William Cowper had a great fondness for trees. In Book One of his poem “The Task” he tells us that
No tree in all the grove but has its charms,
Though each its hue peculiar.
And in the twelve lines which follow we have a series of brief but telling observations on nine different trees: the “wannish grey” of the willow, the “deeper green” of the elm, and “deeper still,/ Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak”.
One oak he was particularly fond of was known as the Yardley Oak and grew near the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire where he lived. He would take friends and visitors to see it and, as he confessed in a letter to his cousin, Lady Hesketh, …