“Tree of Man” Never Quiet, Poet Says

April has been  National Poetry Month; in fact it will be NPM until midnight tonight. Early in the month I promised numerous poetic posts to commemorate; looking back, I see I was sidetracked by the black comedy of Imus’s fall  and the bloody deeds at Virginia Tech.

 Still, I want to close out April with a poem by AE. Housman. It’s come to mind several times in this tumultuous month. I wouldn’t call it a conventionally happy poem, but it contains a certain kind of comfort: Bad times are part of life, always have been,  and must be taken along with the good.

On Wenlock Edge

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

‘Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
‘Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

 

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