The man who wrote it is Walter de la Mare, an English poet, novelist and short story author whose work was once highly acclaimed but has now slipped into obscurity. I've met several English professors who have never even heard of him. Some might be familiar with his most famous poem, "The Listeners." He's one of those geniuses whose work fell out of fashion as literary tastes changed. A sensibility as delicate as his simply could not survive for long in a century dominated by realism. For me, discovering him was like finding gold. To read de la Mare is to enter a dark, mysterious yet beautiful world of great beauty and deep unease. De la Mare was a Christian whose faith can be sensed in his keen sensitivity to metaphysical power struggles.
Anyway, back to "The Tree." I think Jeffrey might appreciate it because it concerns itself with the creative impulse. But it does so in a way that's practically indescribable. Think of Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle" and then go ten shades darker and you'll come close to the tenor of this story. There is a fruit merchant, who is wealthy, and his brother, a painter, who is poor, and a tree that's somehow not of this world. The difference between the brothers is demonstrated in their contrasting attitudes toward this remarkable tree. The ending is extremely ambiguous but you'll probably feel a sense of awe just the same.
I might be so bold as to add that there's a volume in the SPU library called Collected Tales that contains "The Tree," "Seaton's Aunt," and several more sketches by de la Mare. But I will stop there. To anybody who has enjoyed J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Graham, A.A. Milne, and Edward Lear, I commend Walter de la Mare to you, although nothing can fully prepare you for the actual experience of reading him.
Edited by Nathaniel, 19 March 2012 - 12:22 AM.