Silent Witness

Silent Witness

A few months ago I went to Ypres to remember and pay tribute to the fallen. It was a moving and inspiring trip, and there was one exhibit in particular that stayed with me. It was a cross-section of a very old tree, on display in the In Flanders Fields Museum. There was clear scarring at the point when the battle happened, after which the tree had clearly continued to grow for a number of years before it was finally cut (or fell) down.

It was the juxtaposition of nature’s beauty and the destructive behaviour of humans that struck a chord with me, prompting me to write the following. These are actually song lyrics but work as a poem too I think.

The Silent Witness

An ancient tree of mighty girth

Rooted deep in the Flanders earth

Days and nights and months and years

The Silent Witness sheds not a tear

Sheds not a tear.


Dancing in sunshine and bathed in the rain

Bent to the wind as the year turns again

No heed as the shouts and the thunder draw near

The silent witness seems not to hear

Seems not to hear


Cries rent the peace like shattering glass

Metal filled flesh entangled in grass

Young bodies rot in the place where they fell

Blood rivers flow to the gates of hell


Tall in the field stood that ancient tree

Trapped in the land unable to flee

As the lead pierced its flesh and fire burned it dry

The silent witness let out not a cry

Let out not a cry


Murder of landscape,  destruction of men

A lost generation, who’ll not come again

And the  scars on the land of man’s folly will tell

Blood rivers flow to the gates of Hell


Time the great healer wrapped round the old beam

The pain of the past can no longer be seen

And when the end comes, and it falls to the ground

The silent witness makes not a sound

Makes not a sound


Behind glass the remains of the tree lay at rest

Wearing its scars like wounds in its chest

A face is reflected as a woman draws near

And a silent witness sheds a small tear

Sheds a small tear

©Christina Snell 2017

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