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The Tree and The Pool

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

My son came home with a book of poems on Monday. A book that he’d selected especially, from the school’s new ‘bijou’ library.

At first, there seemed nothing especially extraordinary about this book, apart from the fact that it didn’t feature the by-now ubiquitous Biff..and Chip!

Admittedly, as well, a quick thumb of the pages revealed scarcely enough ‘pretty pictures’ to convince me, in the first instance, that ‘Poems to Perform’ wasn’t a tad heavy for an 8 year old.

That said, far be it from me to discourage ambition, particularly when it comes to something so important as reading.

That evening, therefore, my son started to read aloud the well-worn pages of this ‘classic collection’, by Julia Donaldson.

The themes, as expected, were distinctly child-friendly (case in point, the self-explanatorily titled ‘Football Mad’ and ‘I Don’t Want to go to School.’)

For this reason, I had very little expectation that this particular poetic experience would resonate on more levels than one of parental pride at my ‘baby.’ Reading books. Actual books!!!

With this benchmark already set, you can only imagine my pleasant surprise, when the next poem my son decided to read WASN’T an ode to ‘top bins’…or skiving off maths!

Instead, it was a sanguine yet simple sonnet, whatever poignancy of which might have been lost on him, was found ten fold on me!

I asked Miles, if he didn’t mind, to re-read the words of ‘The Tree and The Pool’…

"I don't want my leaves to drop," said the tree.

"I don't want to freeze," said the pool.

"I don't want to smile," said the sombre man,

"Or ever to cry," said the Fool.

"I don't want to open," said the bud,

"I don't want to end," said the night.

"I don't want to rise," said the neap tide,

"Or ever to fall," said the kite.

They wished and they murmured and whispered,

They said that to change was a crime,

Then a voice from nowhere answered.

"You must do what I say," said Time.

By Brian Patten

At this time of year,  where the inevitability of change is somehow brought into much sharper focus, it’s the last line of this poem, in particular, that seems to touch a nerve.

The reason, I think, is that it eludes to ‘myth of control’ which hoodwinks us all into believing that our autonomy, somehow, makes us immune from the impermanence of ‘all the things.’

Of having (nay, needing) to let go... on demand, and often when we least expect it.

This fact - it is a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

Maybe not quite so bitter, however, as the irony that this reminder has been delivered, via the medium of that one thing, that I am determined most NOT to let go of. Ever.

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