This poem is inspired by the history of trees as gibbet trees, in particular the oak . It is also a comment on the enduring Spirit of Jack In The Green.
The Gibbet Tree
Upon the hill that great oak stood
From its boughs swung bones and blood
On the orders of King James
Trees were clothed their spirit to contain
Those ancients once held so dear
Came to be held in contempt and fear
The starving strung up for stealing bread
Set as example and left for dead
Their soul to be taken by the tree
Shown no mercy & damned by decree
The thoughts of men are a curious thing
That truth and beauty should be held as a sin
But a king is not as mighty as an oak
Even when burned & gone up in smoke
For the oak is the spirit of Jack In The Green
And the life of man is but a dream
Only those with the eyes to see
Saw the souls cared for by that great tree
A man is king he will say
But Jack is the king of the ancient way.
I heard somewhere that King James decreed that evil spirits lived in trees and jackets were made to contain them. (I must find out more about this to see if it's true. If you have any info let me know. )
Throughout the ages many trees were believed to be haunted and Oak trees were a particular target because of their ancient associations with the druids and pre christian symbolism.
Trees as Places of Punishment
Trees on hilltops were often used as gibbet trees where wrongdoers were hung. Their bodies were left strung up as lessons to passers by. This was especially true of those trees near to crossroads. In fact these places were also used as burial places for those considered evil or had sinned in some way as it was believed that being buried where the road split meant they would not be able to find their way home to haunt the living.
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