Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > Anthology of Massachusetts Poets
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. (1878–1962).  Anthology of Massachusetts Poets.  1922.
The Divine Forest
Charles R. Murphy
IF there be leaves on the forest floor,
Dead leaves there are and nothing more,
If trunks of trees seem sentinels,
For what their vigil no man tells.
And if you clasp these guardian trees        5
Nothing there is to hurt or please;
Only the dead roof of the forest drops
Gently down and never stops
And roofs you in and roofs you under,
Mute and away from life’s dim thunder;        10
And if there come eternal spring
It is but more disheartening,
For Autumn takes the Spring and Summer—
Autumn that is the latest comer—
With the Springtime’s misty wonder        15
And the Summer’s yield of gold,
Weighs you down and weighs you under
To where the blackened leaves are mold …
The lone gift of the forest is ever new:
Eternity where dwell not you.        20
The forest, accepting, heeds you not;
Accepting all-you are forgot.
If there be leaves on the forest floor,
Dead leaves there are and nothing more.
Once the forest spoke but now is silent,        25
Save in the skyward branches whence no sound
Seems to touch ear of any man below—
Or else no longer the man knows how to hear.
Such men build roofs to keep the forest out,
Yet all their roofs are built of the forest’s self;        30
Only they make the dead tree a shield against the living.
Such lapsing of the forest then they use
And turn it into countless lowly dwellings;
Sometimes they even cut the living down
To leaven the dead roofs they would erect.        35
Though some of these low roofs are lovely there
Beneath the guardianship of forest trees,
And some yearn upward as with thought of wings,
Yet the eyes of the dwellers therein are dark
To the upper forest and they        40
Fearful of the windy freedom of its top.
They have forgotten
That the greatest roof is but a banner
And that it was a tree that made a Cross.


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