How still it is here in the woods. The trees
Stand motionless, as if they did not dare
To stir, lest it should break the spell. The air
Hangs quiet as spaces in a marble frieze.
Even this little brook, that runs at ease,
Whispering and gurgling in its knotted bed,
Seems but to deepen with its curling thread
Of sound the shadowy sun-pierced silences.
Sometimes a hawk screams or a woodpecker
Startles the stillness from its fixed mood
With his loud careless tap. Sometimes I hear
The dreamy white-throat from some far-off tree
Pipe slowly on the listening solitude
His five pure notes succeeding pensively.
The thoughts of all the maples who shall name,
When the sad landscape turns to cold and grey?
Yet some for very ruth and sheer dismay,
Hearing the northwind pipe the winter’s name,
Have fired the hills with beaconing clouds of flame;
And some with softer woe that day by day,
So sweet and brief, should go the westward way,
Have yearned upon the sunset with such shame,
That all their cheeks have turned to tremulous rose;
Others for wrath have turned a rusty red,
And some that knew not either grief or dread,
Ere the old year should find its iron close,
Have gathered down the sun’s last smiles acold,
Deep, deep, into their luminous hearts of gold.
“Grotesque!” we said, the moment we espied
For there he stood, supreme in his conceit,
With short ears close together and queer feet
Planted irregularly: first we tried him
With jokes, but they were lost; we then defied him
With bantering questions and loose criticism:
He did not like, I’m sure, our catechism,
But whisked and snuffed a little as we eyed him.
Then flung we balls, and out and clear away,
Up the white slope, across the crusted snow,
To where a broken fence stands in the way,
Against the sky-line, a mere row of pegs,
Quicker than thought we saw him flash and go,
A straight mad scuttling of four crooked legs.