The Forest of Arden

When did the forests pass

From being our friends, our shelter,

To become home to our terrors?

Once our playground, the grass

In glades cushioning our tumbles;

Our larder, filled with fruits and nuts,

Home to boar, deer, pheasant,

Wild garlic, mushrooms and truffles;

Our haven, protection

From oppression by pow’r hungry

Barons, from raging tempests sweeping

Destruction across our tepid

Lives, from the pitiless sun,

From the stares of judging men.

Dappled light, bronzed evening delight,

The full throated chorus

Of the surge of new life,

The wren’s shy fluttering,

The urgent squirreling mischief

And the badger’s stately secrets

Belonged to our home world.


Was it in the flesh stained

Trenches, or the dark industry

Of genocide that we stepped

Through the wardrobe? Those are easy

Targets for explanation,

But hope left the forest

With the sunshine, brambles tangled

The pathways drawing blood

From the fleeing ankles.
Now the trees spy on us,

Shelter the arachnid horrors,

Breed the slithy weasels,

Guard the graves of the butchered

Hidden and waiting to haunt us.

Only the distant howl

Of creatures of the night

Bring music to this stillness,

To the damp dank despair

Of a world filled with greed

Blood lust and injustice.


7 thoughts on “The Forest of Arden

  1. This is a tour de force – I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The title caught my attention with its hints of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, in which the characters’ lives became transformed through love, although maybe you were thinking of England’s historic Forest of Arden. Whichever it is, the forest here is a place with similar significance – it is so much more than a forest. Perhaps it is the world in which we live, or the times. But you use the image of the forest to explore the different circumstances in which we live, with a sense of deep melancholy. On one level the poem could be describing the adult’s sense of lost childhood, or the modern world’s lost innocence. I don’t know – several different interpretations are possible but they all make sense and, as the poem is perfectly clear, they must all be licensed. It really is a most rewarding read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting that I chose not to call it just ‘the forest’. I live near the Forest of Arden and as you say it calls up Shakespeare. Since I wrote this some time ago I can’t actually recall what was in my mind! Of course, the forest is an ambiguous space in Shakespeare (it’s Midsummer Night’s Dream I’m thinking of especially) which you might say integrated both sides of what we project on to woodlands? I’m really grateful for your thoughtful response.

      Liked by 1 person

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