Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE NEW APOCRYPHA: THE FIG TREE, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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THE NEW APOCRYPHA: THE FIG TREE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: With all of the rest of my troubles my fig tree's withered and gone
Last Line: If this be the work of faith, then faith itself is a curse.
Subject(s): Faith; Fig Trees; Belief; Creed


(Matthew, Chapter XXI.)

With all of the rest of my troubles my fig tree's withered and gone.
It stood in the road, you know, I haven't much of a lawn.
I step from my door to a step, and from that right into the street.
Just the same I sat under my tree, as a shade from the noonday heat.

Camels came by and asses, caravans, footmen, too;
Soldiers of Caesar saw me and ate of my tree, nor drew
Ax nor sword to the branches, nor even a hack on the bole.
Now what had I done or my tree? I call it an evil dole

To a tree that must rest as a man rests. Why last year what a crop!
Figs all over the branches, from lower limb to top.
The tree was resting this year, contenting itself with leaves,
If magic comes of believing, beware the man who believes.

If faith can remove a mountain, then faith, I say, beware.
Some morn I'll look toward Olivet and find it no longer there.
These fellows can blast our vineyards, level our hills or remove.
And what does it prove but faith, what other good does it prove?

Nothing at all! Just magic, like Egypt's cunning breed.
And to do such things with faith the size of a mustard seed!
What is there need of more? If you gave them faith as a pear
They would set Orion dancing around the paws of the Bear;

Make the heavens fall on our heads, the whole world ruin and wreck;
Slay us and our children, slave us, put the yoke on our neck;
Smash cities to strengthen the village, have life just as they would.
And make that evil which is not, make evil into a good.

Anyway he came, he was hungry, and it was break of dawn.
He ran to my tree expectant, saw nothing but leaves thereon.
Then raged for the lack of figs, no grace for the years that it bore.
And he said may no fruit grow hereon forevermore.

With that my tree curled up like a leaf in a windy blaze.
I was standing here on my step half blind in a sudden maze.
Then he said: have faith and do what I have done to this tree,
Or say to the mountains move and be cast into the sea.

So now I have no shade at noon under leafy boughs,
Why the tree was good for resting, cooler than in the house,
If it never bore again, if the life is more than meat
Why not this tree for my dreams, though he found no figs to eat.

But I swear it had borne next year, it was only taking a rest.
There's too many saints who are straining the world to a
dream in the breast.
Next year no figs for Caesar, and none for myself, what's worse,
If this be the work of faith, then faith itself is a curse.





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