing breeze.
Downcast propellers, silent in the chill,
So loathe to disturb the hush beneath the trees.
Always huddled together in their crowds
With the neck of a swan and the wimple of a nun;
Tensed to bare the worst from the clouds,
And wilting away in the first warmth of the sun.
The leaves all grow each spring
And the leaves all fall each autumn,
But there’s some leaves firmly cling
While the rest – the ground has caught ’em.
I think the final leaves outstanding
Wait till last, to clinch a nice soft landing.
Acorns crunch beneath my boots –
There’s far too many for the looting squirrels, howe’er keen.
Are these too green ? Are these too brown ?
A breeze shakes down a hail of fruits –
I pick one up and pop it from its birthing cup,
And wonder if an acorn dreams
Of pleated barks and soaring beams –
And what if ev’ry one of these took root ?
This lane would be athwart with trees !
Just think of how a trunk might shoot
From ev’ry acorn, where they lay:
Many just an inch or two apart, I’d say –
How long before their saplings start
To touch, and merge, from verge to verge,
Until a hedge of oak will choke
This ancient right of way ?
But if I take one home with me,
Perhaps that wall will bare a gap
Where flows no sap and grows no tree –
But as I turn to leave, I see
Another drizzle fill the lane,
And when I try to find my spot
I cannot – all is acorns once again.
They call him the Antarctic Beech,
And they call him False Beech too,
He’s somewhat beechy, that bit’s true,
Although he’s rather false as well:
A cousin, not a brother, truth to tell.
But as for the Antarctic, hell –
That one’s a real reach !
Antarctic Beech is no such thing,
He cannot cross the Southern Seas –
He clings to Fuego, looking out,
The southernmost of all the trees.
He braces up to southerlies
That stunt and sculpt and knock about.
And so, each slow September-Spring
He wakes, and adds another ring.
But far five hundred miles beyond,
His boughs bow-out to fragile gloom,
Where only mosses raise a frond,
And only grass and pearlwort bloom.
Now far to the north, he’s also in sprout:
An immigrant hardwood who’s hardy and stout.
So the Antarctic Beech is the king of the Faroes –
Where’er the cold air blows,
That’s where he grows.
Though not in all lands that are under the Plough,
But only as far as the cold will allow:
The poles are forever beyond his long reach –
Forever the sub-arctic beech.
The Horn’s as far as he may go,
But fair’s fair, fossils have been found
Beneath the harsh Antarctic ground –
But as for living species: no.
But oh ! The Antarctic beech – what a star !
The tree to the south of the south of afar !
So yes, we all know that his claim is a lie –
But how could we let such a name pass us by ?