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Henry Alford (Генри Элфорд)

On the Aged Oak at Oakley, Somerset

I WAS a young fair tree:
Each spring with quivering green
My boughs were clad; and far
Down the deep vale a light
Shone from me on the eyes
Of those who past,—a light
That told of sunny days,
And blossoms, and blue sky;
For I was ever first
Of all the grove to hear
The soft voice under ground
Of the warm-working spring;
And ere my brethren stirred
Their sheathéd buds, the kine,
And the kine’s keeper, came
Slow up the valley-path,
And laid them underneath
My cool and rustling leaves;
And I could feel them there
As in the quiet shade
They stood, with tender thoughts
That past along their life
Like wings on a still lake,
Blessing me; and to God,
The blesséd God, who cares
For all my little leaves,
Went up the silent praise;
And I was glad, with joy
Which life of laboring things
Ill knows,—the joy that sinks
Into a life of rest.
  Ages have fled since then:
But deem not my pierced trunk
And scanty leafage serves
No high behest; my name	
Is sounded far and wide;
And in the Providence
That guides the steps of men,
Hundreds have come to view
My grandeur in decay;
And there hath passed from me
A quiet influence
Into the minds of men:
The silver head of age,
The majesty of laws,
The very name of God,
And holiest things that are,
Have won upon the heart,
Of humankind the more,
For that I stand to meet
With vast and bleaching trunk
The rudeness of the sky.

Henry Alford's other poems:
  1. Summit of Skiddaw, July 7, 1838
  2. 1846
  3. Written at Ampton, Suffolk, January, 1838
  4. Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, July, 1836
  5. August 19, 1830

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