> Peter Bellamy > Songs > A Tree Song (Oak, Ash and Thorn)

A Tree Song / Oak, Ash and Thorn

[ Roud - ; DT OAKASHTH ; Mudcat 38760 ; words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy; notes on A Tree Song at the Kipling Society]

A Tree Song is a poem from Rudyard Kipling’s book Puck of Pook’s Hill. Peter Bellamy renamed it to the chorus’s words Oak, Ash and Thorn and in 1970 made it the title song of his first album of songs set to Kipling’s poems, Oak, Ash & Thorn, He sang it with former Young Tradition band mates Royston Wood and Heather Wood joining in on the chorus. This track was also included in 1999 on his Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. Bellamy noted on the original album:

Kipling entitled this poem A Tree Song, and it is to be found in the story Weland’s Sword. Both the tale and the song set the mood and pattern for all the stories and poems which follow. The tune is intended to recall those of some of the old wassail and ritual songs.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Oak, Ash and Thorn on their Folk-Legacy album of 1977, Dark Ships in the Forest. They noted:

Rudyard Kipling’s A Tree Song sets the scene for the stories and poems of Puck of Pook’s Hill. This setting is by the late Peter Bellamy, to his own tune. We also use the song as a scene setter, a “calling-on song.” The magic of trees lies deep in the roots of Druidic religion and mythology, and the oak, ash and thorn are central characters of the bardic tree-alphabets. Much of this tree lore has survived in folk tales, in English as well as in Celtic tradition.

Beggar’s Velvet sang Oak and Ash and Thorn in 1990 on their album Lady of Autumn.

Cockersdale sang Tree Song in 1997 on their Fellside CD Wide Open Skies, together with Kipling’s A Pilgrim’s Way.

The Unthanks sang Oak, Ash & Thorn as the title track of the 2011 tribute album Oak, Ash & Thorn.

Fay Hield sang Oak, Ash & Thorn in the bar at Cecil Sharp House on 25 October 2012:

Marisa Jack & Davy sang Oak and Ash and Thorn on their 2019 EP Bring Us In.

Maddy Yarwood and Amy Cox sang Oak and Ash and Thorn on the 2021 Landworkers’ Alliance anthology Stand Up Now.


A Tree Song

Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old Engerland to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak and Ash and Thorn.
Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, good Sirs
(All of a Midsummer’s morn)!
Surely we sing of no little thing,
In Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Oak of the Clay lived many a day,
Or ever Aeneas began;
Ash of the Loam was a lady at home,
When Brut was an outlaw man;
Thorn of the Down saw New Troy Town
(From which was London born);
Witness hereby the ancientry
Of Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Yew that is old in churchyard mould,
He breedeth a mighty bow;
Alder for shoes do wise men choose,
And beech for cups also.
But when ye have killed, and your bowl is spilled,
Your shoes are clean outworn,
Back ye must speed for all that ye need,
To Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Ellum she hateth mankind, and waiteth
Till every gust be laid,
To drop a limb on the head of him
That anyway trusts her shade:
But whether a lad be sober or sad,
Or mellow with ale from the horn,
He’ll take no wrong when he lieth along
’Neath Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin;
But—we have been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring Summer in!
And we bring you news by word of mouth—
Good news for cattle and corn—
Now is the Sun come up from the South,
With Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, good Sirs
(All of a Midsummer’s morn)!
England shall bide till Judgement Tide,
By Oak and Ash and Thorn!