Old Elm of Newbury

Did it ever come in your way to pass
The silvery pond with its fringe of grass,
And threading the lane hard by to see
The veteran Elm of Newbury ‘!
Yon saw how its roots had grasped the ground,
As if it had felt the earth went round,
And fastened them down with determined will
To keep it steady, and hold it still.
Its aged trunk, so stately arid strong,
Has braved the blasts, as they’ve rushed along.
Its head has towered and its arms have spread
While more than a hundred years have fled.
Well, that old Elm, that is now so grand,
Was once a twig in the rustic hand
Of a youthful peasant, who went one night
To visit his love by the tender light
Of the modest moon and her twinkling host,
While the star, that lighted his bosom most,
And gave to his lonely feet their speed,
Abode in a cottage beyond the mead. ‘
Twas the peaceful close of a summer’s day,
Its glorious orb had passed away.
The toil of the field, till the morn, had ceased
For a season of rest to man and beast.
The mother had silenced the humming wheel
The father returned for the evening meal,
The thanks of one. who had chosen the part
Of the poor in spirit, the rich in heart,
Who having the soul’s grand panacea,
Feel all is added that’s needful here,
And know this truth of the human breast,
That wanting little is being blest.
The good old man in his chair reclined
At a humble door with a peaceful mind
While the drops of his sun-burnt brow were dried
By the cool sweet nir of the eventide.
The son from the yoke had unlocked the bow,
Dismissing the faithful ox to go,
And graze in the close ; he had called the kine
For their oblation at day’s decline.
He’d gathered and numbered the lambs and sheep
And fastened them up in their nightly keep,
He ‘d stood by the coop till the hen would bring
Her huddling’ brood safe under her wing,
And made them secure from the hooting owl
When all was finished he sped to the well,
Where this old grey bucket hastily fell,
And the clear cold water came up to clnse
The dust of the lield fiom his neck and lace,
And hands and feet, till the youth began
To look renewed in the outer man.
And soon arrayed in his Sunday’s best,
The stilfnew suit had done the rest,
And the hale young lover was on his way,
Where through the fen and field it lay,
And over the bramble, the brake aud the grass,
As the shortest cut to the bouse of his lass.
It is not recorded how long he st.iid
In the cheerful home of the smiling maid.
But, when he came out, it was lute and dark
And silent — not even a das would hark,
To take from his feeling of lonelinrs
And make the length of his way seem less.
He thought it was strange that the treacherous moon
Should have given the world the slip so soon,
And whether the eyes of the girl had made
The stars of the sky in his own to fade,
Or nol, it certainly seemed to him,
That each grew distant, and small, and dim ;
And he shuddered to think that he now was about
To take a long and lonely rout.
For he did not know what fearful sight
Might come to him through the shadows of night.
An elm grew clo^e by the cottage’s eaves.
So he plucked him a twig well clothed with leaves,
So sallying forth with the supple arm
To serve as a talisman parrying harm,
He felt that though his heart was big, ‘
Twas even stouter for having the twig.
For this he thought would answer to switch
The horrors away as he crossed the ditch,
The meadow and copse wherein perchance
Will-o’-the-wisp might wickedly dance,
And wielding it keep him from having a chill
At the menacing sound of Whip-poor Will,
And his flesh from creeping beside the bog
At the harsh bass voice of the viewless frog.
In short he felt, the switch would be
Guard, play-thing, business and comp-tny-
When he got safe home and joyfully found
He still was himself and living and sound,
He planted the tree by his family cot,
To stand as a monument marking the spot
It had helped him to reach, and what was still more,
Because it had grown by his fair one’s door,
The twig took root, and as time flew bv.
Its boughs spread wide and its head grew high,
While the priest’s good service had long been done,
Which made the youth and the maiden one,
And their young scions arose and played
Around the tree in its leafy shade.
But many and many a year has fled
Since they were gathered among the dead,
And now their names with the moss o’eigrown
Are veiled from sight on the chirch-yard stone,
That bears away in a lingering fall
And owns the power that shall level all.
The works that the hand of man hath wrought
Bring him to dust, and his name to nought,
While near in view, and just beyond
The grassy skirts of the silver pond,
In its green old age stands the noble tree

Written by Miss Hannah Gould concerning the magnificent elm tree which stood on Parker St. in front of the house of Mr. Richard Jaques, having been transplanted and set out by his grandfather, Mr. Richard Jaques, in 1713 until June 16, 1913 when it was blown down by a storm.


By Joshua Coffin
Published by S. G. Drake, 1845

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