‘Yew Trees’ by William Wordsworth

Location : Lorton  –  Grid Ref : NY 161254

The Lorton Yew. Photo by Simon Ledingham.

In the village of Lorton, behind the site of the original Jennings Brewery, is ‘Wordsworth’s Yew Tree’. The Lorton Yew, which featured in a BBC program about Fascinating Trees, was immortalised in a poem by William Wordsworth, ‘Yew Trees’.
Not long after the poem was written, the tree, which had a 27 foot girth, was reduced to a mere 13 foot by a storm. The tree is however, still standing, and shows little sign of the storm damage to the trunk.
It grows on the bank of Whit Beck, behind the Village Hall. The Cockermouth Mayor’s Chair is made from the wood of the broken half of the tree. The tree is at least 1000 years old.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached here under the yew tree, between 1752 and 1761. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, also preached here to a large crowd that included soldiers from Cromwell’s army.

The Yew Tree, Whit beck, and Lorton Village Hall. Photo by Simon Ledingham.

There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
Which to this day stands single, in the midst
Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore:
Not loathe to furnish weapons for the Bands
Of Umfraville or Percy ere they marched
To Scotland’s heaths; or those that crossed the sea
And drew their sounding bows at Azincour,
Perhaps at earlier Crecy, or Poictiers.
Of vast circumference and gloom profound
This solitary Tree! -a living thing
Produced too slowly ever to decay;
Of form and aspect too magnificent
To be destroyed. But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! -and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveteratley convolved, –
Nor uninformed with Fantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane; -a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially -beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose decked
With unrejoicing berries -ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide: Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight, Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple scattered o’er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or in mute repose
To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Glaramara’s inmost caves.


Whit beck, and the back of Lorton Village Hall. Photo by Simon Ledingham.

Photo by Simon Ledingham.

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