The Old Oak.

A poem by Samuel Griswold Goodrich

Friend of my early days, we meet once more!
Once more I stand thine aged boughs beneath,
And hear again the rustling music pour,
Along thy leaves, as whispering spirits breathe.

Full many a day of sunshine and of storm,
Since last we parted, both have surely known;
Thy leaves are thinned, decrepit is thy form,
And all my cherished visions, they are flown!

How beautiful, how brief, those sunny hours
Departed now, when life was in its spring
When Fancy knew no scene undecked with flowers,
And Expectation flew on Fancy's wing!

Here, on the bank, beside this whispering stream,
Which still runs by as gayly as of yore,
Marking its eddies, I was wont to dream
Of things away, on some far fairy shore.

Then every whirling leaf and bubbling ball,
That floated by, was full of radiant thought;
Each linked with love, had music at its call,
And thrilling echoes o'er my bosom brought.

The bird that sang within this gnarled oak,
The waves that dallied with its leafy shade,
The mellow murmurs from its boughs that broke,
Their joyous tribute to my spirit paid.

No phantom rose to tell of future ill,
No grisly warning marr'd my prophet dreams
My heart translucent as the leaping rill,
My thoughts all free and flashing at its beams.

Here is the grassy knoll I used to seek
At summer noon, beneath the spreading shade,
And watch the flowers that stooped with glowing cheek,
To meet the romping ripples as they played.

Here is the spot which memory's magic glass
Hath often brought, arrayed in fadeless green,
Making this oak, this brook, this waving grass
A simple group fond Nature's fairest scene.

And as I roamed beside the Rhone or Rhine,
Or other favored stream, in after days,
With jealous love, this rivulet would shine,
Full on my heart, and claim accustomed praise.

And oh! how oft by sorrow overborne,
By care oppressed, or bitter malice wrung,
By friends betrayed, or disappointment torn,
My weary heart, all sickened and unstrung

Hath yearned to leave the bootless strife afar,
And find beneath this oak a quiet grave,
Where the rough echo of the world's loud jar,
Yields to the music of the mellow wave!

And now again I stand this stream beside;
Again I hear the silver ripples flow
I mark the whispers murmuring o'er the tide,
And the light bubbles trembling as they go.

But oh! the magic-spell that lingered here,
In boyhood's golden age, my heart to bless,
With the bright waves that rippled then so clear,
Is lost in ocean's dull forgetfulness.

Gone are the visions of that glorious time
Gone are the glancing birds I loved so well,
Nor will they wake again their silver chime,
From the deep tomb of night in which they dwell!

And if perchance some fleeting memories steal,
Like far-off echoes to my dreaming ear,
Away, ungrasped, the cheating visions wheel,
As spectres start upon the wing of fear.

Alas! the glorious sun, which then was high,
Touching each common thing with rosy light,
Is darkly banished from the lowering sky
And life's dull onward pathway lies, in night.

Yes I am changed and this gray gnarled form,
Its leaves all scattered by the rending blast,
Is but an image of my heart; the storm
The storm of life, doth make us such at last!

Farewell, old oak! I leave thee to the wind,
And go to struggle with the chafing tide
Soon to the dust thy form shall be resigned,
And I would sleep thy crumbling limbs beside.

Thy memory will pass; thy sheltering shade,
Will weave no more its tissue o'er the sod;
And all thy leaves, ungathered in the glade,
Shall, by the reckless hoof of time, be trod.

My cherished hopes, like shadows and like leaves,
Name, fame, and fortune each shall pass away;
And all that castle-building fancy weaves,
Shall sleep, unthinking, as the drowsy clay.

But from thy root another tree shall bloom
With living leaves its tossing boughs shall rise;
And the winged spirit bursting from the tomb,
Oh, shall it spring to light beyond these skies?

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