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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


On the Aged Oak at Oakley, Somerset

By Henry Alford (1810–1871)

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.