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Beyond ancient trees

[dedicated to Sam]

Up beyond the ancient trees,

Hoping beyond hope to seize,

A glimpse in the furzy brake

The coil of simmering snake.

For I knew I’d never find

In the trees I'd left behind,

The amber cool deadly thread

Many recoil from in dread.

Now oaks, spared by man’s absence,

In rocks huge in tumbled grace,

Through iron age axe exclusion,

Thrive in twisted seclusion.


These oaks, over many crises,

Survived by their own devices,

Safe within a natural fortress -

A pristine primeval fastness.

In grand castellated granite

The ancient trees found cool respite.

Here roots probe damp interstices,

Seeking serpentine crevices.

Over millennia they've wormed

And deep among the boulders formed

This inviolate sanctuary;

A sometime serpents’ dormitory.

Higher up, axe man did perspire.

Helped, doubtless, by discovered fire,

Carved, burnt and dug away the old,

To build a farm with shippen fold.

A new cottage for him and wife,

In which to produce fresh young life.

But taking up the ground so cleared,

From rivers' banks the serpents reared,

Their scaly heads and beady eye,

To inhabit and no doubt try

To find their own habitation,

Scared of human domination.

They'd eke out lives and with no plan

Incubate eggs hidden from man.

Kill as he would, their kind survived

Some managing even to thrive.

Nonetheless, life has little ease.

High up beyond the farthest trees.


On one of Dartmoor’s highest tors

Keen to imagine days of yore

Dense plagues of flying ants had swarmed

On rocks the tropic sun had warmed

And before me an insect veil

Ended dreams and thus did curtail

Any desire to sit and stare

Across a land now laid so bare

Of moss and furze and pre-man trees

Denuded by relentless fleece.

O those infernal sheep do wreak

Such havoc on the granite peak.

© RM Meyer
Dartmoor, August 2018