Heart of Oak

 Court Cottage

The beam above the ingle nook
was old and black and gnarled.
I sat by the fire and pondered
the story that beam revealed

Centuries back a stately oak
was humbled before the axe,
reduced to planks by a two-man saw
and shaped with aching backs.

A mighty ship was constructed
in urgent need for Britain at war.
The ship saw service on many an ocean
before retirement on a friendly shore.

Timber was always needed
so the vessel was swiftly raided;
stripped of planks and beams –
homes were soon completed.

The signs are there above the hearth,
square bolts date the broken ship,
built so long ago –
by carved graffiti identity fixed.


Now that beam is hearth and home
as valued a part of our life
as ever it was through war and strife
but first, it was a tree.

18.1.14 for dVerse, who want a tree poem. A ten-minute freewrite left me with lots of ideas, but this story from our home in the eighties allowed me to explore more than just trunk, branches, leaves and fruits, so I ran with it.  In the morning I may be able to put my hands on a photograph of that beam.

About https://vivinfrance.wordpress.com

All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
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29 Responses to Heart of Oak

  1. Mary says:

    Came back to see the photo. Really, this is a most amazing tale, Viv.

    Like

  2. catterel says:

    Trees have been on my mind, too – resulting in a re-living, though, not a poem in my last post but one-

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  3. Anna :o] says:

    My dream is to live in a home brimming with history – how wonderful it must have been for you.
    Anna :o]

    Like

  4. poetrypea says:

    I had never thought about a previous life of an Oak beam before. How interesting.
    Ciao
    Pea

    Like

  5. What a gorgeous ode to a gorgeous tree Viv…next to birches, oaks are my favourites…this sounds like such a sturdy, grand tree. Well done.

    http://thepoet-tree-house.blogspot.ca/2014/01/when-trees-weep.html

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  6. Here, there is both a sense of history and near-immortality accorded to the old oak that gave its wood to be used by man. I guess that lends a certain perspective to the whole issue of saving trees.

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  7. ds says:

    Wonderful story–I love the histories of old houses (and their beams)–“but first, it was a tree.” Brilliant ending. Thank you for sharing this.

    Like

  8. tigerbrite says:

    Lovely. I once lived in a cottage with oak ship’s timbers and inglenook. It just breathed character:) I feel how you were sorry to leave this.

    Like

  9. billgncs says:

    I like how the beam was different things at different times, and then something to let you touch history and distant places.

    Like

  10. kkkkaty1 says:

    Love the old beams in historic homes…how beautiful they are as they live a second lifetime in such a family setting….giving out warmth…hate to think of the lack of integrity in many homes today.

    Like

  11. what a grand life that tree lived, from one incarnation to the other. We should all be so useful and so loved!

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  12. colonialist says:

    As a ‘Heart of oak’ to go adventuring, and then retirement in a quiet cottage – wonderful.
    Hope you post that photo!

    Like

  13. Misky says:

    Sparks the imagination that all things are more than what they seem.

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  14. …and the tree lives on. 🙂

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  15. kelvin s.m. says:

    …but first it was a tree—now, that’s heart breaking…. but life, sometimes, is like that: lives to do good; dies to produce good… smiles…

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  16. Your closing line and progression to it is perfection, Viv!! To read the history of this tree with the rhythm that carried your reader, such a joy!

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  17. “But first it was a tree”…..wonderful, Viv. In so many older homes, we still find the care and craftsmanship lacking in the newer homes…..they may be expensive and pretentious, but often built with pressed wood – not many of those big old beams around any more……..

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  18. Mary says:

    This is an amazing story, Viv. Fills me with awe. I do hope you can find a photo; and, like Brian, I will revisit tomorrow to see.

    Like

  19. I love the story of the old timber… how it was used and reused.. I have a house from 1850… but I’m sure the timber is much older. And just looking up you have the history looking at you.

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  20. Gabriella says:

    Most interesting story, Viv! It certainly was a house with a history. How wonderful that the carved graffiti could still be seen on the beam.

    Like

  21. Laurie Kolp says:

    …but first it was a tree… I love that ending, Viv!

    Like

  22. claudia says:

    what a journey… from a war ship to the peaceful safety of a family home… love how you trace along its lifeline…

    Like

  23. I love how this tree ‘lives’ on…its usefulness inexhaustible.

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  24. shanyns says:

    That is the neatest thing – a true story poem. LOVE!

    Like

  25. A great story told. That is amazing. The history of the beam is traced back to when it was a tree and then becoming a part of the ship… eventually coming out to be what it is today. Wonderful. It is strange to think of such events and understand the complexity of fates.
    -HA

    Like

  26. brian miller says:

    wow. this is a true story then? what a cool story behind the beam in the home…history on top of history…pretty cool….your plank has seen quite a bit of the world…would be cool to see a pic…i will check back tomorrow…

    Like

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