O is for Oak Tree

Posted April 17, 2014 in A-Z Challenge / 3 Comments

Today I’m continuing with the A-Z Blogging Challenge. The aim is to write a post for every day of the month except for Sundays, with each post representing a different letter of the alphabet. This year I’m doing an A-Z of Great Britain, covering as much as I can about British music, literature, TV and film, food, wildlife and culture.

For the letter ‘O’ I have chosen Oak Tree. 
The Oak tree is one of England’s national emblems, as it is the most common woodland tree in England. The symbol has appeared on the back of the pound coin in 1987 and 1992 and oak leaves or acorns are the emblem of the National Trust and The Woodland Trust. The oak tree is also the symbol of the UK Conservative Party. Before Christianity spread to Britain, there were sacred oak groves where Celtic druids met to hold rituals. To the druids, the oak represented doorways to other realms and was said to provide protection and power for their magick.

The Royal Oak [Creative Commons 3.0. Source]

The oak is a common symbol of strength and endurance and many other countries, such as Germany, Cyprus, France, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Wales and the US have named it their national tree.

There are several oak trees with historic importance in the UK:

  • The Royal Oak is an oak tree at Boscobel house, where King Charles II supposedly hid from the Roundheads who pursued him during the English Civil war in 1650. This event used to celebrated on 29th May as Oak Apple Day, and is still celebrated in some communities. ‘The Royal Oak’ is the third most popular pub name in Britain and has been the name of eight major Royal Navy warships, which were mainly constructed from oak wood. 
  • The Bowthorpe Oak, in Bourne, Lincolnshire (not far from where I live), is thought to be around 1,000 years old. It was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records
  • The Minchenden Oak in Southgate, London, is said to be the largest oak tree in England and is around 800 years old.  
  • According to folklore, the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire was used as shelter by Robin Hood. It is believed to be between 800 and 1000 years old. 

Here is a wonderful poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon:

An Old English Oak

Silence is the voice of mighty things.
In silence dropped the acorn in the rain;
In silence slept till sun-touched. Wondrous life
Peeped from the mold and oped its eyes on morn.
Up-grew in silence through a thousand years
The Titan-armed, gnarl-jointed, rugged oak,
Rock-rooted. Through his beard and shaggy locks
Soft breezes sung and tempests roared: the rain
A thousand summers trickled down his beard;
A thousand winters whitened on his head;
Yet spake he not. He, from his coigne of hills,
Beheld the rise and fall of empire, saw
The pageantry and perjury of kings,
The feudal barons and the slavish churls,
The peace of peasants; heard the merry song
Of mowers singing to the swing of scythes,
The solemn-voiced, low-wailing funeral dirge
Winding slow-paced with death to humble graves;
And heard the requiem sung for coffined kings.
Saw castles rise and castles crumble down,
Abbeys up-loom and clang their solemn bells,
And heard the owl hoot ruin on their walls:
Beheld a score of battle fields corpse-strewn–
Blood-fertiled with ten thousand flattered fools
Who, but to please the vanity of one,
Marched on hurrahing to the doom of death–
And spake not, neither sighed nor made a moan.
Saw from the blood of heroes roses spring,
And where the clangor of steel-sinewed War
Roared o’er embattled rage, heard gentle Peace
To bleating hills and vales of rustling gold
Flute her glad notes from morn till even-tide.
Grim with the grime of a thousand years he stood–
Grand in his silence, mighty in his years.
Under his shade the maid and lover wooed;
Under his arms their children’s children played
And lambkins gamboled; at his feet by night
The heart-sick wanderer laid him down and died,
And he looked on in silence.

Silent hours
In ghostly pantomime on tip-toe tripped
The stately minuet of the passing years,
Until the horologe of Time struck _One_.
Black Thunder growled and from his throne of gloom
Fire-flashed the night with hissing bolt, and lo,
Heart-split, the giant of a thousand years
Uttered one voice and like a Titan fell,
Crashing one hammer-clang, and passed away.

~by Hanford Lennox Gordon

Did you enjoy the poem? What’s your favourite kind of tree and why?

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3 responses to “O is for Oak Tree

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