Man’s warfare on the trees is terrible.
He lifts his rude hut in the wilderness,
And lo! the loftiest trunks that age on age
Were nurtured to nobility, and bore
Their summer coronets so gloriously,
Fall with a thunder-sound, to rise no more
He toucheth flame unto them, and they lie
A blackened wreck, their tracery and wealth
Of sky-fed emerald,madly spent to feed
An arch of brilliance for a single night,
And scaring thence the wild deer and the fox,
And the lithe squirrel from the nut strewn home,
So long enjoyed.
He lifts his puny arm,
And every echo of the axe doth hew
The iron heart of centuries away.
He entereth boldly to the solemn groves
On whose green altar-tops, since time was young,
The winged birds have poured their incense strain
Of praise and love, within whose mighty nave
The wearied cattle from a thousand hills
Have found their shelter ‘mid the heat of day;
Perchance in their mute worship leasing Him
Who careth for the meanest He hath made.
I said he entereth to the sacred groves
Where Nature in her beauty bends to God,
And lo! their temple-arch is desecrate;
Sinks the sweet hymn, the ancient ritual fades,
And uptorn roots, and prostrate columns mark
The invader’s footsteps.
Silent years roll on,
His babes are men His ant heap dwelling grows
Too narrow, for his hand hath gotten wealth.
He builds a stately mansion, but it stands
Unblessed by trees. He smote them recklessly
When their green arms were round him, as a guard
Of tutelary deities, and feels
Their maledictions, now the burning noon
Maketh his spirit faint. With anxious care
He casteth acorns in the earth, and woos
Sunbeam and rain: he planteth the young shoot,
And props it from the storm; but neither he,
Nor yet his children’s children shall behold
What he hath swept away
Methinks ‘twere well,
Not as a spoiler or a thief, to roam
O’er Nature’s bosom that sweet, gentle nurse
Who loveth us, and spreads a sheltering couch
When our brief task is o’er. On that green mound
Affection’s hand may set the willow-tree,
Or train the cypress, and let none profane
Her pious care.
Oh, Father! grant us grace
In all life’s toils so with a stedfast hand
Evil and good to poise, as not to mark
Our way with wrecks, not when the sands of time
Run low, with saddened eye the past survey,
And mourn the rashness time can ne’er restore