Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO THE TREE, by JAMES STEPHENS

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TO THE TREE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ballad! I have a message you must bear
Last Line: And plague the god of life and love to favour me.
Subject(s): Trees

Ballad! I have a message you must bear
Unto a certain tree! I may not tell
Where she abides; only, she is more fair
Than any tree that grows down in a dell;
Or on a mountain top; or by a well;
Or as the lovely sentinel beside
A brimming stream! No words can speak her well;
Nor lyric song enough her arms so wide;
Her grace, her peace, her innocence, her happy pride!

Come, Ballad, quickly back to me again,
When that you have delivered to the tree
My humble service; and if she will deign
To trust you with a message back, then see,
Most strictly, you forget no word that she
May speak to you! No smallest yes or no!
And what she looked like when she spoke of me!
And if she begged you stay or bade you go!
Or hesitated, ere she said -- what you shall know!

Say -- I shall visit her ere day be done;
When the flushed evening blanches to the dark;
When one last ray of all that was the sun
Rests on her topmost branches! When the lark
Dips to the dew-drenched grasses in the park,
And sends but rare, from dusky fields below,
A sleepy song! Then, swift as to the mark
An arrow flies, so swiftly will I go,
Nor stay until her branches wide I halt below.

Of every tree most beautiful and queen!
The blossom of the wood lives in her glee!
About her feet the forest folk are seen!
The timid nymph bends there a ready knee!
And Pan himself, morose, unwillingly,
Yet all perforce, must stoop before her grace!
And round about, in a wild ecstasy,
The light-foot satyrs -- stayed from an embrace --
Stare shamefully, and dance, and mince, with antic pace.

Fortress of melody! Well hidden heart!
Deep bosomed lady whom I love so well!
Dear solitude of singer without art!
Sweet shadiness wherein I long to dwell,
Enrapt and comforted from any spell
Of thought, or care, or woefulness, or sin!
Or trouble which a man may not foretell!
Or slothful ease which it is death to win!
Or fear that cometh at the last and creepeth in!

If you among her little leaves will fly,
And what they whisper bring to me again
Dear Ballad, I will write your history
Upon a sheepskin with a golden pen!
It shall be read by women and by men!
Each youth will sing it to his paramour,
As they go roving in the evening, when
All joy is innocence, and love is lore!
And you, and youth, and love, will live for evermore!


Ballad, farewell! go tell her that I burn!
Say that I die if she withdraw from me!
And I shall wait and sigh till you return,
And plague the god of life and love to favour me.

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