Song of the Redwood-Tree
Song of the Redwood-Tree
A CALIFORNIA song,
A prophecy and indirection, a thought impalpable to breathe
A chorus of
dryads, fading, departing, or hamadryads departing,
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth
Voice of a mighty dying tree in the redwood forest dense.
Farewell my brethren,
Farewell O earth and sky, farewell ye neighboring waters,
My time has ended, my
term has come.
Along the northern coast,
Just back from the rock-bound shore and the caves,
In the saline air from the
sea in the Mendocino country,
With the surge for base and accompaniment low and hoarse,
blows of axes sounding musically driven by
Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes,
there in the
redwood forest dense,
I heard the mighty tree its death-chant chanting.
The choppers heard not, the camp shanties echoed not,
The quick-ear'd teamsters and chain and jack-
As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand
years to join the refrain,
in my soul I plainly heard.
Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart
trunk and limbs, out of its
That chant of the seasons and time, chant not of the past
only but the future.
You untold life of me,
And all you venerable and innocent joys,
Perennial hardy life of me with joys 'mid
many a summer sun,
And the white snows and night and the wild winds;
O the great patient
rugged joys, my soul's strong joys
unreck'd by man,
(For know I bear the soul befitting me, I too have
And all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth,)
Joys of the life befitting
me and brothers mine,
Our time, our term has come.
Nor yield we mournfully majestic brothers,
We who have grandly fill'd our time;
With Nature's calm content,
with tacit huge delight,
We welcome what we wrought for through the past,
And leave the field for them.
them predicted long,
For a superber race, they too to grandly fill their time,
For them we abdicate, in them
ourselves ye forest kings!
In them these skies and airs, these mountain peaks,
huge precipitious cliffs, this amplitude, these
valleys, far Yosemite,
To be in them absorb'd, assimilated.
Then to a loftier strain,
Still prouder, more ecstatic rose the chant,
As if the heirs, the deities of the West,
with master-tongue bore part.
Not wan from Asia's fetiches,
Nor red from Europe's old dynastic slaughter-house,
(Area of murder-plots
of thrones, with scent left yet
of wars and scaffolds everywhere,)
But come from Nature's long and harmless
peacefully builded thence,
These virgin lands, lands of the Western shore,
To the new culminating man, to you, the empire new,
promis'd long, we pledge, we dedicate.
You occult deep volitions,
You average spiritual manhood, purpose of all, pois'd
on yourself, giving not
You womanhood divine, mistress and source of all, whence
life and love and aught that comes
from life and love,
You unseen moral essence of all the vast materials of
America, (age upon age working
in death the same as life,)
You that, sometimes known, oftener unknown, really shape and
New World, adjusting it to Time and Space,
You hidden national will lying in your abysms, conceal'd
You past and present purposes tenaciously pursued, may-be
unconscious of yourselves,
by all the passing errors, perturbations of the
You vital, universal, deathless germs, beneath all