How towers he, too, amid the
An unquelled exile from the summer’s throne, 10
Whose plain, uncinctured front more kingly shows,
Now that the obscuring courtier leaves are flown.
His boughs make music of the winter air,
Jewelled with sleet, like some cathedral front
Where clinging snow-flakes with quaint art repair 15
The dints and furrows of time’s envious brunt.
How doth his patient strength
the rude March wind
Persuade to seem glad breaths of summer breeze,
And win the soil that fain would be unkind,
To swell his revenues with proud increase! 20
He is the gem; and all the landscape wide
(So doth his grandeur isolate the sense)
Seems but the setting, worthless all beside,
An empty socket, were he fallen thence.
So, from oft converse with
life’s wintry gales, 25
Should man learn how to clasp with tougher roots
The inspiring earth; how otherwise avails
The leaf-creating sap that sunward shoots?
So every year that falls with noiseless flake
Should fill old scars up on the stormward side, 30
And make hoar age revered for age’s sake,
Not for traditions of youth’s leafy pride.
So, from the pinched soil
of a churlish fate,
True hearts compel the sap of sturdier growth,
So between earth and heaven stand simply great, 35
That these shall seem but their attendants both;
For nature’s forces with obedient zeal
Wait on the rooted faith and oaken will;
As quickly the pretender’s cheat they feel,
And turn mad Pucks to flout and mock him still. 40
Lord! all Thy works are lessons;
Some emblem of man’s all-containing soul;
Shall he make fruitless all Thy glorious pains,
Delving within Thy grace an eyeless mole?
Make me the least of thy Dodona-grove, 45
Cause me some message of thy truth to bring,
Speak but a word to me, nor let thy love
Among my boughs disdain to perch and sing.
[Footnote 18: See Shakspeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.]
[Footnote 19: A grove of oaks at Dodona, in ancient Greece, was the seat of a famous oracle.]
[The classic legend of Prometheus underwent various changes in successive periods of Greek thought. In its main outline the story is the same: that Prometheus, whose name signifies Forethought, stole fire from Zeus, or Jupiter, or Jove, and gave it as a gift to man. For this, the angry god bound him upon Mount Caucasus, and decreed that a vulture should prey upon his liver, destroying every day what was renewed in the night. The struggle of man’s thought to free itself from the tyranny of fear and superstition and all monsters of the imagination is illustrated in the myth. The myth is one which has been a favorite with modern poets, as witness Goethe, Shelley, Mrs. Browning, and Longfellow.]