We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy so many different species of tree in the Old Cemetery. One that is particularly admired is the Weeping Beech on the main carriageway and its moods through the year are wonderfully caught in the photos by Bruce.

Both Bruce and Geoff have happy memories of the same poem,‘Trees’, by the American poet Joyce Kilmer. It was put to music and sung by the American,  Paul Robeson. For those who may not be familiar with the poem, here are the words:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer was born in 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He had a great commitment to Nature and religion and ‘Trees’ was published in 1914.  He was considered the leading Catholic American poet of his time. In 1917 he enlisted, joining New York City’s “Fighting 69th” infantry regiment. He was posted to the Western Front, attained the rank of Sergeant and was closely involved in intelligence work relating the enemy front line. Joyce Kilmer was killed by a sniper during the Battle of the Ourcq on 30 July 1918 and is buried at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

For his bravery, the French posthumously awarded him their Croix de Guerre. In 1938, part of a forest in North Carolina was dedicated to him and streets and schools are named after him.

We have very good cause to be grateful to the cemetery designers for keeping many of the trees that were once part of Southampton Common. As we enjoy the grounds, the beauty of Joyce Kilmer’s poetry can always be with us, whatever the season of the year, and it is well worth lingering, perhaps on a seat, to appreciate the words of ‘Trees’. For a lovely experience of the Paul Robeson song, Google: Paul Robeson Trees Lyrics.

Bruce Larner and Geoff Watts.  May 2020