It was a joy to watch Dame Judi Dench on television telling us how much she loves trees. Walking round her garden – others might call it a young wood – with some well-informed guests, Tony Kirkham in particular, to tell her (and all of us) things she undoubtedly already knew, as well as some she didn’t. In either case her reactions were impeccable: surprise and delight registered as if it were a Shakespearean Act V.
She even had Shakespeare for company, weaving in his sonnets, from ‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’ to the inevitable elegiac
‘That time of year than may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs that shake against the cold.
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.’
It had not dawned on me before that Shakespeare in his youth probably witnessed great abbey buildings being demolished and used as quarries. The Acts for dissolving the monasteries were passed only twenty five years before he was born. It took many years to complete this looting, so he must have seen and wandered in ‘bare ruin’d choirs’, while their choristers, brutally dismissed, looked for work where they could find it. What television that would have made.