Trees and the Rhythms of Nature

24th March 2020
BY Tom Quale, Director of Sixth Book Progression

Last week marked the spring equinox – the moment of the year where the scales begin to turn in favour of longer days, and more light. It was, to be sure, an odd moment to experience when we were being told to stay at home, and in the face of the disruptions of all the rhythms and patterns of the normal year; a fact particularly felt by those who work in schools, onto whom these rhythms are ingrained – just like the trees in this poem -- and for those in the top year, too.



The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin (written 1967, published in High Windows 1974)


The trees – whether Larkin’s or the magnolia trees that line the walk through the College – will record this year in the way that they faithfully record others, evenly and steadfastly ‘written down in rings of grain’ regardless of how unique and disrupted it is. Eventually, we too will take stock, revivify and begin ‘afresh’. To circle back (a move Larkin would no doubt be deeply sceptical of): the spring equinox tells us there will be longer days ahead of us; but ultimately there will also be more light.

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