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Charlotte Mew's manifesto: "Men and Trees" - Published in The Englishwoman in two parts, February and March 1913

Science - History - Intensity - Trees


It was a blind man in old Palestine who saw men as trees walking a year before Pilate washed his hands of the blood of a Just Person, and the other day in a a London studio I met another, quite 'dark' as they say in Devonshire, who must have had some vision of men and trees. We had talked mechanically over the tea-cups: eclairs, Maeterlinck, Vesta Tilley; I would rather have asked him what he made of us from the Studio patter, how we 'saw' this or that or didn't 'see' it, our poses and our pictures, while the picture framed by the window which wasn't going to be hung anywhere made no claim. The greys and greens were deepening there; the line of lamps, just lit, cut the broken mass of trees in the gardens opposite; a light rain was beginning to freshen the dusty leaves. The London trees are all prisoners of men, some unreasonably mutilated like the lopped crowd in Greenwich Park, while, now and then, there is a wholesale massacre such as that of the seven hundred in Kensington Gardens, which took place, no one knows why, some thirty years ago, against which even the executioners protested and perhaps the homeless rooks as vainly. In my own wooded neighbourhood one after another falls; progress pulls down the old spacious shabby houses and puts up flats for the half-world; a popular draper rears a proud red monument to success; the green vanishes: even tomorrow one may miss the familiar plane of yesterday, and the birds go with the trees.

half-world = demimonde = women kept as mistresses

'You are looking at something', said my blind friend quietly. 'Not here', I told him.

"It was a tree outside the British Museum they were felling last week, with all the instruments of butchery, the axe and the rope and the saw, and the clearing round it like a scaffold; it went on for days and I didn't altogether care for it."

'No,' he agreed, with sudden animation,

"I really can't bear to see a tree cut down - a big tree: it's a sort of sacrilege. I suppose we belong, of course we do - I anyhow - to the Dark Ages."

And then Beauty and Fashion broke in, frankly bored with sylvan nonsense, and I moved on to remember a passage from a French novel I had just been reading - the chance encounter of the hero of too many bonnes infortunes with a petite a l'ulster and visage de Pierrot:

"Nous voilà partis tous les deux le long des boulevards marts nous contant nos mutuelles douleurs. Sa logeuse l'a chassée en lui volant trois pantalons, elle avail aussi un petit ami qui est parti avec une vieille dame riche, mais ce qui I'ennuie le plus est d'avoir perdu sa petite chambre d'oû l'on voyait un arbre."

[Translation by Robert Russell who notes "An ulster was, around the end of the nineteenth century a type of heavy overcoat, I think it figured in some of the Sherlock Holmes stories, for example. "Bonnes infortunes" is an example of a form of irony used in French. A more common one is "Bonnes surprises" which in fact means just the opposite...

"- the chance encounter of the hero of too many bad experiences with a young girl in an ulster coat and a face like "pierrot"
"There we were, both of us, set off along the dead [taking marts as morts] boulevards, recounting our mutual troubles. His landlady had kicked him out throwing three pairs of trousers (after him), she also had a boy friend who had left with a rich old lady, but what upset him the most was to have lost his little room from where one could see a tree"]

And then-but what miles away! Jefferies, who was only a quiet lover of trees, though 'never was such a worshipper of Earth'!

"How happy the trees must be to hear the song of the birds again in their branches. After the silence and the leaflessness to have the birds back once more - to feel them busy at the nest-building",

he says somewhere.

[This, and his self description "never was such a worshipper of Earth" are in Hours of Spring, which was included in Field and Hedgerow (1890)

And again:

"I wish the trees, the elms would grow tall enough and thick enough to hide the steeples - in the ships men live, in the houses among the trees men live: these steeples are empty."

[This is in Walks in the Wheat-fields, which was included in Field and Hedgerow (1890)

And again:

"The mystery of nature and life hovers about the columned temple of the forest. The secret is always behind a tree, as of old time it was always behind the pillar of the temple-"

[This is in Buckhurst Park, which was included in Field and Hedgerow (1890)

forgetting that of old time the tree was the pillar of the temple. It is a clear echo of, the earliest true cults, this, to hear - to feel - to have the birds; a return to the day when the tree was a sentient being with a soul of its own, or when later it became the abode or haunt of the spirit. The steeples are empty. Here is his inherent Paganism: ages before the steeples the primeval church was the forest, and the secret of all things was within or behind a tree.

