For Sale! For Sale! A green veil

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”  Genesis 1:31

Willow catkinsAt the beginning of February, with temperatures below freezing, the willow trees were already displaying their furry, silver catkins.  Then the Redwings arrived: annual visitors from Scandinavia.

In the following poem one senses the slow, silent, mysterious advance of Spring in the countryside.  Entitled ‘The Green Veil’, it was first published by Punch magazine at the turn of the century – author unkown.  It is a favourite of mine.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Eric Perry

The Green Veil

willow in spring

It was the Willow who first wore it
Until her weaving fingers tore it
On the moss-grown wall,
Weeping, she let it fall.
But Hawthorn with her needle mended it
Washed it and spread it out to dry.
A March wind, galloping by,
Seized it and threw it over Ash and Oak
Who for a joke, tied pale ribbons on it
And made the Almond wear it as a bonnet.
Almond ripped off the bows and took a tuck in it
To make a frill for Chestnut’s wrist
But Chestnut’s treacly thumbs got stuck in it.
Her neighbour, Quince,
Unwound it twist by twist, gave it a rinse,
And by the ivory moon sat all one night
Embroidering it in stars of white,
For gipsy Cherry, Plumb and Pear
To twine in their wild hair.
springSo it is passed and passed
Continuously, from tree to tree:
Used now for this, now for that –
As garland, coronet, hat
And at the last, by Poplar, as a broom
To sweep her room,
And then away, away
Into the auction rooms of May
Where all the rags and riches of the Spring are sold
For Cowslips gold,
And auctioneering crickets pass
Between the tufty stems of grass
Crying, “For sale! For sale!
A green veil.”


“He gave us eyes to see them
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well”

Hymn: All Things Bright and Beautiful

4 comments on “For Sale! For Sale! A green veil

  1. I am wondering if you know of any snippets which have been left out of this beautiful poem. For instance, I know that “plane-tree for a shroud intended it” comes before “hawthorn with her needle mended it”. – and a word missed out here: “tied pale PINK ribbons on it……….”
    I seem to think there was a line about some tree/trees wearing it “outside the church”….

    I lost sight of this poem many years ago and have been searching for it ever since and racking my brains to remember it exactly. Thank you so much for bringing it back. MaryH

  2. Hullo Mary . . . lovely to read your comments on my 2012 article ‘The Green Veil’ . I suppose the content depends on the source of the original but I can find no reference to a Plane tree. The missing “snippets” include these words . . .

    “With the wind’s combing
    The tangled stars shuffled out,
    Weaving a web of thinnest tissue
    For Silver Birch
    To gather in the April gloaming
    And crochet into a lace fichu,
    Which (much puffed out)
    She wears outside the church.”

    As you probably appreciated, in preparing my contribution for the website, brevity was one consideration. Well done Mary, for spotting the deliberate omission. Keep well.
    Eric Perry.

  3. This is brilliant Eric! My sister and I (we are in our eighties) discovered this poem in an old copy of Punch which was on display in our school library many years ago. I copied it out for that evening’s English homework (your favourite poem?) and got quite a good mark and an enquiry from the English teacher who was captivated by it also. Unfortunately my old English Lit exercise book was “tidied away” somehow by my Mum in later years and we could never retrieve the poem following that.
    Thank you for bringing back this beautiful poem in its entirety too – it deserves to be remembered. I wonder who wrote it – marked in Punch as Anonymous.
    Very best wishes Mary H

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