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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to India

The Banian-Tree

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

(From The Curse of Kehama)

’T WAS a fair scene wherein they stood,

A green and sunny glade amid the wood,

And in the midst an aged Banian grew.

It was a goodly sight to see

That venerable tree,

For o’er the lawn, irregularly spread,

Fifty straight columns propt its lofty head

And many a long depending shoot,

Seeking to strike its root,

Straight like a plummet, grew towards the ground.

Some on the lower boughs which crost their way,

Fixing their bearded fibres, round and round,

With many a ring and wild contortion wound;

Some to the passing wind at times, with sway

Of gentle motion swung;

Others of younger growth, unmoved, were hung

Like stone-drops from the cavern’s fretted height;

Beneath was smooth and fair to sight,

Nor weeds nor briars deformed the natural floor,

And through the leafy cope which bowered it o’er

Came gleams of checkered light.

So like a temple did it seem, that there

A pious heart’s first impulse would be prayer.