Under the Cedarcroft Chestnut by Sidney Lanier


Trim set in ancient sward, his manful bole
Upbore his frontage largely toward the sky.
We could not dream but that he had a soul:
What virtue breathed from out his bravery!

We gazed o’erhead: far down our deepening eyes
Rained glamours from his green midsummer mass.
The worth and sum of all his centuries
Suffused his mighty shadow on the grass.

A Presence large, a grave and steadfast Form
Amid the leaves’ light play and fantasy,
A calmness conquered out of many a storm,
A Manhood mastered by a chestnut-tree!

Then, while his monarch fingers downward held
The rugged burrs wherewith his state was rife,
A voice of large authoritative Eld
Seemed uttering quickly parables of life:

`How Life in truth was sharply set with ills;
A kernel cased in quarrels; yea, a sphere
Of stings, and hedge-hog-round of mortal quills:
How most men itched to eat too soon i’ the year,

`And took but wounds and worries for their pains,
Whereas the wise withheld their patient hands,
Nor plucked green pleasures till the sun and rains
And seasonable ripenings burst all bands

`And opened wide the liberal burrs of life.’
There, O my Friend, beneath the chestnut bough,
Gazing on thee immerged in modern strife,
I framed a prayer of fervency — that thou,

In soul and stature larger than thy kind,
Still more to this strong Form might’st liken thee,
Till thy whole Self in every fibre find
The tranquil lordship of thy chestnut tree.

Tampa, Florida, February, 1877.

Note 1:

“This chestnut-tree (at Cedarcroft, the estate of Mr. Bayard Taylor,
in Pennsylvania), is estimated to be more than eight hundred years old.”

See also  Abram Morrison by John Greenleaf Whittier

—Sidney Lanier, 1877.

Hard by stood its mate, apparently somewhat younger. It is related in a letter of 1882, from Mrs. Taylor, that in 1880, a year after Mr. Taylor’s death, one of these majestic trees gave the first signs of decay: while his comrade lingered two years longer — to follow as closely the footsteps of Mr. Lanier: the two, faithful-hearted “to their master and to him who sang of them.”

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *