Forest for the Trees

And so you want to know of truest song written in the fluid concentricity of wood the import of which of the mannish can hardly know, being kin to Kyne, as they call her, and thereby children of open skies, and not of good grounded greenery. Or, as with our taller cousins, wanting what lies beyond it. This is terrifying to us for trees are the pillars of our house and, each and every one is a pole for a thousand circle dances of playing, dancing, singing, in a manner not unlike the secret avian knowing of the nest as a compass point. And it is true some of our greatest wizards gained their wisdom by learning bird-language and speaking with the birds. Put that aside like a clean-picked bone, for what I am saying is the forest canopy is the utmost limit, and the sky is merely distant fancy. Except, perhaps, for the birds, and this might be where they get their secrets, but this is not a story about birds, it is a story about us.

Y'ffre is a dancer and a singer and these things are viewed as soft refinements of the polished, but our able-footed savagery puts all to shame with a poetry more terse and lucid. Because the song we talk about is not in the piping of bone-pipes and the blowing of the tusk-bugles and the beating of the taught skin of a drum, these things being just echoes of dead things. It is in the susurration of the trees, the creaking of the boughs and chorus of hooting, roaring, grunting and trilling in an orgy of life that surrounds these enduring solemn notes for their greater glory.

I sing into this song a sympathetic note, one of the wood folk meandering through the forest on the hunt. Not The Hunt, mind, for to dwell on this terrifying image would be contrary to the nature of this particular song, which is a hymn more than anything else. But he was appropriately fearful of old Hunts, of course, on the lookout, for example, for Cackling Crow who haunts this place, and who might just flutter down casually like any other crow only to knock up his beak so it sits tall like a mitre at the top of his head and reveals the strange fanged mouth with which he licks and gibbers... But I hit a bad note, and must struggle to make do and return the rhythm of the song.

Softly steps the mer with his worshipful tread. Fear and awe go hand in hand, after all, and this respectful fear never leaves us even when we venture into the cavernous cities of our cousins, where our light feet are sometimes seen as predatory, like those of cats, instead of the motions of prayerful prey, of the sort that is careful, rather than merely afraid. In addition to being predatory, I mean, for our hero here is a predator hunting for his next meal, bow of horn in his hand and bone arrows bristly in his hide quiver like the back of a boar.

All of his senses are bent to the music around him, so that not the tiniest acorn could fall from the foliage without disturbing his thought and leaving the place which he occupied with not so much as a trembling leaf to sing of his passing. He meanders swiftly and serenely over the undergrowth like a river, the drumbeat of his heart beating in his chest, triumphantly mortal, exalting in the tune of life, but all this tripping of the light fantastic is a tiring thing. Y'ffre captures the sunlight in his leafy green net and breaks its back so it spills in a dappled green mosaic across the scene, but even then, under the shade, it is still very hot for all this play. So he leans against a bole to steady himself and return to rhythm. And while in this reverie, from the branches above a tiger slips down, pinning him under its enormous striped orange bulk and crushing his windpipe that he might pipe no more.

And so it goes, but we know the song doesn't end there. The tiger feeds, and his blood soaks the earth and he cumbers the plants, which carry on the song, and though he dies but one death, he is but the punctuation to Y'ffre's music, which itself is born and reborn in its slow perpetual symphony of immanence and life. And so mortality is all too brief, but to let it end there is like not seeing the forest for the trees.