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by William Cullen Bryant


Oh ye who love to overhang the springs

And stand by running watersye whose boughs

Make beautiful the rocks o'er which they play

Who pile with foliage the great hillsand rear

A paradise upon the lonely plain

Trees of the forestand the open field!

Have ye no sense of being? Does the air

The pure airwhich I breathe with gladnesspass

In gushes o'er your delicate lungsyour leaves

All unenjoyed? When on your winter's sleep

The sun shines warmhave ye no dreams of spring?

And when the glorious spring-time comes at last

Have ye no joy of all your bursting buds

And fragrant bloomsand melody of birds

To which your young leaves shiver? Do ye strive

And wrestle with the windyet know it not?

Feel ye no glory in your strength when he

The exhausted Blustererflies beyond the hills

And leaves you stronger yet? Or have ye not

A sense of loss when he has stripped your leaves

Yet tenderand has splintered your fair boughs?

Does the loud bolt that smites you from the cloud

And rends youfall unfelt? Do there not run

Strange shudderings through your fibres when the axe

Is raised against youand the shining blade

Deals blow on blowuntil with all their boughs

Your summits waver and ye fall to earth?

Know ye no sadness when the hurricane

Has swept the wood and snapped its sturdy stems

Asunderor has wrenchedfrom out the soil

The mightiest with their circles of strong roots

And piled the ruin all along his path? -

Naydoubt we not that under the rough rind

In the green veins of these fair growths of earth

There dwells a nature that receives delight

From all the gentle processes of life

And shrinks from loss of being. Dim and faint

May be the sense of pleasure and of pain

As in our dreams; buthaplyreal still. -

Our sorrows touch you not. We watch beside

The beds of those who languish or who die

And minister in sadnesswhile our hearts

Offer perpetual prayer for life and ease

And health to the beloved sufferers.

But yewhile anxious fear and fainting hope

Are in our chambersye rejoice without.

The funeral goes forth; a silent train

Moves slowly from the desolate home; our hearts

Are breaking as we lay away the loved

Whom we shall see no morein their last rest

Their little cells within the burial-place.

Ye have no part in this distress; for still

The February sunshine steeps your boughs

And tints the buds and swells the leaves within;

While the song-sparrowwarbling from her perch

Tells you that spring is near. The wind of May

Is sweet with breath of orchardsin whose boughs

The bees and every insect of the air

Make a perpetual murmur of delight

And by whose flowers the humming-bird hangs poised

In airand draws their sweets and darts away.

The lindenin the fervors of July

Hums with a louder concert. When the wind

Sweeps the broad forest in its summer prime

As when some master-hand exulting sweeps

The keys of some great organye give forth

The music of the woodland depthsa hymn

Of gladness and of thanks. The hermit-thrust

Pipes his sweet note to make your arches ring;

The faithful robinfrom the wayside elm

Carols all day to cheer his siting mate;

And when the autumn comesthe kings of earth

In all their majestyare not arrayed

As ye areclothing the broad mountain-side

And spotting the smooth vales with red and gold;

Whileswaying to the sudden breezeye fling

Your nuts to earthand the brisk squirrel comes

To gather themand barks with childish glee

And scampers with them to his hollow oak. -

Thusas the seasons passye keep alive

The cheerfulness of Naturetill in time

The constant misery which wrings the heart

Relentsand we rejoice with you again

And glory in your beauty; till once more

We look with pleasure on your varnished leaves

That gayly glance in sunshineand can hear

Delightedthe soft answer which your boughs

Utter in whispers to the babbling brook. -

Ye have no history. I cannot know

Whowhen the hillside trees were hewn away

Haply two centuries sincebade spare this oak

Leaning to shadewith his irregular arms

Low-bent and longthe fount that from his roots

Slips through a bed of cresses toward the bay-

I know not whobut thank him that he left

The tree to flourish where the acorn fell

And join these later days to that far time

While yet the Indian hunter drew the bow

In the dim woodsand the white woodman first

Opened these fields to sunshineturned the soil

And strewed the wheat. An unremembered Past

Broodslike a presencemid the long gray boughs

Of this old treewhich has outlived so long

The flitting generations of mankind. -

Ye have no history. I ask in vain

Who planted on the slope this lofty group

Of ancient pear-trees that with spring-time burst

Into such breadth of bloom. One bears a scar

Where the quick lightning scored its trunkyet still

It feels the breath of Springand every May

Is white with blossoms. Who it was that laid

Their infant roots in earthand tenderly

Cherished the delicate spraysI ask in vain

Yet bless the unknown hand to which I owe

This annual festival of beesthese songs

Of birds within their leafy screenthese shouts

Of joy from children gathering up the fruit

Shaken in August from the willing boughs. -

Ye that my hands have plantedor have spared

Beside the wayor in the orchard-ground

Or in the open meadowye whose boughs

With every summer spread a wider shade

Whose herd in coming years shall lie at rest

Beneath your noontide shelter? who shall pluck

Your ripened fruit? who graveas was the wont

Of simple pastoral ageson the rind

Of my smooth beeches some beloved name?

Idly I ask; yet may the eyes that look

Upon youin your laternobler growth

Look also on a nobler age than ours;

An age whenin the eternal strife between

Evil and Goodthe Power of Good shall win

A grander mastery; when kings no more

Shall summon millions from the plough to learn

The trade of slaughterand of populous realms

Make camps of war; when in our younger land

The hand of ruffian Violencethat now

Is insolently raised to smiteshall fall

Unnerved before the calm rebuke of Law

And Fraudhis sly confederateshrink in shame

Back to his covertand forego his prey. - -