The Trees

A poem by Josephine Preston Peabody

I

Now, in the thousandth year,
When April's near,
Now comes it that the great ones of the earth
Take all their mirth
Away with them, far off, to orchard-places,--
Nor they nor Solomon arrayed like these,--
To sun themselves at ease;
To breathe of wind-swept spaces;
To see some miracle of leafy graces;--
To catch the out-flowing rapture of the trees.
Considering the lilies.
--Yes. And when
Shall they consider Men?

(O showering May-clad tree,
Bear yet awhile with me.)


II

For now at last, they have beheld the trees.
Lo, even these!--
The men of sounding laughter and low fears;
The women of light laughter, and no tears;
The great ones of the town.
And those, of most renown,
That once sold doves,--now grown so pennywise
To bargain with forlorner merchandise,--
They buy and sell, they buy and sell again,
The life-long toil of men.
Worn with their market strife to dispossess
The blind,--the fatherless,
They too go forth, to breathe of budding trees,
And woods with beckoning wonders new unfurled.
Yes, even these:
The money-changers and the Pharisees;
The rulers of the darkness of this world.

(O choiring Summer tree,
Bear yet awhile with me.)


III

For now, behold their heart's desire is thrall
To simpleness.--O new delight, unguessed,
In very rest!
And precious beyond all,
A garden-place, a garden with a wall!
To the green earth! All bountiful to bless
Hearts sickening with excess.
To the green earth, whose blithe replenishments
Shall fresh the jaded sense!
To the green earth, the dust-corrupted soul
Returns to be made whole.
For now it comes indeed,
They will go forth, all they, to see a reed
So shaken by the wind.
Men are no longer blind
To aught, save human kind.

(O mellowing August tree,
Bear yet awhile with me.)


IV

The wonder this. For some there are no trees;
Or in the trees no beauty and no mirth:--
Those dullest millions, pent
In life-long banishment
From all the gifts and creatures of the earth,
Shut in the inner darkness of the town;
Those blighted things you see,
But the Sun sees not, at its going down:--
Warped outcasts of some human forestry;
Blind victims of the blind,
Wreckt ones and dark of mind,
With the poor fruit, after their piteous kind.
And if you take some Old One to the fields,
To see what Nature yields
With fullest hands to men already free,
It well may be,
As on some indecipherable book
The Guest will look,
With eyes too old,--too old, too dim to see;
Too old, too old to learn;
Or to discern--
Before it slips away,
The joy of such a late half-holiday!
Proffer those starved eyes your belated cup:
They look not up.
Too late, too late for any sky to do
Brief kindness with its blue.
And what behold they, then?
In the shamed moment, when
Old eyes bow down again?

Down in the night and blackness of the heart,
The drowned things start.
And he recks nothing of the meadow air,
Because of what is There.
Lost things of hope and sorrow without tongue:
The human lilies, sprung
Out of the ooze, and trodden,
Even as they breathed and clung!
Lost lilies, bruised and sodden;
Lost faces, gleaming there,
Where misery blasphemes the sacred young!
Mute outcry, most, of those
Small suffering hands defrauded of their rose;
Faces the daylight shuns;
Ruinous faces of the little ones,--
Pale witness, unaware.
Starved lips, and withering blood--
O broken in the bud!--
Blank eyes, and blighted hair.

(O golden, golden tree!
Bear yet awhile with me.)

So is it, haply, when
Dull eyes look up, and then
Dull eyes look down again.
Waste no vain holiday on such as these;
For them there is no joy in blossomed trees.


V

For them there is no joy in blossomed trees.
And with what eye-shut ease
We leave them, at the last, for company,
The Tree,
Whose two stark boughs no springtime yet unfurled,
Ever, since time began;
Nor bloom so strange to see!--
Behold, the Man,
With His two arms outstretched to fold the world.



O, do you remember?--How it came to be?
Far, golden windows gazing from the shore;
Golden ebb of daylight; heart could hold no more:
Belovèd and Belovèd, and the sea.

Westward the sun,--low, slow and golden;
Eastward the moon climbed, honey-pale.
O do you remember? while our eyes were holden,
Close, close upon us,--the Golden Sail?
Wind-swift she came,--thing of living flame,
Sea-breathing Glory, to make the heart afraid!
The ripples, fold on fold
Of coiling gold,
Trailing a thousand ways
Her golden maze,
Rocked in a golden tumult, every one,
The gondolas, the ships ..
Westward she made .....
A portent from the sky,--gone by, gone by,
To golden, far eclipse; ...
Into the Sun.

Behold, a mystery
That shook to golden throbbing all the sea.
Oh, and what needed one more wonder be
For thee and me, Belovèd? thee and me?

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