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Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane

Tativille

David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

The Lion TreeJamie McKendrick
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Alexander Cornelius mentions a tree called the lion-tree, the timber of which he says was used to build the Argo . . . which cannot be rotted by water or destroyed by fire . . . This tree is, so far as I am aware, unknown to anyone else.

Pliny the Elder

May well be extinct, and our one authority

is terse, but that surely speaks in his favour.
No wonder its timber was used on the Argo
– the ship that rent old Neptune’s slumber –
for in contact with seawater it neither rotted

nor buckled. A solitary, an isolate, it never
grew in groves but thrived in the vicinity
of clear springs. Spindly, tougher
than oak, more close-grained than gopherwood,

even its leaves, which were glaucous and spiky,
were defended against all folivores
except giraffes. Its small hard fruits, swathed
in bluish wool, were inedible and bitter

though only mildly toxic. It bore not the least resemblance
to a lion unless the noise the wind made
rattling its leaves gave rise to the name.
Perhaps it was the furious winds that finished it or else

the tree at last grew tired of existence.

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