The Great Forest

This is the Major Oak; thought to be well over 900 years old. It needs a little help these days.... 

 

The Great Forest
 
The Great Forest begins
Where my garden ends.
I dare not go there
Except by deepest night
When I take to the skies
Amid the hunting owls.
By day, I see nothing
But the odd glimpse
Of miles of woodland,
Dense and secret
Beyond the wooden fence.
If I approach, come close
And look beyond the barrier,
It's only another garden,
Wild for suburbia
But tamed nonetheless.
The Great Forest haunts me,
Living in snapshot moments
When I sense it's there,
Unseen by others,
Invisible by daylight,
Waiting for nightfall
And those who leave behind
Both bodies and bedrooms
To enter its borders,
Trembling with fear
And the sense of coming home.
The Great Forest lingers,
Hidden in scrubby thickets,
And litter-strewn copses,
In untended gardens
Reverting rapidly to wildness,
And in the ancient memory
Of huge and silent trees,
Of sun-filled clearings
Paved with wildflowers,
In prison-colony plantations,
With larch and pine
Chained in dead-straight rows.
The Great Forest lives on
In the green-scented breeze
On a summer's evening,
Blown from far away,
Bringing scents of woodland,
Musk of deer and boar
And the forgotten bear and wolf,
Making us shiver as we sit
In tended gardens by candlelight,
Clutching glasses of foreign wine,
And struggle to remember something
That is lost in these moments.
The Great Forest still stands
In every persistent sapling
That cracks walls to grow,
In every clipped and shaped yew
Bent in ornamental servitude.
It lives on in the waste-ground,
In forgotten corners of gardens
And in ancient churchyards
Guarded by yews of such age
That they seem like living stone.
I stand at my window
And seek the Great Forest
Beyond my garden fence.
In every green breath I draw,
I smell the heart of the forest,
And beyond it, the Sea. 

 

I wrote this poem some years ago when we lived not too far away from the great Sherwood Forest…Our garden was an acre corner of the original eight acre rectory garden and on a summer day, looking from an upstairs window the trees melded and blended till you could imagine it went on forever.

Sherwood Forest is a tiny remnant of old growth forest that once covered much of the English midlands up into south Yorskhire. You can still get lost there if you try hard enough…