The Fortingall Yew, photo:Wikipaedia
Of course, I said, Pontius Pilate was thought to have been brought up in
Oh, Candia, you’re always making out that Auld Caledonia was-no, is,
The Promised Land. How on earth do you justify that last remark?
Holinshed-Raphael, I said.
Who? (Carrie didn’t study Shakespeare in her degree.)
The chap whose Chronicles was a source that Shakespeare drew on.
Oh yeah. Right. (She’d never heard of him. Raphael, I mean.)
Well, it has been mooted that Pilate’s father was a high ranking member
of a Roman delegation which was sent to negotiate with the Picts. He married
a local girl in Perthshire and fathered young Pilate. Then the young family
returned to Rome.
Well, said Carrie. That’s obviously a load of old rubbish. (She was munching a
hot cross bun.)
What makes you feel you are a better authority than Holinshed?
I felt a little belligerent, as I had denied myself a bun and was irritable
(Well, that is my story, and I am sticking to it as firmly as Holinshed stuck to
his fanciful proposition. Okay, okay, I know he was wrong about so much,
but he just liked to pep things up for the Bard. I agree: Macbeth was probably
a New Age stay-at-home father with a fully-developed feminine side to his
All right, Carrie, I swallowed, why is it a lot of codswallop?
Because I can’t imagine anyone thinking that they could negotiate with a
Pict. Not if you are anything to go by.
Charming, I said. You deserve another poem, my good friend. And yes, I will
have a bun after all. With jam. So there!
Pontius Pilate played under your branches
in Fortingall, it’s alleged, two thousand
years ago, before he would wash his hands
of innocence. Crimson shells of arils
broke out like bloodbeads on a thorned brow
and he trod on golden prickles, so sharp
they pierced his sandals. Rootstock of saplings
for a future planting, you are much more
than three-in-one. Funeral corteges
passed through your hollow trunk more easily
than camels through the eye of a needle.
Later young men trimmed your boughs for longbows.
Ancient churchyard trees abutting the butts
united sacred and secular. In this space,
one rootball bound the dead
of the parish in a communal grave.
Portions of this yew may have been a man
the Governor knew. Memento mori;
toxic and taxil, your lost heartwood rings
defy establishment of your true age.
Christian evergreen; Druidic icon?
You were a linchpin of society
by the lychgate of a newly planted church.
You may stand here when certainties are gone.