top of page

The Yew Tree

Copyright J S Morey 2022

To label me 'the tree of death' seems unfair
Given that I outlast most and many tree species
Sometimes living for several thousand years.
In any case, I never intend to harm anyone.

One warning though (and this is serious):
All parts of me are poisonous to humans.
Animals and cattle don't fare too well either
So keep away; keep your distance!

Humankind can live for a hundred years;
I have beaten that a thousand fold, but to what end?

For either us?
It may prove worthwhile only If we are blessed

- With good health, 
- With a good partner,
- Or with good friends.
(Oh, and good memories.)

As humans, and at the end of a long life,
Who else remembers what we do?
What we have learnt; what we know?

For that matter, who else cares?

As one yew to another, I can explain
Why we seem to grace graveyards
In favour of other resting places.

We were planted by priests and reverends
To discourage sheep-owners and the like
Letting stock graze beneath my boughs.

I would kill them, you see,
Not by my act, but by their foolishness
if they ate my leaves.
(They are welcome to my berries.)

But ask yourself; 'why would men of God 
Begrudge hungry livestock a free lunch?'
(Who, in turn, kept graves tended for free?)

The longer living among my kind outlived the plague.
Rumour has it saplings were planted ON graves

To purify the interred.

There's the other reason.

The Yew Tree in life and legend - in verse

Latterly, I have been used for weapons -
For the English Longbow.
But in peace-time for tool handles.
Such contrast! How come?
The 'beating swords into ploughshares' trend,

I would guess.

I am happy for other greenery to grow around me.

But some desist. I lack company and variety.
The Willow prefers wet land
Whereas sodden soil would kill me.
And don't expect to see me In the company of Cacti,

For reverse reasons.

I survive, although I often wonder: What if?
What if Christianity, with its churches, graveyards -
Had failed? What if?
There had never been a pandemic centuries ago?
And no simple minds with simple solutions,
Seeding yew trees to purify the dead?

If the above didn't happen, where would I have lived?
And what would I do?
Every tree has a purpose and mine would be trivial...

Relegated to garden hedges, perhaps?

They say I am loved by all.

If only I were able to love back.

Photograph courtesy of Padre Moovi and Unsplash

bottom of page