Beyond ancient trees
[dedicated to Sam]

Up beyond the ancient trees,
Hoping beyond hope to seize,
A glimpse in the furzy brake
The coil of simmering snake.
For I knew I’d never find
In the trees I'd left behind,
The amber cool deadly thread
Many recoil from in dread.

Now oaks, spared by man’s absence,
In rocks huge in tumbled grace,
Through iron age axe exclusion,
Thrive in twisted seclusion.

***

These oaks, over many crises,
Survived by their own devices,
Safe within a natural fortress -
A pristine primeval fastness.
In grand castellated granite
The ancient trees found cool respite.

Here roots probe damp interstices,
Seeking serpentine crevices.
Over millennia they've wormed
And deep among the boulders formed
This inviolate sanctuary;
A sometime serpents’ dormitory.

Higher up, axe man did perspire.
Helped, doubtless, by discovered fire,
Carved, burnt and dug away the old,
To build a farm with shippen fold.
A new cottage for him and wife,
In which to produce fresh young life.

But taking up the ground so cleared,
From rivers' banks the serpents reared,
Their scaly heads and beady eye,
To inhabit and no doubt try
To find their own habitation,
Scared of human domination.

They'd eke out lives and with no plan
Incubate eggs hidden from man.
Kill as he would, their kind survived
Some managing even to thrive.
Nonetheless, life has little ease.
High up beyond the farthest trees.

***

On one of Dartmoor’s highest tors
Keen to imagine days of yore
Dense plagues of flying ants had swarmed
On rocks the tropic sun had warmed
And before me an insect veil
Ended dreams and thus did curtail
Any desire to sit and stare
Across a land now laid so bare
Of moss and furze and pre-man trees
Denuded by relentless fleece.

O those infernal sheep do wreak
Such havoc on the granite peak.

Dartmoor, August 2018