Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE POET AMONG THE TREES, by HORACE SMITH



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THE POET AMONG THE TREES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Oak is the noblest tree that grows
Last Line: And dainty flavour to our custard!
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Parnassus (Mountain), Greece; Poetry & Poets; Trees


OAK is the noblest tree that grows,
Its leaves are freedom's type and herald,
If we may put our faith in those
Of Literary-Fund Fitzgerald.

Willow's a sentimental wood,
And many sonneteers, to quicken 'em,
A relic keep of that which stood
Before Pope's Tusculum at Twickenham.

The Birch-tree, with its pendent curves,
Exciting many a sad reflection,
Not only present praise deserves,
But our posterior recollection.

The Banyan, though unknown to us,
Is sacred to the Eastern Magi;
Some like the taste of Tityrus,
"Recubans sub tegmine fagi."

Some like the Juniper -- in gin;
Some fancy that its berries droop, as
Knowing a poison lurks within,
More rank than that distilled from th' Upas.

But he who wants a useful word,
To tag a line or point a moral,
Will find there's none to be preferred
To that inspiring tree -- the Laurel.

The hero-butchers of the sword,
In Rome and Greece, and many a far land,
Like Bravos, murdered for reward,
The settled price -- a laurel-garland.

On bust or coin we mark the wreath,
Forgetful of its bloody story,
How many myriads writhed in death,
That one might bear this type of glory.

Caesar first wore the badge, 'tis said,
'Cause his bald sconce had nothing on it,
Knocking some millions on the head,
To get his own a leafy bonnet.

Luckily for the Laurel's name,
Profaned to purposes so frightful,
'Twas worn by nobler heirs of fame,
All innocent, and some delightful.

With its green leaves were victors crowned
In the Olympic games for running,
Who wrestled best, or galloped round
The Circus with most speed and cunning.

Apollo, crowned with Bays, gives laws
To the Parnassian Empyrean;
And every schoolboy knows the cause,
Who ever dipped in Tooke's Pantheon.

Daphne, like many another fair,
To whom connubial ties are horrid,
Fled from his arms, but left a rare
Memento sprouting on his forehead.

For Bays did ancient bards compete,
Gathered on Pindus or Parnassus,
They by the leaf were paid, not sheet,
And that's the reason they surpass us.

One wreath thus twines the heads about,
Whose brains have brightened all our sconces,
And those who others' brains knocked out,
'Cause they themselves were royal dunces.

Men fight in these degenerate days,
For crowns of gold, not laurel fillets;
And bards who borrow fire from bays,
Must have them in the grate for billets.

Laureats we have (for cash and sack)
Of all calibres and diameters,
But 'stead of poetry, alack!
They give us lachrymose Hexameters.

And that illustrious leaf for which
Folks wrote and wrestled, sang and bluster'd,
Is now boiled down to give a rich
And dainty flavour to our custard!





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