One Who Loved Nature

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


He was not learned in any art;
But Nature led him by the hand;
And spoke her language to his heart
So he could hear and understand:
He loved her simply as a child;
And in his love forgot the heat
Of conflict, and sat reconciled
In patience of defeat.


Before me now I see him rise -
A face, that seventy years had snowed
With winter, where the kind blue eyes
Like hospitable fires glowed:
A small gray man whose heart was large,
And big with knowledge learned of need;
A heart, the hard world made its targe,
That never ceased to bleed.


He knew all Nature. Yea, he knew
What virtue lay within each flower,
What tonic in the dawn and dew,
And in each root what magic power:
What in the wild witch-hazel tree
Reversed its time of blossoming,
And clothed its branches goldenly
In fall instead of spring.


He knew what made the firefly glow
And pulse with crystal gold and flame;
And whence the bloodroot got its snow,
And how the bramble's perfume came:
He understood the water's word
And grasshopper's and cricket's chirr;
And of the music of each bird
He was interpreter.


He kept no calendar of days,
But knew the seasons by the flowers;
And he could tell you by the rays
Of sun or stars the very hours.
He probed the inner mysteries
Of light, and knew the chemic change
That colors flowers, and what is
Their fragrance wild and strange.


If some old oak had power of speech,
It could not speak more wildwood lore,
Nor in experience further reach,
Than he who was a tree at core.
Nature was all his heritage,
And seemed to fill his every need;
Her features were his book, whose page
He never tired to read.


He read her secrets that no man
Has ever read and never will,
And put to scorn the charlatan
Who botanizes of her still.
He kept his knowledge sweet and clean,
And questioned not of why and what;
And never drew a line between
What's known and what is not.


He was most gentle, good, and wise;
A simpler heart earth never saw:
His soul looked softly from his eyes,
And in his speech were love and awe.

Yet Nature in the end denied
The thing he had not asked for - fame!
Unknown, in poverty he died,
And men forget his name.

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