06 November 2013

A Forest Nook - An 1841 Poem

By Alfred B. Street. Albany, July, 1841. From the Northern Light.
A nook within the forest; overhead
The branches arch, and shape a pleasant bower,
Breaking white cloud, blue sky and sunshine bright
Into pure ivory and sapphire spots
And flecks of gold; a soft cool emerald tint
Colors the air, as though the delicate leaves
Emitted self-born light. What splendid walls,
And what a gorgeous roof carved by the hand
Of glorious Nature! Here the spruce thrusts in
Its bristling plume tipped with its pale-green points,
The hemlock shows its borders freshly fringed,
The smoothly scallop'd beech-leaf, and the birch
Cut into ragged edges, interlace.
While here and there, thro' clefts, the laurel hangs
Its gorgeous chalices half brimm'd with dew,
As though to hoard it for the haunting elves
The moonlight calls to this their festal hall.
A thick rich grassy carpet clothes the earth
Sprinkled with autumn leaves. The fern displays
Its fluted wreath beaded beneath with drops
Of richest brown; the wild-rose spreads its breast
Of delicate pink, and the overhanging fir
Has dropped its dark long cone.
The scorching glare
Without, makes this green nest a grateful haunt
For summer's radiant things; the butterfly
Fluttering within and nesting on some flower
Fans his rich velvet form; the toiling bee
Shoots by, with sounding hum and mist-like wings;
The robin perches on the bending spray
With shrill quick chirp; and like a flake of fire
The red-bird seeks the shelter of the leaves
And now and then a flutter overhead
In the thick green betrays some wandering wing
Coming and going, yet concealed from sight.
A shrill loud outcry — on yon highest bough
Sits the grey-squirrel in his burlesque-wrath
Stamping and chattering fiercely : now he drops
A hoarded nut, then at my smiling gaze
Buries himself within the foliage.
The insect tribes are here : the ant toils on
With his grain burthen; in his netted web
Gray glistening o'er the bush, the spider lurks
A close-crouch'd ball, out darting as a hum
Tells his trapp'd prey, and looping quick his threads
Chains into helplessness the bussing wings.
The wood-tick taps his tiny muffled drum
To the shrill cricket-fife, and swelling loud,
The grasshopper his grating bugle winds.
Those breaths of Nature, the light fluttering airs
Like gentle respirations, come and go,
Lift on its crimson stem the maple leaf
Displaying its white lining underneath,
And sprinkle from the tree-tops golden rain
Of sunshine on the velvet sward below.
Such nooks as this are common in the woods,
And all these sights and sounds the commonest
In Nature when she wears her summer prime.
Yet by them pass not lightly : to the wise
They tell the beauty and harmony
Of e'en the lowliest things that God hath made.
That this familiar earth and sky are full
Of his ineffable Power and majesty.
That in the humble objects, see too oft
To be regarded, is such wondrous grace,
The art of man is vain to imitate.
That the low flower our careless foot treads down
Is a rich shrine of incense delicate,
And radiant beauty, and that God hath form'd
All, from the mountain wreathing round its brow
The black ears of thunder, to the grain
Of silver sand bubbling spring casts up,
With deepest forethought and severest care.
And thus these noteless lowly things are types
Of His perfection and divinity.
August 5, 1841. Pittsfield Sun 41(2133): 1.