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The Elm Tree
by [?]


“And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees.”–As You Like It.

‘Twas in a shady Avenue,
Where lofty Elms abound–
And from a Tree
There came to me
A sad and solemn sound,
That sometimes murmur’d overhead,
And sometimes underground.

Amongst the leaves it seem’d to sigh,
Amid the boughs to moan;
It mutter’d in the stem, and then
The roots took up the tone;
As if beneath the dewy grass
The dead began to groan.

No breeze there was to stir the leaves;
No bolts that tempests launch,
To rend the trunk or rugged bark;
No gale to bend the branch;
No quake of earth to heave the roots,
That stood so stiff and staunch.

No bird was preening up aloft,
To rustle with its wing;
No squirrel, in its sport or fear.
From bough to bough to spring.
The solid bole
Had ne’er a hole
To hide a living thing!

No scooping hollow cell to lodge
A furtive beast or fowl,
The martin, bat,
Or forest cat
That nightly loves to prowl,
Nor ivy nooks so apt to shroud
The moping, snoring owl.

But still the sound was in my ear,
A sad and solemn sound,
That sometimes murmur’d overhead,
And sometimes underground–
‘Twas in a shady Avenue
Where lofty Elms abound.

Oh hath the Dryad still a tongue
In this ungenial clime?
Have Sylvan Spirits still a voice
As in the classic prime–
To make the forest voluble,
As in the olden time?

The olden time is dead and gone;
Its years have fill’d their sum–
And e’en in Greece–her native Greece–
The Sylvan Nymph is dumb–
From ash, and beech, and aged oak,
No classic whispers come,

From Poplar, Pine, and drooping Birch,
And fragrant Linden Trees;
No living sound
E’er hovers round,
Unless the vagrant breeze,
The music of the merry bird,
Or hum of busy bees.

But busy bees forsake the Elm
That bears no bloom aloft–
The Finch was in the hawthorn-bush,
The Blackbird in the croft;
And among the firs the brooding Dove,
That else might murmur soft.

Yet still I heard that solemn sound,
And sad it was to boot,
From ev’ry overhanging bough,
And each minuter shoot;
From rugged trunk and mossy rind,
And from the twisted root.

From these,–a melancholy moan;
From those,–a dreary sigh;
As if the boughs were wintry bare,
And wild winds sweeping by–
Whereas the smallest fleecy cloud
Was steadfast in the sky.

No sign or touch of stirring air
Could either sense observe–
The zephyr had not breath enough
The thistle-down to swerve,
Or force the filmy gossamers
To take another curve.

In still and silent slumber hush’d
All Nature seem’d to be:
From heaven above, or earth beneath,
No whisper came to me–
Except the solemn sound and sad

A hollow, hollow, hollow, sound,
As is that dreamy roar
When distant billows boil and bound
Along a shingly shore–
But the ocean brim was far aloof,
A hundred miles or more.

No murmur of the gusty sea,
No tumult of the beach,
However they may foam and fret,
The bounded sense could reach–
Methought the trees in mystic tongue
Were talking each to each!–

Mayhap, rehearsing ancient tales
Of greenwood love or guilt,
Of whisper’d vows
Beneath their boughs;
Or blood obscurely spilt,
Or of that near-hand Mansion House
A royal Tudor built.