Thursday, September 27, 2007


170 year old fruit tree snapped in two by winds

Richard Jefferies famous mulberry tree was another casualty of the high winds that blew across central England in the early hours of Monday (24 September) morning. The old tree, thought to be about 170 years old, was snapped in two and lost its main branch (see picture).

The tree forms the main focal point in the back garden of the Jefferies house and museum at Coate and was planted by Richard Jefferies father.Richard Jefferies sent many hours sitting under this tree and even composed a poem to it [1] when it lost a bough during his lifetime.Now others are penning their tributes to the tree and it is hoped that the wood from the fallen trunk can be seasoned and turned into something equally beautiful and memorable.

Jean Saunders, secretary of the Richard Jefferies Society said:"We are all heart broken to see the tree in its present state. However battered it may be, we will still love it and treasure it. The fruits are delicious and children have danced around it this year singing 'here we go round the mulberry bush'. To be on the safe side, we are taking cuttings but hope that the tree survives another century or two".

(1) Richard Jefferies wrote The Tree of Life about 1871, but it did not appear in print until three years after his death. It was published in the Scots' Observer on 8 November 1890 under the title of The Mulberry Tree. The poem, however, may have publicised in the columns of the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard before this.


Oh, mulberry tree, oh mulberry tree
Dear are thy spreading boughs to me.
Beneath their cool and friendly shade
My earliest childhood laughed and played.
Or, lips all stained with rich red fruit
Slept in the long grass at thy root.

Oh mulberry tree, oh mulberry tree !
The yellow moonlight shone on thee.
A few low words - a gentle sigh,
A tear within the upturned eye.
“I love—my fate to thee resign"—
A nameless thrill, and she was mine.

The mid-day sun in splendour blazed,
And all who stood around me praised.
The deed was done, the fame went round,
My brows with laurel leaves were crowned
My first—my proudest victory
Beneath thy boughs, oh mulberry tree.

The tears of Heaven were falling fast,
Mourning the memory of the past.
I knelt beneath the broken limb
In rain and night, and wept for him.
I saw the tomb - the planks laid there,
To slide the coffin to its lair,
"Ashes to ashes", this the end,
My first, my last - my only friend!

The morning stars grew pale and few,
In chilly draughts the east wind blew,
Lifting the black and frost-strewn leaves
In rustling eddies to the eaves.
Deceived no more with life's vain lies,
And all things equal in mine eyes,
I wait still near the mulberry tree
The dawning of eternity.

Whoe'er shall pluck the mulberry tree,
Bitter and sweet its fruit shall be;
Such - joy and misery still at strife -
The berries of the Tree of Life.