Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GREAT ELM, by ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES



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THE GREAT ELM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: From a friend's house had I gone forth
Last Line: Came creeping o'er the wold.
Alternate Author Name(s): Bridges, Robert+(2)
Subject(s): Elm Trees


FROM a friend's house had I gone forth,
And wandering at will
O'er a wide country West and North
Without or vale or hill,
I came beneath the broken edge
Of higher sloping ground,
Where an old Giant from the ledge
O'erlook'd the landscape round:

A towering Elm that stood alone,
Last of an ancient rank,
And had great barky roots out-thrown
To buttress up the bank;
His rough trunk of two hundred years
In girth a pillar gave
As massive as the Norman piers
That rise in Durham's nave;

But this for stony roof and wall
Upliving timber held,
Where never in its forest tall
Had woodman lopp'd or fell'd:
Above its crown no wind so fierce
Had warp'd the shapely green,
And scarce with bated breath might pierce
Its caves of leafy screen.

It seem'd in that dark foliage laid
Suspended thought must dwell;
As in those boughs that overshade
The river-sides of Hell,
That fabled Elm of Acheron,
Within the gates of death,
Which once Æneas look'd upon—
As Virgil witnesseth—
Whose leafage the last refuge was
And haven of mortal dreams,
That clustering clung thereto because
They might not pass the streams.

Now suddenly was I aware
That on the grassy shelf
A spirit was waiting for me there,
A coy seraphic elf—
My other half-self, whom I miss
In life's familiar moods,
And ken of only by his kiss
In sacred solitudes;
And for that rare embrace have borne
With Fate and things distraught,
The wanhope of my days forlorn,
My sins, have counted nought.

He is of such immortal kind,
His inwit is so clean,
So conscient with the eternal Mind—
The self of things unseen,
That when within his world I win,
Nor suffer mortal change,
I am of such immortal kin
No dream is half so strange.

Alas, I have done myself great wrong
Truckling to human care,
Am shamed to ken myself so strong
And nobler than I dare:
And yet so seldom doth he grant
The comfort of his grace,
So fickle is he and inconstant
To any time or place,
That since he chose that place and time
To come again to me,
I'd hold him fast by magic rhyme
Forever to that tree:
As there in lavish self-delight,
Godlike and single-souled,
I lay until the dusk of night
Came creeping o'er the wold.





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