The ancient and almost universal worship of trees, still prevalent in the religions of Africa and Southern Asia, surviving among some of the aboriginal hill-tribes of India in its crudest form, and not extinct in philosophic Buddhism, was perhaps the earliest form of divine ritual, a natural outcome of the tree's own beauty and man's first woodland life. The oldest inhabited world, as we look back on it from our cleared spaces, is a dense and infinite forest, a world of tree-haunted men and men-haunted trees.

Man himself, the early stories go, is descended from a tree, the ash and the elm, according to the Edda; Adonis is born of Myrrha, after she has been, for her sin, transformed into a tree; Daphne, pursued by Apollo, becomes the laurel; the classic tree-nymph dies with her tree; and to the tree from which all races sprang the souls of the dead return. An Indian race, the Gonds, still claim descent from trees, as did the Greek Pelopidae, and the Persian house of Achaemenidae; a tribe in South Nigeria believe that the souls of their dead return to trees, and the Warramunga of Australia that there they are waiting to be born again.

Primitive man, and civilised man till a few centuries back, owed almost everything to the tree, his fire and shelter, his gods and his devils.

"That Arch-fanatic Satan began his pranks in a tree."

The first houses of forest people were built round a tree with the roof sloping from it, such a tree-house as that in the first act of the Walküre, from the trunk of which Siegmund draws his sword. The old bridge was a tree-trunk, the Fire of London a forest fire. On the block of a dead tree Anne Boleyn and Charles 1 laid down their heads, and the order-book carried by the Misses Mould to its long home in the iron safe represents that dead tree which has become a 'property' in the last act of the human comedy.

The Mayflower, the pirate ships of the Elizabethan seamen, Nelson's Victory in Portsmouth Harbour are but trees upon the sea. Here and there is a rare one under it. Ste Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, immortalised for us by Puvis de Chavanne's frescoes in the Panthéon, once, travelling to some Spanish port, exorcized the wrecking demon on one of these on which her own ship had nearly foundered. Commanding it to be cut down, she prayed, and 'as it began to fall, a wild head, grey and horrible, issued thereout, and never after perished ship there'. An old German belief that if a sick man was passed through a split tree which was then bound up, sympathetic relations were thereby set up between them, so that if it died he died, is carried seaward by a Rügen tradition that if the man perished and the surviving tree was cut down and used for shipbuilding, the dead man's ghost would haunt the ship.

All that is a long way off; much nearer is Constable's elegant ash of Hampstead - in his own words, 'this young lady' who died of a broken heart. He made a sketch of her in full health and beauty, but

"on passing some time afterwards I saw, to my grief, that a wretched board had been nailed to her side, on which was written, "All vagrants and beggars will be dealt with according to law." The tree seemed to have felt the disgrace, for even then some of the top branches had withered."

In another year one half of her became paralysed, and

"not long after, this beautiful creature was cut down to a stump just high enough to hold the board."

In other times or in other countries her pardon would have been asked, or an offering made to her, or a solemn assurance that some one else was responsible for the outrage. In Siam, tree-felling is, or was until quite lately, reserved for hardened criminals, and no tree is today cut down by the Talein of Burmah without a prayer to the spirit who dwells within.

One may read whole libraries about the tree. Tree-myth, tree-marriage, tree-burial, tree-murder (under 'Forestry'), shelf upon shelf of books, dreams analysed and prayers dissected, millions of words strewn round it like its own dead leaves, and outside these stands the living tree, aloof, splendid; as magical as it was before one of them was written; and sometimes - there is always this about the city tree and the trees of commerce, and those forlorn ones grouped round a deserted house-something tragic and touching too.

"Every man is born a king and most men die in exile like most kings",

wrote Oscar Wilde. He might as well, even better, have written it of the tree. That is the tree. A king; an exile; a victim.

And this beauty. The scientist puts it into schedules and cuts sections of it and labels specimens for museums, and while he is busy the soul of it makes a little journey and comes back when he has gone to bed. No soul can breathe buried alive beneath the weight of all these tabulated facts.

