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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Birch-Tree

By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

[From Poetical Works. Collective Edition. 1885.]

RIPPLING through thy branches goes the sunshine,

Among thy leaves that palpitate forever;

Ovid in thee a pining Nymph had prisoned,

The soul once of some tremulous inland river,

Quivering to tell her woe, but, ah! dumb, dumb forever!

While all the forest, witched with slumberous moonshine,

Holds up its leaves in happy, happy silence,

Waiting the dew, with breath and pulse suspended,

I hear afar thy whispering, gleamy islands,

And track thee wakeful still amid the wide-hung silence.

Upon the brink of some wood-nestled lakelet,

Thy foliage, like the tresses of a Dryad,

Dripping about thy slim white stem, whose shadow

Slopes quivering down the water’s dusky quiet,

Thou shrink’st as on her bath’s edge would some startled Dryad.

Thou art the go-between of rustic lovers;

Thy white bark has their secrets in its keeping;

Reuben writes here the happy name of Patience,

And thy lithe boughs hang murmuring and weeping

Above her, as she steals the mystery from thy keeping.

Thou art to me like my belovèd maiden,

So frankly coy, so full of trembly confidences;

Thy shadow scarce seems shade, thy pattering leaflets

Sprinkle their gathered sunshine o’er my senses,

And Nature gives me all her summer confidences.

Whether my heart with hope or sorrow tremble,

Thou sympathizest still; wild and unquiet,

I fling me down; thy ripple, like a river,

Flows valleyward, where calmness is, and by it

My heart is floated down into the land of quiet.