The Ancient

The oak tree stands,

its trunk heavily burred,

still growing vigorously.


A beautiful exhibition of drawings of Britain’s ancient oak trees at Kew Gardens inspired this poem. The images were in black and white and the trees stark, shorn of their home landscapes and without leaves. I was struck by how despite the long years – centuries – these majestic, broad-trunked wise ones continued to grow. Some trunks had split, some were heavily burred, they have all seen so many seasons, weathered the wind and rain. Despite their solidity from eons of exposure, they had a vigour to them, which you too may notice in the reproductions of the images.

Adverbs, like adjectives, are considered a stylistic ear-sore in writing and a crutch for lazy poets. I have kept “vigorously” nonetheless. The trees sprout their bare branches this way and that without consideration for polite symmetry or topiary style.

In my notebook I wrote that on that Sunday morning I felt, “Rested and clear-headed in a way I don’t think I’ve felt for ages. A good feeling.”

The next morning, Monday 29th October 2018, I was back in the thick of the London commute.

“I had a terrifying thought on my walk from Bank station – the tall, concrete buildings around and up ahead, the bright blue sky, everyone charging to where they were supposed to be, still meant to be and at that moment I thought to myself – actually stopped on the pavement – looked up and thought: This could be it. This could be my life until the end of my days. And so it could be, though, unlikely because the only constant is change.”

Here we are in 2020.

Read other BQ poems inspired by art

“The Ancient” is a poem from Jangle between Jangle, a slim collection of verse written while jangling to-and-fro across London.

Follow BQ on the gram (@beadedquillwrites), Facebook and, when out and about (so unlikely in 2020), Twitter.

BQ’s books are for sale via Blurb.

Published by BeadedQuill

Author of over 300 poems, also books, essays and short stories. Published in the Johannesburg Review of Books, Carapace and Type/Cast. BeadedQuill's titles are for sale via

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