David Lewis Paget

(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

The Tree by Calder's Gap


The tree was the lord of the neighbourhood
For it looked down over all,
Grown on a hill by a sparkling rill
It blossomed from Spring to Fall,
Its vibrant life flowed up from its roots
And broadcast through its leaves,
The warmth of a wise old autocrat
As it nestled into the eaves.

The tree had been there before the house
For a hundred years or so,
The builders wanted to cut it down
But the owner answered, ‘No!
There’s something magic about that tree
And I fear, if its timber falls,
The house you build will be cursed, you see,
I’ll be left with cold stone walls.’

The house changed hands as its owners died
But the tree grew on apace,
The other trees in the valley there
Were humbled by its grace,
Its topmost branch you could see for miles
It was marked on many a map,
They said, ‘Look out for the giant tree
On the hill by Calder’s Gap.’

The house was sold to a man called Binns,
A miserable kind of man,
They said he’d framed the dollar he’d earned
As a boy, while shifting sand,
But wealth had sharpened his temper, he
Was rude, to one and all,
The locals whispered behind their hands,
‘He’s headed for a fall.’

He looked from his bedroom window, and
He said, ‘I hate that tree!
It hides the view of the countryside,
The view that I paid to see.
You mark my words, it’s coming down,
It scrapes my window pane,
And wakes me up in the dead of night
It’ll go by the winter’s rain.’

The branches stroked on the window frame,
The frame was made of wood,
And passed to the tree its tale of shame
The tone of the owner’s mood,
The tree had shuddered, sent waves of pain
Abroad in the midnight air,
Like a cry of help, and its one refrain
Was, ‘Cut me, if you dare! ’

The mile-a-minute responded first
Entwined and blocked the door,
Invaded the little garden shed
Where the axe lay on the floor,
It grew incredibly, overnight
As a shield around the tree,
To say, if a vine could really speak,
‘You’ll have to get through me! ’

But Binns crawled out through a window,
Red of face and fighting mad,
‘What’s going on with this garden,
Where’s the gardener I had?
He went and got a machete, and
He slashed away at the vine,
Freed the door of its tendrils, and
The shed, in double time.

He found the axe on the earthen floor
And he took it to the tree,
‘You may have stood for a hundred years,
Now you’ll have to deal with me! ’
He swung it once and the handle cracked
And splintered up his arm,
There wasn’t anything made of wood
That would do the old tree harm.

The splinter entered a major vein
And his blood dripped on the ground,
Apart from his scream and a sudden hush
There was just one other sound,
A violent cracking above his head
As a tree branch came away,
That hurtled down like a spear, and pinned
His heart to the ground that day.

The tree still towers above the rest
And sways in the slightest breeze,
It stands as a lord of the countryside
For it brought a man to his knees.
The house is ruined, a few stone walls
Still stand, and the curtains flap,
For nobody’s game to build again
Near the Tree by Calder’s Gap!

1 September 2013

Submitted: Sunday, September 01, 2013
Edited: Monday, September 02, 2013

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