Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TREE OF DEATH, by ELIZA COOK

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE TREE OF DEATH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Let the king of the grave be asked to tell
Last Line: So dark as the vine, the tree of death.
Subject(s): Death; Trees; Dead, The

Let the king of the grave be asked to tell
The plant that he loveth best,
And it will not be the cypress tree,
Though 'tis ever the churchyard guest;
He will not mark the hemlock dark,
Nor stay where the nightshade spreads;
He will not say 'tis the sombre yew,
Though it springs o'er skeleton heads;
He will not point to the willow branch,
Where breaking spirits pine beneath;
For a brighter leaf sheds deeper grief,
And a fairer tree is the tree of death.

But where the green, rich stalks are seen,
Where ripe fruit gush and shine,
"This, this," cries he, "is the tree for me --
The vine, the beautiful vine?
I crouch among the emerald leaves,
Gemmed with the ruby grapes;
I dip my spear in the poison here,
And he is strong that escapes.
Crowds dance round, with satyr bound,
Till my dart is hurled from its traitor sheath;
When I shriek with glee, no friend to me
Is so true as the vine, the tree of death."

Oh! the glossy vine has a serpent charm,
It bears an unblest fruit;
There's a taint about each tendrilled arm,
And a curse upon its root.
Its juice may flow to warm the brow,
And wildly lighten the eye,
But the phrenzied mirth of a revelling crew
Will make the wise man sigh;
For the maniac laugh, the trembling frame,
The idiot speech and pestilent breath.
The shattered mind, the blasted frame,
Are wrought by the vine, the tree of death.

Fill, fill the glass, and let it pass;
But, ye who quaff! oh, think
That even the heart that loves must lothe
The lips that deeply drink.
The breast may mourn o'er a close link torn,
And the scalding drops may roll;
But 'tis better to mourn o'er a pulseless form
Than the wreck of a living soul.
Then a health to the hemlock, the cypress and yew,
The worm-hiding grass, and the willow-wreath;
For though shading the tomb, they fling not a gloom,
So dark as the vine, the tree of death.

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