The great tropical forests are being gradually penetrated: they are not yet ours. They belong to the not quite earthly birds, the very human beasts, and the darker elemental races of men who are born and do battle and grow old and die more simply and swiftly, but moved by the same instincts, as the

"poor little street-bred people that vapour and fume and brag."

For us there is what is left of wooded Europe, a patch of it here and there, trimmed, thinned and paper-strewn. The oaks stood thick before the Temples on the hills of Rome. France was an uncleared forest, and for men in those days the last secret of all was often enough behind a tree.

Fontainebleau may owe its ancient name, Forêt de la Bierre [Forest of the coffins?], to the victims of Charles the Bald's brigands, birds of the bough themselves, left under it to rot.

But even modern tourist Fontainebleau has not thrown off the forest spell. There is a village on one of the great roads where at nightfall the pigmy houses and their trivial lights are quite unreal. Nothing is real but the infinite vague road stretching away world without end between the infinite black wall of trees. [See The Forest Road] More unreal than anything is Paris, so near and so remote, her picnicking modistes and commis-voyageurs, the Madeleine and the Folies Bergères. The spectre of the great Huntsman, 'fort noir et hideux' [strong, black and hideous], rides upon this road. Henri IV first heard his horn; Louis XIV saw him, they say, on this same road again; in the sixties there were still old men who said they met with him on moonlight nights. It is only a matter of waiting and listening now to hear him overtake the flying wood-maiden, the wind in her scared cry and the rustling leaves of her trodden hair. Go but a short way off the track, and some at least of the tree-people are loitering, watching, whispering, within call. The wood-nymphs, gay and dangerous lovers and untired dancers; mischievous oak-housed elves, good enough if they are not vexed; malignant disease-dealing demons of the tree; and perhaps, for spirits are wandering things, the three sad poplar sisters who yoked the horses for their presumptuous brother, crying out that their shoots are torn; though not here is that acacia, in a flower of which, three thousand years ago, a man once starting on a journey left his heart.

But it must not be day. The darkness of a room is dead, the unlit night of the open moor and the seashore is a living darkness; the forest darkness, always stirred by elusive voices, is like no other - an enchanted dark.

The poet made his picture out of this:

In painting her I shrined her face
'Mid mystic trees, where light falls in
Hardly at all; a covert place
Where you may look to find a din
Of doubtful talk, and a live flame
Wandering, and many a shape whose name
Not itself knoweth; and old dew,
And your own footsteps meeting you
And all things going as they came.

It is impossible to think of trees without sooner or later remembering the opening of Hudson's El Ombú, perhaps the most beautiful passage in modern prose:

They say that sorrow and at last ruin comes upon the house on whose roof the shadow of the ombú tree falls; and on that house which now is not, the shadow of this tree came every summer day when the sun was low. They say, too, that those who sit much in the ombú shade become crazed.... 'It is true' (says the shepherd of the Buenos Ayres pampas who tells the story) 'that evil fortune came to the old house in the end; but into every door sorrow must enter - sorrow and death that comes to all men, and every house must fall at last.

The music - it is all pure music-ends on a note of madness which brings no harshness into the exquisite close; the red line moving across the water, the flamingos flying, 'the crazed live many years'.

I suppose there was some witchcraft in the ombú. Old Culpeper's astrological piety would not have allowed this slur on Nature. His trees are all good for something, (those that think otherwise are 'beside the bridge') - madness and witchcraft, as well as for the fastening of loose teeth.

"They say, if you tie a bull, be he ever so mad, to a fig-tree, he will quickly become tame and gentle."

They do not say how often it has been tried. The bay-tree is

"a tree of the sun and resisteth witchcraft very potently; neither witch nor devil will hurt a man in a place where a bay-tree is."

Witchcraft and cattle and the tree are brought together by another seventeenth-century writer - John Aubrey - who says of the whitty or wayfaring tree:

"In Herefordshire they did plant them neer their houses, when I was a boy, as a preservative against witchcraft, and made pinnes for their yokes of it, to keep their oxen from being fore-spoken."

About the same time Doctor Robert Plot, in a letter to the Dean of Christchurch, is inquiring of strange things,

"of animals, and first of strange people such as the Gubbings of Devonshire"

- of stones, of accidents - and of strange trees.

