Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Song Of The Oak

Poem By Gilbert Keith Chesterton

The Song Of The Oak is a song by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), an influential writer during the early 20th century.

This song was inspired by the actions of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, a hero of Trafalgar, born 1748 in Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England.

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood (1748-1810) was an admiral of the Royal Navy, notable as a partner with Lord Nelson in several of the British victories of the Napoleonic Wars, and frequently as Nelson's successor in commands.

Dudley Pope relates an aspect of Collingwood at the beginning of chapter three of his Life in Nelson's Navy:
"Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, later to become an admiral and Nelson's second in command at Trafalgar, had his home at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and when he was there on half pay or on leave he loved to walk over the hills with his dog Bounce. He always started off with a handful of acorns in his pockets, and as he walked he would press an acorn into the soil whenever he saw a good place for an oak tree to grow. Some of the oaks he planted are probably still growing more than a century and a half later ready to be cut to build ships of the line at a time when nuclear submarines are patrolling the seas, because Collingwood's purpose was to make sure that the Navy would never want for oaks to build the fighting ships upon which the country's safety depended."

These oak trees became known as The Collingwood Oaks.

Related Scottish Country Dances

The Collingwood Oaks

The Song Of The Oak By G K Chesterton

The Druids waved their golden knives
And danced around the Oak
When they had sacrificed a man;
But though the learned search and scan
No single modern person can
Entirely see the joke.
But though they cut the throats of men
They cut not down the tree,
And from the blood the saplings spring
Of oak-woods yet to be.

But Ivywood, Lord Ivywood,
He rots the tree as ivy would,
He clings and crawls as ivy would
About the sacred tree.

King Charles he fled from Worcester fight
And hid him in the Oak;
In convent schools no man of tact
Would trace and praise his every act,
Or argue that he was in fact
A strict and sainted bloke.
But not by him the sacred woods
Have lost their fancies free,
And though he was extremely big
He did not break the tree.


Great Collingwood walked down the glade
And flung the acorns free,
That oaks might still be in the grove
As oaken as the beams above,
When the great Lover sailors love
Was kissed by Death at sea.
But though for him the oak-trees fell
To build the oaken ships,
The woodman worshipped what he smote
And honoured even the chips.


The Song Of The Oak Song Video

The Song Of The Oak Song - Information Video
Collingwood Monument
Collingwood Monument At Tynemouth

Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood article on Wikipedia.
Text from this original The Song Of The Oak article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright Dposte46, via Wikimedia Commons.

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