Sycamore Gap

You’re history, said the tree to the wall;
the last crumbling remains of empire.

You are the invader, replied the wall.

I am the conqueror, said the tree to the wall;
sending platoons of seeds across my territory.

I stand alone, replied the wall. ...

About the poem

This poem was published on the Words for the Wild website in February 2019.

The inspiration for the poem came, as the title suggests, from the famous site along Hadrian’s Wall. My plan had been to write about how nature wins out over human history - and while it still does carry this theme, my initial idea was derailed by the fact that the sycamore tree didn’t arrive in the UK until well after Hadrian’s Wall had been built. This meant that I couldn’t write what I’d initially planned, but it gave way to another idea about layers of history, and how landmarks become part of the landscape.

What’s also interesting to me about this poem is that when I wrote it, the idea of walls around a country to keep people in or out had become, for the large part, consigned to history. Unfortunately that’s not the case now, and the fact that I made Hadrian’s Wall sympathetic does not mean I endorse ideas such as those seen in the US at the moment. The wall is sympathetic, but it has seen a lot of hardship and sorrow, it has absorbed the price of its own existence. The wall is a monument to times which really should be consigned to history, but never forgotten. We talk about what we would learn if walls could talk, and I would like Hadrian’s Wall to have a good long talk with some people about the human cost of its existence.

IMAGE: Tomorrow Never Knows [CC BY 2.0 (]