The following original poems, composed by a lady, wer [sic] read at the last public “reading” at St. Paul’s, Stayley. THE OLD OAK TREE.
Title:The Old Oak Tree
Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter
Date:Oct 21st 1865
This seemingly bucolic, metaphorical poem can be seen as an implicitly abolitionist, patriotic poem when read carefully. The oak tree as a symbol of Britishness or Englishness is a familiar trope but the fact that its fellows in the narrative of the poem have been cut down to carry ‘human souls’ across the seas may refer to Britain’s official stance from 1833 against the slave trade. The term ‘human souls’ was often used in reference to the transportation of slaves from Africa to the Americas. – SR