Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Western States: Calaveras, Cal.
On a Cone of the Big Trees
Bret Harte (1836–1902)
 
Sequoia Gigantea

BROWN foundling of the Western wood,
  Babe of primeval wildernesses!
Long on my table thou hast stood
  Encounters strange and rude caresses;
Perchance contented with thy lot,        5
  Surroundings new and curious faces,
As though ten centuries were not
  Imprisoned in thy shining cases!
 
Thou bring’st me back the halcyon days
  Of grateful rest; the week of leisure,        10
The journey lapped in autumn haze,
  The sweet fatigue that seemed a pleasure,
The morning ride, the noonday halt,
  The blazing slopes, the red dust rising,
And then—the dim, brown, columned vault,        15
  With its cool, damp, sepulchral spicing.
 
Once more I see the rocking masts
  That scrape the sky, their only tenant
The jay-bird that in frolic casts
  From some high yard his broad blue pennant.        20
I see the Indian files that keep
  Their places in the dusty heather,
Their red trunks standing ankle deep
  In moccasins of rusty leather.
 
I see all this, and marvel much        25
  That thou, sweet woodland waif, art able
To keep the company of such
  As throng thy friend’s—the poet’s—table:
The latest spawn the press hath cast,—
  The “modern Pope’s,” “the later Byron’s,”—        30
Why e’en the best may not outlast
  Thy poor relation,—Sempervirens.
 
Thy sire saw the light that shone
  On Mohammed’s uplifted crescent,
On many a royal gilded throne        35
  And deed forgotten in the present;
He saw the age of sacred trees
  And Druid groves and mystic larches;
And saw from forest domes like these
  The builder bring his Gothic arches.        40
 
And must thou, foundling, still forego
  Thy heritage and high ambition,
To lie full lowly and full low,
  Adjusted to thy new condition?
Not hidden in the drifted snows,        45
  But under ink-drops idly spattered,
And leaves ephemeral as those
  That on thy woodland tomb were scattered.
 
Yet lie thou there, O friend! and speak
  The moral of thy simple story:        50
Though life is all that thou dost seek,
  And age alone thy crown of glory,—
Not thine the only germs that fail
  The purpose of their high creation,
If their poor tenements avail        55
  For worldly show and ostentation.
 
 
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