I walked alone in Golden Square One bitter, solitary night, The littered streets were cold and bare With scarce another soul in sight, The coward lamps flung out their glow, Chrome yellow on the Soho snow. St. Stephen’s bells began their dance, I turned to pace my jaundiced way To Kingly Street, and then, by chance, I felt a snowdrift ricochet From off my shoulder — raised my eyes And froze mid-step in mute surprise. High up above those streets of woe Four massive hornbeams clawed the sky, Each bough a silhouette of snow, A sight to paralyse the eye, To stun the mind and warm the heart That nature might produce such art. How long I stood and gazed aloft I do not know — then heard a voice Say ‘You alright?’ The words were soft But coppers leave you little choice: ‘Yes thanks,’ I said, and met his stare. He watched me as I crossed the square; Yet I was musing while I stole On beauty’s power to heal the soul, And turning back, I chanced to see A man entranced beneath a tree, His head bent back, yet strangely bare, His helmet doffed — as if in prayer.
The image of those hornbeams, their traceries etched in chrome yellow snow on a bitter winter night many years ago in Soho’s Golden Square, has never left me. I described it in the preface to Sylva: The Tree in Britain a wonderful book by Archie Miles I helped to publish some years back. To my surprise, several people wrote to me concerning similar experiences alone with trees. The hornbeams are still there, glorious at any time of year.
Poem Published in the following books: Lone Wolf