David Lewis Paget
The Hollow Tree
There wasn’t much left of the woods out there
By the time that they built the town,
Only a dozen square miles or so
For the rest had been cut down,
They’d fenced it off for a sanctuary
For animals large and small,
So nobody knew the hollow tree,
They hadn’t been there at all.
But I would go, and I’d climb the fence
When nobody was around,
And run right into the undergrowth
To feel my feet on the ground,
I’d disappear within the trees
Just yards from the boundary fence,
The leaves were thick on the path I’d pick
Where the trees were not so dense.
The woods were a magical fairyland
Where the sun speckled through the leaves,
It painted patterns of light and sound
When the treetops waved in the breeze,
And rabbits scurried across my path
As birds would twitter above,
Warning the deer of an ancient fear
That man never showed them love.
But I was sped on the wings of life
Away from the brooding eaves,
Away from the factories of strife
On a carpet of Autumn leaves,
I must have travelled a mile and a half
When I lifted my eyes to see,
The central bole of a Red Gum hole,
In the heart of an ancient tree.
It must have been twenty feet across
And more than a hundred round,
It ruled the place in a state of grace
Stood proudly on hallowed ground,
I caught my breath at its majesty
And approached the tree in awe,
Then slowly entered the hollow trunk
Through an archway, set like a door.
My eyes grew used to the gloom in there
When a voice said, ‘Don’t you knock? ’
And there was a girl in the corner sat
In a plain and simple frock.
Her hair was fair and was tied right back
And her cheek was pale to see,
Her needle poised on a piece of quilt
With some strange embroidery.
I stood and stared in a state of shock,
Unable to breathe a word,
For standing guard on her shoulder was
A black and stately bird,
It cocked its head and it looked at me
With a bright, unblinking eye,
‘Are you the one who will set me free? ’
She asked, in a drawn out sigh.
The bird had opened its beak just then
And let out an evil caw,
It sat there in a threatening stance
As I backed away to the door.
‘How do I set you free, ’ I said
‘I didn’t know you were here! ’
‘I’ve been enslaved in this awful cave
For the best part of a year.’
‘I have to finish the magic quilt
And there’s just one thread to go,
They sentenced me for my sense of guilt
And the sapphire ring I stole.
I threw the ring in the crystal stream
That babbles over the ground,
The bird is waiting the ring’s return
And won’t leave ‘til it’s found.’
The stream was merely a chain away
With a shallow, rocky bed.
I went there, skimming the surface where
It lay, the girl had said,
I saw a glitter among the stones
Reached down, and plucked the ring,
Then made my way to the hollow tree
Where I heard her, muttering.
The bird flew off from her shoulder, and
It snatched the ring from me,
Gripped it tight in its blue-black beak
And it flew from tree to tree.
I turned my eyes to the place she’d been
But the walls and the floor were bare,
There wasn’t a sign of the magic quilt
And the girl, she wasn’t there.
The woods are a magical fairyland
Where the sun speckles through the leaves,
And paints its patterns of light and sound
When the treetops wave in the breeze,
Where nature casts a spell on the mind
Of the one who dares, like me,
To scale the fence, and seek to find
The bole of the hollow tree.
21 April 2014
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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