When we poor fenmen skate the ice
Or shiver on the wold,
We hear the cry of a single tree
That breaks her heart in the cold --
That breaks her heart in the cold, good sirs,
And rendeth by the board.
Which well must be as ye can see --
And who shall judge the Lord?

This poem is from "A Carole" by Rudyard Kipling.

I can't understand the meaning of "And rendeth by the board."

I am glad if somebody would kindly teach me.

  • A Carol, no e. :) I think it means that tree can break or be split into boards. It's only worth is to be split into boards and burned to provide warmth to the guys skating on the fen.
    – Lambie
    Jul 16, 2020 at 1:01

1 Answer 1


It's a fairly poetic meaning, so it isn't a strict language issue. He needed to rhyme with the last line. The general term for this is "poetic license" which means we often permit poets to bend the rules quite a lot in order to get something that sounds good.

But basically, he is referring to the observation that when trees get very cold, they can produce loud cracking noises. This is because water expands when it freezes, so parts of a tree can swell when they freeze. This often causes the fibers of a tree to split apart. Since it is the living part of the tree that will have water in it, that's the part that can split. It is the "heart" of the tree in a manner of speaking.

To rend a thing is to tear or rip it. So to "rendeth" is an archaic way of expressing to rip something. And "by the board" means to do it board-by-board. That is, the parts of the tree (the boards of the tree) are split apart.

The picture shows an example where a tree split open from freezing, the sap flowed out, and then it froze.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Thank you so much ,puppetsock! I was moved by your kind and detailed answer!! Jul 16, 2020 at 2:50

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