A simple, but masterful poem


As a young boy, living in a small town (Gowanda), I spent a lot of time in the summer playing, and yes sleeping at night, in the woods.

Right on the edge of town was a woods referred to as the glen, which was our playground day and night. I think that inasmuch as my formative years were spent among the trees, I have always had a fascination for woodlands. Besides its spring now.

Joyce Kilmer was a man. That may be more evident or more confusing if I give his full name. It was Joyce Alfred Kilmer, 1886-1918. I don’t know how it happened that his first name was Joyce, but so be it. Maybe his mother wanted a girl. In any event he wrote a poem that I have always loved. I reprint it here just for the pleasure of keeping it in our awareness. Assuming the dates of his life are accurate, (I got them from my dictionary) he only lived for 32 years. I don’t know of any other poems by him, but by dying at so young an age there might not have been many.

His poem entitled “Trees” is brief and simple, and years ago was put to music by someone who undoubtedly like me, thought it as worthwhile. His poem in my book of “The Best Loved Poems of the American People” (1936) has been dedicated to a Mrs. Henry Mills Alden. I have no idea of the connection, or who she was. Incidentally, the spelling of the word prest, is as it appears in the publication. I write it here as it appears in my book. It reads:


By Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree who may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Someone, I presume later, wrote music for this poem which was sung, and I remember it well. I only regret that I cannot reproduce it here in its fullest expression including the music.

It seems to me that we have very little poetry written today in rhyme and cadenced verse as were more popular years ago. I have read poems in free verse that are unforgettable, but to me a poem is a song, and as such it should be written as such. In music there are rules of cadence and timing and I think there should be some in poetry also. I have written a few myself in free verse but I think, a good poem should always be in cadenced rhyme and rhythm. May God bless America.

Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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