"The bodies of trees that are seen to swim in a pool near Brereton in Cheshire, a certain warning to the heir of that honourable family to prepare for the next world."

It must have been a common story. John Childrey, quoting Camden, carries it on. They 'flote in Bagmere', near the family seat, 'for certain days together and may be seen of anybody, but after the heir is dead they sink. I will not undertake', says Childrey, 'to tell you the cause of the floting of these trees in Bagmere; because there are several circumstances that render it very dark.' It is also 'certain that divers ancient families in England are pre-admonished of their End by oaks bearing of strange leaves'.

Aubrey's 'remarques' are apt to be quaintly coloured, and it is he who throws a splash of crimson across the green of a country churchyard. In Okelet, in Surrey,

there are many Red Rose-trees planted among the graves which have been there beyond Man's Memory. The sweet-heart (Male and Female) plants Roses at the head of the Grave of the Lover deceased; a Maid that lost her Dear 20 years since, yearly hath the grave new-turf'd and continues yet unmarried.

The yew is the tree sacred to Breton cemeteries, in which there is usually but one; a root of it was supposed to shoot from the mouth of every corpse, and in the Irish story of Noise and Deirdre it was from the stakes in their bodies that the two yew-trees interlaced above their tomb were said to spring. In Galway the tradition was that the thorn grew from the dust of the dead scattered throughout the world. In Cornwall, not so long ago, you must not touch the churchyard bushes, or the fairies would be after you in the night. It is everywhere dangerous to disturb the tree-fairies; wiser to leave them and the whole wood-world alone.

By Huntly Banks, Thomas of Ereceldoune met his 'ladye gaye' at the Eildon Tree, and lived some three years in the elf-queen's country, when, to save his soul, she let him go. René de Fontainebleau, loved by the wood-maid Némorosa, forgot his human mistress in the forest, and was never after seen. 'Non, je n'irai plus au bois / Je connais trap le danger.'

The trysting tree is always more or less enchanted. Every leaf of Hans Andersen's old oak, in its last dream, could see as if with eyes even the stars in daylight; each one a kind clear eye, reminding him of all those which had sought each other beneath his shade, the happy eyes of children and of lovers, who for three hundred years had met and parted there.


Life and death, good and evil have always been bound up closely with the tree from the day when that desirable fatal tree was planted for the two first lovers in the midst of their lonely garden, and of the fruit of which having eaten they have surely died.

Health and healing are of the tree, but after all it is a thing of shadows; so many secrets are behind it: so many of the old happenings (not to go outside the history of Israel) have been beneath its shade, often enough under the branches of the sacred oak, the venerated tree of the Semitic and European races.

Isaiah looked forward to the time when the people of Palestine should be ashamed of the oaks which they had desired. It is not yet: they are still believed to be inhabited by spirits to whom peace-offerings of torn clothes are hung upon their boughs. But the heathen rites so long connected with them are apt to obscure their earlier and holier associations.

Jehovah first appears to Abraham at the augur's oak at Shechem; and again, under the Oak of Mamre, the most famous of Palestine's hallowed trees, in the likeness of three men, who in the original story, it is suggested, may represent the spirit of the oak in a triple form. The Angel of the Lord seated beneath the oak of Ophrah brings God's message to Gideon, who builds Him an altar there. The swing of the march in the mulberry-trees is to be the divine signal to David for battle against the Philistines; Abimelech is crowned by the oak of the pillar in Shechem when Jotham recites the oldest and loveliest of fables, the going forth of the trees to anoint a king over themselves. Deborah's nurse is buried under the oak of Bethel, thenceforward called the oak of weeping. They are all consecrated trees. And then a cloud gathers above the oaks, incense, an acrid smoke begins to hang about 'the tree-tops tipped with fire'. God's people pass into the forest, 'monstrueuse et fauve cathédrale'. The high passionate voice of the prophet rises, itself a threatening flame:

The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond; whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees.... Also upon thy palms is found the blood of the souls of the innocent poor - upon every oak .... Are ye not a seed of falsehood, enflaming yourselves among the oaks, slaying the children in the valleys?

No doubt the children sacrificed to Moloch, whose blood was seemingly smeared upon or otherwise offered to the sacred trees.

