Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Future of Forestry

birch treesHow will the legend of the age of trees
Feel, when the last tree falls in England?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
The country’s heart; when contraceptive
Tarmac’s laid where farm has faded,
Tramline flows where slept a hamlet,
And shop-fronts, blazing without a stop from
Dover to Wrath, have glazed us over?
Simplest tales will then bewilder
The questioning children, “What was a chestnut?
Say what it means to climb a Beanstalk,
Tell me, grandfather, what an elm is.
What was Autumn? They never taught us.”
Then, told by teachers how once from mould
Came growing creatures of lower nature
Able to live and die, though neither
Beast nor man, and around them wreathing
Excellent clothing, breathing sunlight –
Half understanding, their ill-acquainted
Fancy will tint their wonder-paintings
Trees as men walking, wood-romances
Of goblins stalking in silky green,
Of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn’s
Collar, pallor in the face of birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
Catch from afar (for soul is watchfull)
A sight of tree-delighted Eden.

“The Future of Forestry” was published in 1938 in The Oxford Magazine under the pseudonym Nat Whilk. Today it can be found in Poems and Collected Poems (Harvest Books, 2002) 63. In the poem, Lewis expressed his concern that industrialization was encroaching upon nature to the extent that children will some day not even know what a tree is. Not only trees themselves, but chestnuts and seasons as well.
Clearcutting Nova Scotia billboard

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