Fires Bright and Clear

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Perhaps a year ago, a reader shared this poem with me. Unfortunately, the sender’s name is adrift somewhere in the controlled chaos that surrounds my desk. I am unable to thank the sender personally, but I remain grateful for the introduction to a charming verse.

Anyone who’s ever fed a wood stove on a regular basis is well aware of the homespun wisdom of the old saying, “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” But there is also wisdom in this poem. If you’ve ever depended on a fire for heat, you know that seasoned wood burns better than green, and hardwoods mix well with soft, and hedge produces a spectacular (if potentially dangerous) fireworks display. Probably you know of the appeal of fruit-woods – but did you know about the unattractive traits of elm, poplar and elder?

The Firewood Poem

Beechwood fires are bright and clear

if the logs are kept a year.

Chestnut’s only good, they say,

if for logs ’tis laid away.

Make a fire of elder tree,

death within your house will be.

But ash new or ash old,

is fit for a queen with crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast,

blaze up bright and do not last.

It is by the Irish said

hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.

Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,

E’en the very flames are cold.

But ash green or ash brown

Is fit for a queen with golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,

fills your eyes and makes you choke.

Apple wood will scent your room;

pear wood smells like flowers in bloom.

Oaken logs, if dry and old

keep away the winter’s cold.

But ash wet or ash dry

a king shall warm his slippers by.

– Celia Congreve, 1922


It is the time of year when we draw close to the hearth. Where else do our thoughts coalesce as clearly as when we sit and stare into the flames of a fireplace? From all of us at Farm Collector, a wish that your holiday season be as bright and warm as a fire built of beechwood. Merry Christmas and happy new year! FC

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