The Druids, who Evelyn says probably derived their oak-theology from the Grove Mamre, have a similar red record, not shirked by Borlase in his Antiquities of Cornwall. Every tree of the Druidical Grove at Marseilles is said to have been washed with human blood, and Frazer mentions the yearly sacrifice of a girl by a tribe in the Punjab to an old cedar-tree.

These, of course, are the darker superstitions; civilisation, brightly conscious of having abolished the devils with the gods, and replaced them all by the Culte du Moi, murmurs "shocking!" and hurries on; but there is not much doubt that human sacrifices are still being offered by American and European syndicates to the sacred tree of civilisation, the rubber tree. Civilisation demands speed, speed demands rubber, and rubber, coated with blood and slime, turns quickly into gold. We have almost forgotten the Congo, and the whole story of the unique and more hideous abominations of the Putumayo is not yet and probably never will be told. So far we know that within ten years the greater part of a gay, intelligent native race has been monstrously exploited and destroyed.

From impressive prospectuses and cheerful paragraphs in the financial papers -'Rubber Notes, Rubber Market Topics' - one would not suspect it; but so, changed and modernised, 'tree-worship' persists, and in the whispering hells of those inland forests there are no illusions about the white man's sacred tree. Behind the ghastliness of the ancient immolation there was the immemorial belief that life must be taken to save or transmit life; or the idea was to offer the costliest gift to the deity: a son or daughter, most frequently the firstborn. This also was God's idea. Isaac was not actually sacrificed "on the altar upon the wood", but there is blood on the Redeemer's Tree.

The difference between the old idolatry and the new is that while the old counted its victims by tens, the new can count them by hundreds or thousands: there used to be ideals; today there are dividends, very lively realities against dead dreams!

Real and pleasanter survivals of the old tree cults are scattered over Europe in fetes and customs growing sparse towards our shores. In Cornwall, a farmer in the eighties records that in some places a procession of villagers visits the chief orchards of the parish, and choosing in each a representative tree addresses a long incantation to it, after which the tree is sprinkled with cider and the incantation repeated, while the parishioners dance round it. At one time sugared cakes were hung upon the branches. As time goes on the solemn incantation dwindles to a jolly couplet: 'Hail to thee, good apple-tree,/Pocketfuls, hatfuls, peckfuls, bushel-bagfuls' [Compare Hone 1825/1826]. And so the old rites of sacrifice and propitiation of the tree-spirit are unconsciously preserved and finally disappear. Throughout England we still have the Christmas-tree. Tennyson's once popular and parodied poem has gone the way of the May-queen herself. As a child I remember seeing a very shabby and rakish Jack-in-the-green in a London street. Now and then one comes across an unconscious personal echo of the outworn faith, half or wholly serious, in a lecture by Constable, an essay of Jefferies, or in Yoshio Markino's just-published Memoirs, in which he says of himself, as a child:

"Then the birds seemed as if they were calling me. Even branches of the trees looked as if they were beckoning me. And I went deeply into the Nature as if I were one of them. When I leaned against a tree, I felt I was a tree."

Religion is like music, one must have an ear for it; some people have none at all; but given the ear it is all significant and wonderful, from the old plain-song to a rhapsodic of Brahms. The form changes with our shifting emotions and ideas; here and there a tune gets lost, or goes out of fashion.

"Melodies die out like the Pipe of Pan with the ears that love them and listen for them."[Adam Bede]

I do not know what has happened to the Pipe of Pan, but the trees are taller than the reeds; the birds' song is sweeter than any pipe; the birds are divine; the tree is immortal, they do not die. Paganism and the medieval Christianity grafted on to it is dying hard in Celtic Brittany; but no one who within the last ten years has seen only the fires on St John's Eve at Guingamp will say that it is dead. The bonfires at each corner of the triangular place, lit by the priests without enthusiasm, are built around high poles, each crowned with a garland of flowers. In the glare, as the flames mount and spread, the old houses round, losing actuality and substance, look like painted scenery, and the pilgrims below, who have come from all parts of the countryside, for the Fête of Notre Dame de Bon Secours, like a stage crowd.

