Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
The City Tree
By Isabella Valancy Crawford (1850–1887)
I STAND within the stony, arid town,
  I gaze for ever on the narrow street,
I hear for ever passing up and down
  The ceaseless tramp of feet.
I know no brotherhood with far-locked woods,        5
  Where branches bourgeon from a kindred sap,
Where o’er mossed roots, in cool, green solitudes,
  Small silver brooklets lap.
No emerald vines creep wistfully to me
  And lay their tender fingers on my bark;        10
High may I toss my boughs, yet never see
  Dawn’s first most glorious spark.
When to and fro my branches wave and sway,
  Answ’ring the feeble wind that faintly calls,
They kiss no kindred boughs, but touch alway        15
  The stones of climbing walls.
My heart is never pierced with song of bird;
  My leaves know nothing of that glad unrest
Which makes a flutter in the still woods heard
  When wild birds build a nest.        20
There never glance the eyes of violets up,
  Blue, into the deep splendour of my green;
Nor falls the sunlight to the primrose cup
  My quivering leaves between.
Not mine, not mine to turn from soft delight        25
  Of woodbine breathings, honey sweet and warm;
With kin embattled rear my glorious height
  To greet the coming storm!
Not mine to watch across the free, broad plains
  The whirl of stormy cohorts sweeping fast,        30
The level silver lances of great rains
  Blown onward by the blast!
Not mine the clamouring tempest to defy,
  Tossing the proud crest of my dusky leaves—
Defender of small flowers that trembling lie        35
  Against my barky greaves!
Not mine to watch the wild swan drift above,
  Balanced on wings that could not choose between
The wooing sky, blue as the eye of love,
  And my own tender green!        40
And yet my branches spread, a kingly sight,
  In the close prison of the drooping air;
When sun-vexed noons are at their fiery height
  My shade is broad, and there
Come city toilers, who their hour of ease        45
  Weave out to precious seconds as they lie
Pillowed on horny hands, to hear the breeze
  Through my great branches die.
I see no flowers, but as the children race
  With noise and clamour through the dusty street,        50
I see the bud of many an angel face,
  I hear their merry feet.
No violets look up, but, shy and grave,
  The children pause and lift their crystal eyes
To where my emerald branches call and wave        55
  As to the mystic skies.

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