Thor’s Oak: A Poem in Memoriam
Where now are you, Ancient One,
who once stood in Hesse’s snow?
Has scornful time forgotten you,
forbade your memory so?
Where have the oak leaves fallen,
that once were comfort and shade?
Where flew the birds who, in your bows,
a sheltered home had made?
No footprints grace your time-lost grove,
no voices soar and sing.
The wights in silence guard your sleep,
and mourn grave suffering.
Plates of feast and horns of mead
have run rotten, cold, and dry.
The only sound persisting yet:
a raven’s baleful cry.
Ships from afar bore to you strangers,
bearing peace and sharpened steel,
and issued these men a challenge to prove
your master a being not real.
Axes fell as did yourself,
and timber your trunk became,
to build a house of new belief,
for the people rendered tame.
Where was your master, Ancient One,
on the day your body fell?
In Asgard did he venture far,
or roamed he the roads of Hel?
Where e’ere he walked, you need not fear,
for know you what they did not see.
Though he deemed not to fight that day,
still protects he you and me.
This poem is inspired by the true historic landmark known as Thor’s Oak (or Donnar’s Oak), a sacred grove in Hesse, Germany. The tree was a center of worship for the tribe occupying the area, wherein they made offerings to Thor, one of the Norse gods. According to the chronicles of the life of St. Boniface, the tree was felled by Boniface when he and his men arrived and challenged the folk of the land to a test of faith: if their gods were real, then they’d stop the tree from falling, but if Boniface indeed preached a one true faith, then he would be able to fell the tree. He struck it down with an axe and used the lumber from the grove to build a church, thus beginning the conversion of the people of Hesse. I’ve always found this story very interesting, and thought it made worthy material for a poem.