Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Elms of New Haven
By Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)
Extracts from a poem delivered before the Linonian Society of Yale College

THE LEAVES we knew
Are gone these many summers, and the winds
Have scattered them all roughly through the world;
But still, in calm and venerable strength,
The old stems lift their burthens up to heaven,        5
And the young leaves, to the same pleasant tune,
Drink in the light, and strengthen, and grow fair.
The shadows have the same cool, emerald air;
And prodigal as ever is the breeze,
Distributing the verdure’s temperate balm.        10
The trees are sweet to us. The outcry strong
Of the long-wandering and returning heart,
Is for the thing least changed. A stone unturned
Is sweeter than a strange or altered face;
A tree that flings its shadow as of yore        15
Will make the blood stir sometimes, when the words
Of a long-looked-for lip fall icy cold.
Ye who in this Academy of shade
Dreamt out the scholar’s dream, and then away
On troubled seas went voyaging with Care,        20
But hail to-day the well-remembered haven,—
Ye who at memory’s trumpet-call have stayed
The struggling foot of life, the warring hand,
And, weary of the strife, come back to see
The green tent where your harness was put on,—        25
Say, when you trod the shadowy street this morn,
Leapt not your heart up to the glorious trees?
Say, was it only to my sleep they came—
The angels, who to these remembered trees
Brought me back, ever? I have come, in dream,        30
From many a far land, many a brighter sky,
And trod these dappled shadows till the morn.
From every Gothic isle my heart fled home;
From every groinèd roof, and pointed arch,
To find its type in emerald beauty here.        35
The moon we worshiped through this trembling veil,
In other heavens seemed garish and unclad.
The stars that burned to us through whispering leaves,
Stood cold and silently in other skies.
Stiller seemed alway here the holy dawn        40
Hushed by the breathless silence of the trees:
And who that ever, on a Sabbath morn,
Sent through this leafy roof a prayer to heaven,
And when the sweet bells burst upon the air,
Saw the leaves quiver, and the flecks of light        45
Leap like caressing angels to the feet
Of the church-going multitude, but felt
That here God’s day was holier—that the trees,
Pierced by these shining spires, and echoing ever
“To prayer!” “To prayer!” were but the lofty roof        50
Of an unhewn cathedral, in whose choirs
Breezes and storm-winds, and the many birds
Joined in the varied anthem; and that so,
Resting their breasts upon these bending limbs,
Closer and readier to our need they lay,—        55
The spirits who keep watch ’twixt us and heaven.

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