A Tale from the Wood
Paul has sent me another idea for my Blog. Well done Paul. It is centred on a poem written by Felix Dennis, a self-made multi-millionaire. Amongst many other achievements he created the Heart of England Forest. He died in 2014 aged 67.
Dennis came to poetry late in life after serious illness, and expresses through his poems much that speaks to our modern concerns. In particular, he loved the English countryside and had a special interest in trees and tree-planting. His money has preserved ancient wooded countryside in Warwickshire for posterity and over a million new trees have been planted. Ancient woodland has been recreated.
It all started in 1995 when Dennis planted his first small wood. The charity he later founded has as its mission "the plantation, re-plantation, conservation and establishment of trees for the benefit of the public, together with the education of the public by the promulgation of knowledge and the appreciation of trees".
He is celebrated for writing "Whosoever plants a tree / Winks at immortality". I would say there is another sense of immortality in the poem below.
In this poem he makes a profound and telling admission. He shows he appreciates that although he purchased the land for the Heart of England Forest, it in a deeper sense belongs to the countrymen (and their dogs) who truly live the life of the countryside.
The land belongs to a collective far bigger than any so-called land owner. It is owned by successive generations of those who tend and love the countryside. Ultimately of course Christians and others would say it is owned by God.
Selected verses from “Arrival of the New Owner”
I found two keepers doing their rounds
Leading the pheasants from wood to hill
Their stares as flint as their lurcher hounds:
“And who be you?” “I’m walking the bounds
Of my land,” I said. And stood stock still.
And as to that, well, the dogs had cause
For though it was true the land was mine
Paid for, haggled for, clause by clause
Due stamped and deeded by ancient laws –
Yet each of us knew, though we gave no sign
That the land was theirs. And theirs alone.
That they owned each hanger and stream and hill,
Each wood, each hedge, each meadow and stone
That I understood what they’d always known:
The land was theirs. And remained theirs, still.