Monday, August 14, 2017

William Wordsworth - Yew Trees

This is a photo of an old yew at Alton Prior,  I see this blog   has been in draft since 2015, so perhaps it might see the light of day, now that we live next door to so many yews. The Lorton yew is in Cumbria and is much reduced now, the photos of the following old yew is in Wiltshire set in the Vale of Pewsey.

The Yew Tree
by William Wordsworth

There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
Which to this day stands single, in the midst
Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore:
Not loathe to furnish weapons for the Bands
Of Umfraville or Percy ere they marched
To Scotland's heaths; or those that crossed the sea
And drew their sounding bows at Azincour,
Perhaps at earlier Crecy, or Poictiers.
Of vast circumference and gloom profound
This solitary Tree! -a living thing
Produced too slowly ever to decay;
Of form and aspect too magnificent
To be destroyed. But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! -and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveteratley convolved, -
Nor uninformed with Fantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane; -a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially -beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose decked
With unrejoicing berries -ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide: Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight, Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple scattered o'er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or in mute repose
To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Glaramara's inmost caves.

I had found reference to Lorton Yews in Thomas Pakenham's Meeting With Remarkable Trees sometime ago, his photos of old trees are wondrous and one can almost believe that spirits and ghosts haunts some of their weird and gigantic shapes.

The yew tree in the photos is the one next to Alton Prior's church in Pewsey valley, the little church having large stones beneath its foundation, which could have been a stone circle.

There are two churches at this site, the other Alton Barnes, with a small stone pathway between them. A stream runs through the field in which they are found, and in the distance Adam's Grave long barrow broods on its hill. Pewsey Valley is a very special place, its history stretches through a Saxon past to prehistory with Wansdyke running along the top of the downs past Adam's Grave and the causewayed enclosure at Knap Hill.

The grain of the yew

Same again


  1. The patterning of the grain on those yews is exquisite isn't it? There is a lovely old yew at Hubberholme Church in Wharfedale. J B Priestly's ashes are scattered there and each time I go I admire the yew. Didn't know that poem - might read it at our Poetry session.

    1. It is a beautiful wood, think one of the first bows was made of yew. I see Priestley was married at one stage to Jaquetta Hawkes, one of my favourite female archaeologists.

  2. Unfortunately, there are no Yews in my area, but I wish there was. What a magnificent tree it is.

    1. The yew is of course here in England always to be found in grave yards, symbols of death I suppose, their dark evergreen foliage creating a dignified ambience.