Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO MY TOTEM, by HENRY CHARLES BEECHING

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TO MY TOTEM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thy name of old was great
Last Line: Small gifts it fain would hide.
Subject(s): Beech Trees; Trees

THY name of old was great:
What though sour critics teach
"The beech by the Scaean gate
Was not indeed a beech,"
That sweet Theocritus
The ilex loved, not thee? --
These are made glorious
Through thy name, glorious tree.
And sure 't was 'neath thy shade
Tityrus oft did use
(The while his oxen strayed)
To meditate the Muse.
To thee 't was Corydon
(Sad shepherd) did lament
Vain hopes, and violets wan
To fair Alexis sent.

Our singers loved thee, too:
In Chaucer's liquid verse
Are set thy praises due
The ages but rehearse;
Though later poets bring
Their homage still, and I
The least of those who sing
Thy name would magnify.

For long ago my sires,
Ere Hengist crossed the sea
To map our English shires,
Gave up their heart to thee,
And vowed if thou wouldst keep
Their lives from fire and foe,
Thou too shouldst never weep
The axe's deadly blow.

Thou hast my heart to-day:
Whether in June I sit
And watch the leaves at play,
The flickering shadows flit;
Or whether, when leaves fall
And red the autumn mould,
I pace the woodland hall
Thy stately trunks uphold.

Thou hast my heart, and here
In scattered fruit I see
An emblem true and clear
Of what my heart must be: --
Hard sheath and scanty fare,
Yet forced on every side
To break apart and share
Small gifts it fain would hide.

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