Ten years ago one or two of them snatched a tison from the fire; later I did not see this done. These were treasured, says Souvestre (in 1854) as charms against thunder, and the scorched garlands as talismans against sickness and sorrow (peines de l'âme). The fires are relics of sun-worship, but the masts and garlands distinctly suggest the tree.

The Celts, whatever sea divides them, have the same eyes and see the same visions, touching hands on the land of dreams; and in parts of Ireland, some thirty years ago, it was a custom to plant a May-tree on the dunghill by the farmhouse door, and to throw it upon the bonfire on the 'Day of the Fire Tree', in May, at the great Solar festival; in Brittany and elsewhere held on Midsummer Day.

Canon Mahé, writing of Morbihan, in 1825, says in that district trees may be seen trimmed and bent to form niches, in which crosses or images of saints are placed; and he also mentions as the seat of two famous pilgrimages our Lady of the Oak in Anjou, and our Lady of the Oak near Orthe, in Maine. In Maine, too, says an historian, there are chapels of oaks, where the trunks are enshrined in the walls beside the altar. Among many allusions to sacred trees in ancient Irish literature there is one which suggests that each church may once have had its tree:

"The tree of the church is seen from the open country, and when one goes to look for it in the oak-wood it is not found; and the sound is heard there of the bell and of the psalm-chanting, and the church itself is not found."

Infinitely older than the church, everywhere, as Thomas a Kempis says of the Cross, you shall find the hallowed tree, standing for centuries against the attack first made on it in Europe by the early Christian missionaries.

It is only twenty years since Professor Anatole Le Braz published his collection of Breton legends, taken down from the lips of the peasants gathered round his fire; and the picture he gives of them seated in the circle of the lamplight, with bent heads and tense faces, their voices coming from every corner of the room, claiming their turn to speak, is as striking as any of the stories they are there to tell.

Loveliest of these is the 'Deux Vieux Arbres', in which two peasants, Maharit and Jelvestr, husband and wife, who have passed at death into venerable beeches [hêtres], perished with the cold on the hillside, come back one night to their old home to warm themselves by the familiar fire. The young people have gone to bed, and towards eleven o'clock the son hears a slight noise outside, a rustle of trailing branches and shivering leaves:

" Puis, peu à peu le bruit grandit, devint une rumeur pareille a celle des bois agités par la brise, et l'homme aperçut distinctement les grands ombres mouvants des deux hêtres qui s'avançaient vers la maison. Ils marchaient aussi pres que possible l'un de l'autre, sur le meme rang; on dit que la terre les portait, on voyait, á la lumière la lune, briller leurs troncs argentes sous leurs feuillages immenses.

Ils traversèrent enfin le courtil.

Frou-ou-ou-gémissaient leurs vastes ramures. L'homme sous ses draps claquait des dents. Ils vont renverser la maison, se disait-il. II entendait le frôlement des grosses branches contre les murs et sur le chaume du toit. Par trois fois, les deux hêtres firent le tour du logis, sans doute cherchant la porte. Brusquement, elle s'ouvrit. Et voici ce qu'il vit: son père et sa mère étaient assis, de chaque côte du foyer, non plus sous leur forme d'arbres, mats tels qu'ils étaient de leur vivant. La vieille avait relevé sa jupe-

Le vieux lui demandait:

-Sens-tu un peu la chaleur?

-Oui, répondait elle."

The time passes.

"Dans l'âtre, le vieux disait a la vieille.

-Etes vous asset rechauffée, Maharit? Et la vieille disait au vieux:

-Oui, je n'ai plus si froid, Jelvestr.

Sur ce, l'horloge tinta le premier coup de minuit. Les deux vieillards se levèrent, disparurent. Et alors la grande rumeur de feuillage recommença le long de la maison.

Frou-ou-ou! Frou-ou-ou!

Puis le bruit s'éloigna, à mesure que s'éloignait aussi l'ombre des deux arbres sous la lune."

In the classic story of Philemon and Baucis, the old people are turned into trees as a reward for their hospitality to Zeus, but the Breton peasants are working out a long penitence in the homely purgatory of their race, not far from the friends and haunts of life. The charm of their story may owe something to the absence of the Curè who is often introduced into these legends, originally mythological, to neutralise or modify their naturalism. Nature and the ecclesiastic have never been fast friends, but in Brittany it is no use trying to throw the moon over the cliff, however much you may dislike her, and the clergy have had to take over the old superstitions as they have had to take over the old saints, of whom, says Charles Le Goffic, 'il n'y a guère trois dont les papiers soient complètement en regle'.

