Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
The Holly Tree
By Robert Southey (1774–1843)
O READER! hast thou ever stood to see
      The Holly Tree?
The eye that contemplates it well perceives
      Its glossy leaves
Order’d by an intelligence so wise,        5
As might confound the Atheist’s sophistries.
Below, a circling fence, its leaves are seen
      Wrinkled and keen;
No grazing cattle through their prickly round
      Can reach to wound;        10
But as they grow where nothing is to fear,
Smooth and unarm’d the pointless leaves appear.
I love to view these things with curious eyes,
      And moralize:
And in this wisdom of the Holly Tree        15
      Can emblems see
Wherewith perchance to make a pleasant rhyme,
One which may profit in the after time.
Thus, though abroad perchance I might appear
      Harsh and austere,        20
To those who on my leisure would intrude
      Reserved and rude,
Gentle at home amid my friends I’d be
Like the high leaves upon the Holly Tree.
And should my youth, as youth is apt I know,
      Some harshness show,
All vain asperities I day by day
      Would wear away,
Till the smooth temper of my age should be
Like the high leaves upon the Holly Tree.        30
And as when all the summer trees are seen
      So bright and green,
The Holly leaves a sober hue display
      Less bright than they,
But when the bare and wintry woods we see,        35
What then so cheerful as the Holly Tree?
So serious should my youth appear among
      The thoughtless throng,
So would I seem amid the young and gay
      More grave than they,        40
That in my age as cheerful I might be
As the green winter of the Holly Tree.

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