A Ballad of Trees and the Master by Sidney Lanier


Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him:
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.

Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
‘Twas on a tree they slew Him — last
When out of the woods He came.

Baltimore, November, 1880.

Note 1:

‘A Ballad of Trees and the Master’ was conceived as an interlude of the latest ‘Hymn of the Marshes’, ‘Sunrise’, although written earlier. In the author’s first copy and first revision of that ‘Hymn’, the `Ballad’ was incorporated, following the invocation to the trees which closes with:
“And there, oh there
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
Pray me a myriad prayer.”

In Mr. Lanier’s final copy the `Ballad’ is omitted. It was one of several interludes which he at first designed, but, for some reason, afterwards abandoned.

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