Welcome to quadrille night! It’s always great to be here. Our word tonight is “ash”.
I live in Devon, in the southwest corner of England, where the ash tree is king. So many of our place names have Ash in them – Ashreigney, Ash Thomas, Rose Ash, to name a few. Sadly, our ash trees are dying. Ash dieback has struck, and it’s impossible to imagine how it will look in 5 years’ time, when such an important part of our landscape has gone.
Here’s a terribly English poem from a terribly English poet, about this terribly English tree:
Upper Lambourne – John Betjeman
Up the ash tree climbs the ivy,
Up the ivy climbs the sun,
With a twenty-thousand pattering,
Has a valley breeze begun,
Feathery ash, neglected elder,
Shift the shade and make it run –
Shift the shade toward the nettles,
And the nettles set it free,
To streak the stained Carrara headstone,
Where, in nineteen-twenty-three,
He who trained a hundred winners,
Paid the Final Entrance Fee.
Leathery limbs of Upper Lambourne,
Leathery skin from sun and wind,
Leathery breeches, spreading stables,
Shining saddles left behind –
To the down the string of horses
Moving out of sight and mind.
Feathery ash in leathery Lambourne
Waves above the sarsen stone,
And Edwardian plantations
So coniferously moan
As to make the swelling downland,
Far surrounding, seem their own.
There’s a lot of Norse myth attached to the ash tree. The great world tree of the Vikings – Yggdrasil – was an ash tree, connecting the nine worlds. Odin hung there for nine days and nights to gain wisdom. The first man was formed from ash. In England, if you had a sickly child you could split a young ash tree, pass the baby through it and then bind it together again. The child’s life would then be bound to the life of the tree.
I don’t think the NHS offers that service any more.
They say that ash wood burns well, even when the wood is green. And then what are you left with? Ashes! (Sorry). Just to apologise for that awful link, here’s a bit of David Bowie. https://youtu.be/HyMm4rJemtI
The word ash has such a beautiful sound – a sigh, a whisper. What does it conjure up for you?
You can be ashen-faced, or ash blonde. Or both, I suppose. You can rise from the ashes, like a phoenix. Or maybe you’re a cricket fan:
Taking us back full-circle, here’s some Seamus Heaney.
The Ash Plant – Seamus Heaney
He’ll never rise again but he is ready.
Entered like a mirror by the morning,
He stares out the big window, wondering,
Not caring if the day is bright or cloudy.
An upstairs outlook on the whole country.
First milk-lorries, first smoke, cattle, trees
In damp opulence above damp hedges –
He has it to himself, he is like a sentry
Forgotten and unable to remember
The whys and wherefores of his lofty station,
Wakening relieved yet in position,
Disencumbered as a breaking comber.
As his head goes light with light, his wasting hand
Gropes desperately and finds the phantom limb
Of an ash plant in his grasp, which steadies him.
Now he has found his touch he can stand his ground
Or wield the stick like a silver bough and come
Walking again among us: the quoted judge.
I could have cut a better man out of the hedge!
God might have said the same, remembering Adam.
So tonight let’s write some ash quadrilles – 44 words, including the word ash.
Link back to this prompt in your post, and remember to link up to Mr Linky. And take a tour of the ashy poetry you’ll find there.