I'm reading this old book at present and found the gothic ballad, below. I looked online (being lazy I didn't want to type it out if someone else had) and found only an abridged version, so thought I'd post it here. It's great fun, I think he extrapolated the legend of the Doom Tree at Cuckfield Place, Sussex (on which his description of Rookwood house was also based) to produce it:
THE LEGEND OF THE LIME-TREE by William Harrison Ainsworth [1805-82]
(from “Rookwood”, his Dick Turpin novel)
Amid the grove o’er-arched above with lime-trees old and tall
(The avenue that leads unto the Rookwood’s ancient hall),
High o’er the rest its towering crest one tree rears to the sky,
And wide outflings, like mighty wings, its arms umbrageously.
Seven yards its base would scarce embrace – a goodly tree I ween,
With silver bark, and foliage dark, of melancholy green;
And mid its boughs two ravens house, and build from year to year,
Their black brood hatch – their black brood watch – then screaming disappear.
In that old tree when playfully the summer breezes sigh,
Its leaves are stirred, and there is heard a low and plaintive cry;
And when in shrieks the storm-blast speaks its reverend boughs among,
Sad wailing moans, like human groans, the concert harsh prolong.
But whether gale or calm prevail, or threatening cloud hath fled,
By hand of Fate, predestinate, a limb that tree will shed:
A verdant bough, untouched, I trow, by axe or tempest’s breath –
To Rookwood’s head an omen dread of fast-approaching death.
Some think that tree instinct must be with preternatural power,
Like ‘larum bell Deaths not to knell at Fate’s appointed hour;
While some avow that on its bough are fearful traces seen,
Red as the stains from human veins, commingling with the green.
Others, again, there are maintain that on the shattered bard
A print is made, where fiends have laid their scathing talons dark;
That ere it falls, the raven calls thrice from that wizard bough;
And that each cry doth signify what space the Fates allow.
In olden days, the legend says, as grim Sir Ranulph view’d
A wretched hag her footsteps drag beneath his lordly wood,
His bloodhounds twain he called amain, and straightway gave her chase;
Was never seen in forest green, so fierce, so fleet a race!
With eyes of flame to Ranulph came each red and ruthless hound,
While mangl’d, torn – a sight forlorn! – the hag lay on the ground;
E’en where she lay was truned the clay, and limb and reeking bone
Within the earth, with ribald mirth, by Ranulph grime were thrown.
And while as yet the soil was wet with that poor witch’s gore,
A lime-tree stake did Ranulph take, and pierced her bosom’s core;
And, strange to tell, what next befell! – that branch at once took root,
And richly fed, within its bed, strong suckers forth did shoot.
From year to year fresh boughs appear – it waxes huge in size;
And, with wild glee, this prodigy Sir Ranulph grim espies.
One day, when he, beneath that tree, reclined in joy and pride,
A branch was found upon the ground – the next, Sir Ranulph died!
And from that hour a fatal power has ruled that Wizard Tree,
To Ranuoph’s line a warning sign of doom and destiny:
For when a bough is found, I trow, beneath its shade to lie,
Ere suns shall rice thrice in the skies a Rookwood sure shall die!
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/20/2007 05:21AM by marian222.
And there's the "chained oak" by Alton, in Staffordshire.
Thanks, Linda - I'll have to go and look for that. It said in the preface or introduction to Rookwood (can't remember which) that there were quite a few places with similar legends, but I rather expected they'd be lost in the past by now, as the trees died - Rookwood was published in 1834, and Ainsworth admits he embellished the legend when he moved it to Yorkshire. I shall go to Cuckfield Place, if it's still there and visitors are allowed, too - it's quite near where my mother-in-law lives - and see if the limes are still there. I think I'll go in daylight, in summer!
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/21/2007 05:29AM by marian222.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/21/2007 10:06AM by JohnnyBoy.
Fascinating - the canvaswerks one is beautifully done - pity the poem isn't to equivalent standard - though I don't find it creepy at all!- but I can't help wondering how they make the water ripple - and the monkey tree is hilarious! Thanks for posting them JohnnyBoy
You're welcome.......I seem to recall something about either a cursed or haunted tree somewhere in New England, probably Salem, but not sure.
Long Island NY, where I'm from, doesn't have any to my knowledge
I have a Sycamore in my backyard that has a face, though.
A natural one, not a polyresin eyes and mouth type
Is this not called Notan? Show us a photo of your tree (not your trunk, thank you).