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Give Take


Elm: Remedy from the set of the Second Nineteen

About this music

A complex series of descending seventh chords provides the backcloth for this haunting piece realised for sax piano bass and drums and performed on several occasions. The central section, in 5/4 metre, offers a glimpse of a hopeful future. But this is a complex Remedy – like the Elm tree which can only propagate itself by sending roots through the earth like blind moles, the future glimpsed seems as if it might be beyond reach. At the end of the piece, the 5/4 melody is suggested again but left in the air.

Lyrics for Elm

Elm is an instrumental piece.

About Elm, the Bach Flower Remedy

Those who are doing good work, are following the calling of their life and who hope to do something of importance, and this often for the benefit of humanity

At times there may be periods of depression when they feel that the task they have undertaken is too difficult and not within the power of a human being

The Common or English Elm was in the 1930s one of the commonest trees of the Midlands. The first impression is the massive column of wood, the huge pillar of a trunk, often more than thirty metres high and with a girth of five metres. An erect tree with a few large upward spreading arms carrying a great density of smaller branches. When the flowers are fully out in March, the whole tree glows in the sunlight. This warmth acts to lift the mood with gentle strength and determination.

The flowers are complex. The male part gives most of the pink colour, as the taller anthers are red until they open and shed their pollen when they quickly blacken. Pollen is windblown, and the pollination rate is very high. And yet the seed will not germinate – the tree is effectively sterile. This strange fact, that the seed will not germinate, cannot always have been the case. What does this say about the Elm remedy state?

The clear upright gesture of the tree shows self-determination and will: the Elm state concerns those people who are strongly motivated by their soul purpose and know what they are doing in the world. Yet this species has come to a point in its evolution where it can only propagate itself by sending roots through the earth like blind moles. A person in the Elm state suffers as though blind, unable to see a future. The seed represents the future in every species and here that future is beyond reach.

Whereas an Oak tree produces seeds even into old age and the Oak person struggles on keeping going through whatever difficulty, the Elm person falters and becomes depressed. But by propagating through the roots the Elm shows a different approach and is thus likely to bring about transformation in the material world. Also in contrast to Oak, Elm leaves are small rough and hairy, and the flowers are prominent opening before the leaves.

Another aspect of Elm’s gesture is shown in the problems encountered with Dutch Elm Disease. This first peaked in Britain in the year 1935, the year Bach found the Remedy. The disease is caused by a fungus which is spread by a small flying beetle. A new strain of this fungus appeared in the 1970s, far more virulent than the first, and this progressively destroyed all the remaining mature Elms in the country. However, while the disease continues there are many trees which have grown again from the roots, and there are now thirty-year-old Elm flowering once more. Young trees continue to die, however, and they stand stripped of their bark alongside others which appear healthy. The disease can travel through the roots. Trees may come into leaf in spring but by summer the leaves yellow and die. It is a cycle of chronic infection, an illness that may never be thrown off.

The Elm mediates between nature and direct cultivation. In terms of the remedy, the Elm type of person is seen as well-adapted to human life, successfully following in the scheme of society. Doctors, judges, priests or teachers are often Elm. Such people may have developed beyond simple competition for survival, living more altruistically. But uncertainty, like a virus, secretly undermines their position. A sense of inadequacy, worming a way into the mind as self-doubt. The massed flowers of Elm show the power of the spirit. Elm reconnects us to the source of our true strength when we have become too rooted in the material world.

In 1791, Gilpin wrote of the Elm that ‘no tree is better adapted to receive grand masses of light’. The Second Nineteen remedies are directly concerned with bringing light into the world. If Elms do this more effectively than others it is because they have the life potential to bring about changes in human society.

This account of this Bach Flower Remedy is based on the book Bach Flower Remedies: Form and Function by Julian Barnard.

For full information see