06 November 2013

The Pine Tree - An 1843 Poetic Expression

By Alfred B. Street.
Stern dweller of the mountain! with thy feet
Grasping the crag, and lifting to the sky
Thy haughty crest! — stern warrior-king thy form
Scarce deigns to shake, when e'en the mighty blast,
Which the strong eagle fears to stern, swoops down
And breaks upon thee. O'er the glimmering chasm
As lean'st thou, with one giant limb outspread,
Thy sceptre, and seamed armor on thy breast,
What is more grand, more glorious than thee!
The headlong torrent pitching at thy base
Sends forth but vassal rumblings, when the storm
Awakes thy thunder; and the puny woods
Seem like bent saplings when thy towering shape
Swings in its majesty. The lightning's dart
Hath streaked, but not consumed thee; upward still,
As the black chariot of the fiend o'er rolls,
Upward still, warrior-king! thy crest doth point,
And in sublime defiance dost thou fling
Thy emerald robe from off thy wounded breast,
For other blows to fall, fierce hissing forth
Thy scorn as flies the tempest. On thy rock,
Thy throne impregnable, thou hast not reigned
During the lapse of ages, for a blast
To break thee, or a lightning shaft to cleave
Thy plumed head to the earth. The hurricane
And showers of blazing levin-bolts alone
Can hurl thee from thy post of centuries.
Yet art thou gentle, monarch of the crag!
When all is gentle round thee — when the sky
Is soft with summer, and the sunshine basks
In love upon thy branches, bright-winged birds
Flutter within they plumes, and make thee gay
With their sweet songs; the downy pinioned breeze
Soothes thee, until thou murmurest in a voice
Of blandest music, that upon the ear
Steals sad, but oh, how winning!
As thy head
Bears the wild tempest when the rains are launched
In slanted phalanx, as when from the west
The wind fans lightly, and the parted clouds
Let the fresh sunshine lean thy branches drop
Their spinklings on the blossom hung beneath,
Till its blue eye is deeper in its blue,
And floats its sweet breath sweeter; while the moss
That plump and green o'er spreads they iron roots,
Fringed delicate sandals, seems some trysting place,
Where fairy shapes of gold and ebony
Glance o'er in mazy dances. Winter stern,
Howling through forests changed to skeletons
At the first mimicking breath of Autumn, sent
As the mere courier of his dread approach,
Though hurling all his blasts, from thee recoils,
His fury spent in vain : not one slight plume,
No, not the tiniest fibre of thy sprays,
Blanches of falls; but as thou stood at when earth
Leaped living at the blue bird call of Spring,
Unchanged wilt thou again her carol hail,
And tell where passed her timid steps from prints
Of violets and of cowslips.
Let us mark,
Proud pine! — thou one of myriad instruments,
Through which mysterious, solemn Nature breathes
The music of her wisdom in our souls —
Oh, let us mark thy likeness in the world,
The wondrous world of man. True Greatness towers
A glorious monarch throned on craggy thought,
Decked in its proud regalia. When the blast
Of Fortune bursts, it bends not; o'er the herd
It spreads its sceptered arm, and weaker souls
Bow, when occasion wakes it energies
In all their native glory. Earth's wild storms
May sweep across it, and their lightnings touch
its lifted crest; but haughtily it dates
The scathing wrath, and casts its deepest scorn
At the endeavor baffled. Glorious gifts
Are not bestowed for every passing cloud
Of life to lay them darkened in the dust.
And it is gentle too, when gentle hearts
Are round it; love for love it freely gives,
And while it bears the storm upon its head,
It yields a cherishing care to those that cling
Unto it for protection. In life's change
It changes not; but as it smiled in joy,
So in the bleak waste of adversity
It wears its 'customed look, and welcomes back
The sunshine of renewed prosperity.
March 16, 1843. New York Daily Tribune 2(289): 4. From the Knickerbocker for March.