X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Competition

Ashes to ashes

8 December 2012

9:00 AM

8 December 2012

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2775 you were invited to submit an elegy on the death of the ash.

A bleak topic for a comp, perhaps, but happily there are those who reckon that it is too early to start preparing the obituaries. Clive Anderson, president of the Woodland Trust, believes the species may well rise again. He writes: ‘Great stands of ash trees will be lost today, but they can grow back tomorrow,’ a hope echoed in what was a large and impressive entry. Commendations to David Silverman, G.M. Davis, Mary McLean and Roger Theobald. The winners below take £25 each, except for D.A. Prince, who pockets £30.
 

Too large for our imaginings, those bare
And hollowed landscapes where the ash once stood
In singing groves, or straggling hedgerows where
Tall saplings slowly thickened to a wood.
So, start with one familiar ash, a tree
From your own skyline, from your morning view
Through every season with its neighbourly
Reminder of the weather passing through
Its branches, bare or breaking into leaf,
Whose shifting play has scattered pools of shade,
Whose autumn gold is rendered far too brief
By the first lick of frost, whose keys displayed
A lust for living on. Now, multiply
One tree by hundreds, thousands, till they’re gone.
Once-sheltered valleys opened to the sky;
The mourning of the many starts with one.
D.A. Prince
 
Before man’s predecessors first took form,
Enduring ash trees flourished on the earth.
Their kind died more than once and was reborn,
Survived millennia to prove its worth.
Through ice and drought and flood and lightning strike
The keys to life, their seeds, lay safe and sound
Till new conditions let them germinate
And spread their roots in freshly fertile ground.
We mourn their loss, their usefulness and grace,
Their old mythology, their magic powers.
Leaves crumble, dead limbs fall to mark their space
In woods and parks across this land of ours.
Let us have faith that nature will sustain
Their spirit until ash trees live again.
Alanna Blake
 
Rumble, drum! Wail, vintage Stratocaster!
With bodies fashioned from this pliant wood,
Give us a dirge befitting the disaster
Of fungal blight where hardy trees have stood.
 
Flex, bow, to arc this news across the sky!
The growth that made you lithe has come to grief.
Chalara has brought low what reached so high,
Deformed live canopy to withered leaf.
 
The wind through spear-head green we’ll hear no more.
A loss we can’t endure we somehow must.
Nature that smote the elms deals this encore —
Vistas once rich with ash, now dead as dust.
 
We take some comfort, though. While hurling  stick
And baseball bat alike may soon be gone,
The willow tree has not yet taken sick,
So playing for the Ashes can go on.
Chris O’Carroll
 
The ash tree, how daunting! How haunting your swan song
Whose plaintive refrain from the woodlands I hear.
Was ever before such a sorrowful song sung
To sadden the heart as your dieback draws near?
My sweetheart from childhood again is before me
As when, in the shade of your shadow, we lay,
Not knowing its darkness, in times once so  carefree,
Was sadly foretelling the day you would die.
 
Your bird-bearing branches no longer will  welcome
The woodpeckers, blue tits and soft-cooing doves,
How foul is the fungus that fetters your freedom
To flourish forever in copses and groves!
Though round and about me the chainsaws are squealing
I’ll always recall how you gladdened my heart
With sunlight and sky through your canopy  smiling,
But then little thought I how soon we should part.
Alan Millard
 
We watched the helicopters whirling
In those summer yesteryears,
And heard the leaves uncurling, furling,
Turning into tiny spears:
And now it seems that, like the elm,
Your hard and pliable confrère,
Dark forces seek to overwhelm
Your standing in the open air.
Axemen, racquet-wielders, turners,
Sticksmen, crabbers mourn your going,
Burly hurley-carvers, earnest,
Feel their future slowing, slowing;
But I think back to childhood days,
And bless your death with these few words:
Though fading, too, I beg to praise
The pleasures of your whirlybirds.
Bill Greenwell
 
O weep for England’s blighted realm!
Beginning with the noble elm
(A victim of the Dutch disease),
Something is killing off our trees.
 
Arboricide’s beyond a joke
When sudden death attacks the oak,
And now the ash is dying back,
Reduced to firewood, stack by stack.
 
I grieve, and yet my spirits rise —
My elegy may win a prize.
Though dieback causes great distress,
I’m bearing up; I must confess,
I think I’ve never seen an ash
As lovely as a wad of cash.
Brian Allgar

No. 2778: Past regrets

You are invited to submit your regret, in verse, for New Year’s resolutions not kept (16 lines maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 19 December.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close