Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
Poems of Sentiment: I. Time
The Petrified Fern
Mary L. Bolles Branch (1840–1922)
IN a valley, centuries ago,
  Grew a little fern-leaf, green and slender,
  Veining delicate and fibres tender;
Waving when the wind crept down so low.
  Rushes tall, and moss, and grass grew round it,        5
  Playful sunbeams darted in and found it,
  Drops of dew stole in by night, and crowned it,
  But no foot of man e’er trod that way;
  Earth was young, and keeping holiday.
Monster fishes swam the silent main,        10
  Stately forests waved their giant branches,
  Mountains hurled their snowy avalanches,
Mammoth creatures stalked across the plain;
  Nature revelled in grand mysteries,
  But the little fern was not of these,        15
  Did not number with the hills and trees;
  Only grew and waved its wild sweet way,
  No one came to note it day by day.
Earth, one time, put on a frolic mood,
  Heaved the rocks and changed the mighty motion        20
  Of the deep, strong currents of the ocean;
Moved the plain and shook the haughty wood,
  Crushed the little fern in soft moist clay,—
  Covered it, and hid it safe away.
  O, the long, long centuries since that day!        25
  O, the changes! O, life’s bitter cost,
  Since that useless little fern was lost!
Useless? Lost? There came a thoughtful man
  Searching Nature’s secrets, far and deep;
  From a fissure in a rocky steep        30
He withdrew a stone, o’er which there ran
  Fairy pencillings, a quaint design,
  Veinings, leafage, fibres clear and fine.
  And the fern’s life lay in every line!
  So, I think, God hides some souls away,        35
  Sweetly to surprise us, the last day.

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