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The acorn: a moral tale

This is an environmental poem, written in response to a challenge set on the Hall Writers' Forum in 2017.


The Acorn: A Moral Tale

Young men were dying in three wars
but here at home there was a hill
where rabbits scampered in the furze,
and nibbled grass, and did no ill.

A woodman lived not far from here,
a frugal man who owned a hen.
Living this life, he had no fear
of turmoil, as did other men.

One day this man would come to know
keen sorrow and regret’s sharp sting,
but not until the molten snow
had left the hill in early spring.

Long long before this man was born,
the seeds for tragedy were laid
upon the hill he'd climb each day,
where little rabbit-holes were made.

An acorn fell upon the ground
and out of it an oak-tree grew.
The earth was fertile all around,
so up it clambered, tall and true.

He'd known the tree since, as a child,
he'd climbed its branches, thick and strong.
He loved it well, like all things wild,
until the day he did it wrong –

when, with an axe he wandered by,
and eyed it with a manly stare.
Its branches reached up to the sky,
and little sparrows chirruped there.

He hacked the oak, and down it fell.
He chopped it up that very day,
and stored it near the deep stone well
behind his house, not far away.

The ground began to stir and heave,
the soil was parched; it dried too fast.
There were no roots, there were no leaves,
the little sparrows breathed their last.

Down came the hill; it crumbled down,
leaving a wasteland flat and bare.
Seeing that all the green was gone
the man could only wonder where.

The days slipped by, the summer passed,
the winter came, the man felt old.
He’d burned his logs; the very last
he’d used before the nights grew cold.

He had no fire to keep him warm.
His wood was gone, his hen was sold.
How could he keep himself from harm?
He did as every woodman’s told:

buried an acorn in the ground,
and carried water from his well
and built a little fence all round
and waited for green buds to swell.

His acorn shrivelled in the ground,
and out of it no oak-tree grew.
The soil was famished all around;
over the earth a dry wind blew.

His acorn rotted in the ground.
The seasons passed, and then the years.
His well dried up -- no spring was found,
he rinsed the soil with his salt tears.

He looked for help, but no one knew
how to undo the harm he’d done,
for all around the world there grew
no wisdom to fend off the sun.

The woods in other climes were gone;
young men were dying in three wars.
Nothing was left to call their own.
They cursed all their unlucky stars.

This man was not the only one
to die alone – forlorn, bereft;
for that was how the world was run
when there was no more woodland left.

The acorn: a moral tale
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