The Ghosts Of The Trees

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The silver fangs of the mighty axe,
  Bit to the blood of our giant boles;
It smote our breasts and smote our backs,
  Thunder'd the front-cleared leaves--
  As sped in fire,
  The whirl and flame of scarlet leaves
  With strong desire
  Leaped to the air our captive souls.

While down our corpses thunder'd,
The air at our strong souls gazed and wondered
  And cried to us, "Ye
Are full of all mystery to me!
  I saw but thy plumes of leaves,
  Thy strong, brown greaves;
The sinewy roots and lusty branches,
And fond and anxious,
  I laid my ear and my restless breast
  By each pride-high crest;
  And softly stole
And listen'd by limb and listen'd by bole,
Nor ever the stir of a soul,
  Heard I in ye--
  Great is the mystery!"

The strong, brown eagle plung'd from his peak,
From the hollow iron of his beak;
The wood pigeon fell; its breast of blue
Cold with sharp death all thro' and thro',
  To our ghosts he cried.
  "With talons of steel,
  I hold the storm;
  Where the high peaks reel,
  My young lie warm.
In the wind-rock'd spaces of air I bide;
  My wings too wide--
Too angry-strong for the emerald gyves,
Of woodland cell where the meek dove thrives.
  And when at the bar,
Of morn I smote with my breast its star,
  And under--
My wings grew purple, the jealous thunder,
  With the flame of the skies
Hot in my breast, and red in my eyes;
  From peak to peak of sunrise pil'd
That set space glowing,
With flames from air-based crater's blowing--
  I downward swept, beguiled
By the close-set forest gilded and spread
A sea for the lordly tread,
  Of a God's wardship--
I broke its leafy turf with my breast;
  My iron lip
I dipp'd in the cool of each whispering crest;
  From thy leafy steeps,
  I saw in my deeps,
Red coral the flame necked oriole--
But never the stir of a soul
  Heard I in ye--
  Great is the mystery!"

  From its ferny coasts,
The river gazed at our strong, free ghosts,
  And with rocky fingers shed
  Apart the silver curls of its head;
Laid its murmuring hands,
On the reedy bands;
  And at gaze
Stood in the half-moon's of brown, still bays;
Like gloss'd eyes of stags
Its round pools gaz'd from the rusty flags,
  At our ghostly crests
At the bark-shields strong on our phantom breasts;
  And its tide
Took lip and tongue and cried.
  "I have push'd apart
  The mountain's heart;
  I have trod the valley down;
  With strong hands curled,
  Have caught and hurled,
  To the earth the high hill's crown!

  My brow I thrust,
  Through sultry dust,
  That the lean wolf howl'd upon;
  I drove my tides,
  Between the sides,
  Of the bellowing canon.

  From chrystal shoulders,
  I hurled my boulders,
  On the bridge's iron span.
  When I rear'd my head
  From its old time bed,
  Shook the pale cities of man!

  I have run a course
  With the swift, wild horse;
  I have thunder'd pace for pace,
  With the rushing herds--
  I have caught the beards
  Of the swift stars in the race!

  Neither moon nor sun
  Could me out-run;
  Deep cag'd in my silver bars,
  I hurried with me,
  To the shouting sea,
  Their light and the light of the stars!

  The reeling earth
  In furious mirth
  With sledges of ice I smote.
  I whirled my sword
  Where the pale berg roar'd,
  I took the ship by the throat!

  With stagnant breath
  I called chill Death
  My guest to the hot bayou.
  I built men's graves,
  With strong thew'd waves
  That thing that my strength might do.

  I did right well--
  Men cried "From Hell
  The might of Thy hand is given!"
  By loose rocks stoned
  The stout quays groaned,
  Sleek sands by my spear were riven.

  O'er shining slides,
  On my gloss'd tides,
  The brown cribs close woven roll'd;
  The stout logs sprung,
  Their height among
  My loud whirls of white and gold!

  The great raft prest,
  My calm, broad breast--
  A dream thro' my shady trance,
  The light canoe--
  A spirit flew--
  The pulse of my blue expanse.

  Wing'd swift the ships.
  My foaming lips
  Made rich with dewy kisses,
  All night and morn,
  Field's red with corn,
  And where the mill-wheel hisses.

  And shivers and sobs,
  With lab'ring throbs,
  With its whirls my strong palms play'd.
  I parted my flags,
  For thirsty stags,
  On the necks of arches laid.

  To the dry-vined town
  My tide roll'd down--
  Dry lips and throats a-quiver,
  Rent sky and sod
  With shouts "From God
  The strength of the mighty river!"

  I, list'ning, heard
  The soft-song'd bird;
  The beetle about thy boles.
  The calling breeze,
  In thy crests, O Trees--
  Never the voices of souls!"

  *  *  *  *  *

  We, freed souls, of the Trees look'd down
  On the river's shining eyes of brown;
  And upward smiled
  At the tender air and its warrior child,
  The iron eagle strong and wild.

  *  *  *  *  *

  "No will of ours,
  The captive souls of our barky tow'rs;
  "His the deed
  Who laid in the secret earth the seed;
  And with strong hand
  Knitted each woody fetter and band.
  Never, ye
  Ask of the tree,
  The "Wherefore" or "Why" the tall trees stand,
  Built in their places on the land
  Their souls unknit;
  With any wisdom or any wit,
  The subtle "Why,"
  Ask ye not of earth or sky--
  But one command it.

© Isabella Valancy Crawford