Of Trees and Humankind

Wendy Joseph, 1982
Arranged: Miguel Heatwole, 1997

The destruction of Europe’s forests and the culture of the peoples who lived in them has a later parallel in the history of Australia, but we can shape the future.

Since South Australian songwriter Wendy Joseph wrote this song in 1982 it has deservedly won acclaim in the Australian folk scene. In Sydney both Margaret Walters and The Fagans have recorded versions of it. Miguel’s arrangement of it in 1997 has since become a favourite of both the Solidarity Choir and Ecopella.

Lyrics:

The trees of the forest grew tall,
The oak and the hazel, the ash and wild apple.
Their power respected by all,
Their strength safely guarded by priests of the lore.
Sacred the old ways, and earth’s ancient pathways. No more.

Then strangers came onto the land,
They lacked comprehension their godheads were different.
They simply did not understand,
They laughed at the old ways with scorn and derision.
They raped and they slaughtered, and all was justified
By the word ‘civilised’.
See the forests die.

Lai lai lai! Lai lai lai
Lai luh lai lai lai lai lai lai lai
Lai lai Lai luh lai lai lai

The trees of the bushland grew strong
The casuarina, the red gum and mulga.
Honoured by those who belong,
The brown Pitjantjara, the emu, the brolga.
Clear understanding and warm affinity
With the earth and the trees.
Calm serenity.

Then strangers came onto the land,
Born of those ancients, both victim and victor.
They simply did not understand,
They laughed at the old ways with scorn and derision.
They raped and they slaughtered, and all was justified
By the word ‘civilised’.
See the bushland die.

And now here we sit on the land,
The children of children of children of ages.
If only together we’d stand,
With courage and love we could turn back the pages.
The earth and its fullnesss are ours if we try.
Raise a cry! Raise a cry,
And see the trees grow high!

Author: solidaritychoir

Activist choir in Sydney Australia

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