Yet the idea of pain and purgatory on the tree might very well, it would seem, have come from purely Christian sources. At the taking of Jerusalem by Titus an immense quantity of trees was cut down, on which the Jews were crucified in such numbers that

"'room was wanting for the crosses and crosses wanting for the bodies".

And sometime, somewhere in Palestine, a tree was planted which was carried to Calvary and replanted there.

There are legends enough of the True Cross, for the most part elaborate and artificial; but one of the eighth century, carved in runes on a cross in Ruthwell churchyard in Scotland, is of singular beauty and simplicity. The quaintness of the original, in which Christ figures as a medieval Lord or Knight and the Apostles as his vassals, cannot be suggested by a very free and condensed version of a literal rendering of the old text. In this Dream of the Rood it is the tree itself which, sighing, speaks:

It is long since, yet I have not forgotten how I was torn up and hewn down in the wood. Strong men carried me on their shoulders until they set me on a hill. Then saw I the Lord of all men, hasting with zeal, for He would mount on me; but He forbidding it I durst not bow nor break. I could have felled the foeman, yet stood I fast. I trembled as He embraced me. A rood was I raised up; I bare the King but might not bow. They pierced and mocked us together, blood covered us, fearful was my fate upon that hill. I lowered myself to the hands of His friends. They laid Him down, the Weary One, to rest after His mighty strife. They made him a tomb, and singing, there they left Him, alone in the even-tide. But we [The Three Crosses?] grieving, stood yet awhile.

Sir John Maundeville, the fourteenth-century traveller, points to a 'fayre church' in Jerusalem 'toward the Weast', as the spot where the tree grew of which the Cross was made; and in the neighbourhood of Mount Zion is the 'Tree of Eldre that Judas henge himself upon for despeyr'.

On the Mount of Mamre

there is the tree oke - that men call the dry tree. And they say that it hath been from the beginning of the worlde, and was sometimes grene and bare leaves until the tyme that our Lorde dyed and so did all the trees in the worlde, or else they fayled in their hearts or else they faded, and yet is there many of those in the world.

There are all sorts of stains on them, and all sorts of garlands; some of the stains are fresh, but not the garlands, and we are not likely to weave any more. They belong to the old gods, and for the old gods, as for the old people in the London streets, it is 'sauve qui peut'. We really have no use for them. We have not much use for anything but machinery and science and democracy, the three-headed monster who has kicked the effete trio of the troupe, the sisters Wonder and Beauty and Stillness, out of the show.

The Renaissance revered the ancient world, the nineteenth century was moved and lit by the Renaissance; we have no patience even with the nineteenth century. The past is a stupid corpse. The inspiration of the woods, the forest voices, the fairy dancers, the mystery of things that stand against the sky-these are 'of old time'. The steeples are hidden, but not by the elms; and when the newspapers or the publishers will pay you something for a good one and quite handsomely for a bad, most secrets are for sale. We must not speak in the marketplace of what happens to us in the forest, says Hawthorne - I think it is in The Scarlet Letter. Who was Hawthorne? There are no scarlet letters. Everything happens in the market-place. Where else? But the market-place is not real: the real things are happening in the forest still.

Near Jeanne d'Arc's home at Domremy there was a wood in which stood a beech-tree called the Ladies' Tree, or the Fairies' Tree, famous throughout the countryside. As a child, Jeanne used to hang on its branches garlands of leaves and flowers, and dance under it with the other children. A great deal was made of this by her inquisitors-dark things were said, the garlands vanished during the night, the birds in the oak-wood fed from her lap, the wolves there would not hurt Jeanne's sheep. There was always the mystery of the Voices, to which, when they had stupefied the child of another world and burned a saint, they were no nearer.

In the course of her long trial they asked her if she still heard her Voices. Worn out with questions and learned subtleties, "Menez-moi dans un bois," she said, "et je les entendrai bien."

External link 1911 Encyclopedia article on tree worship