Say, my good lad, you there—yes, you!
Young man in the smock and the baseballer’s hat
Up here! Come close, don’t be scared, don’t start!
You’re quaking, my boy, like a storm-stunned cat
Why, surely you know the occasional oak
Does talk, as the water-side willow does weep,
And the aspen quakes, and the poplar—No?—
Come close, I say, take a seat against me
My bark shan’t bite, though it’s lost in the years
It’s Stradivari-various oaken hue
So rougher it—oh, quite sturdy, you say?
Your old man’s politeness has rubbed off on you.
Indeed, I was known to your father, back then
Fine chap, in his very own campus days
On this very Main Green he trod—I remember
That spring, on a rainy night like this—
Could I ask you a minute to itch me, there
On the trunk—lower—oh my—
That’s divine, I was scratched last in
September by a rubbish cart in haste
Well! To be frank, I remember your dad
The more for the beauty that graced your mum
Miss Margaret Stace, the admirers she had
(Including a certain now-
Lit Professor I’ll not name
For trees keep secrets.)
Your mother, down yonder steps she’d come
Skirted by a gaggle of goose-pimpled heads
Each bearing one of her books. Meanwhile,
Sitting where you sit now, your father read
Some Tennyson ballads, and under his Oxford
Collar a berry-dark blush would spread
As your mother passed—
—Forgive me, son
I’m embarrassing you
With my maudlin talk of love
It is the rain
The sink of the rain
The spring-dewed new-sprung sink of the rain
That sets me afire from root to—pray, don’t scoff
If a woodchuck could chuck trees
Then a tree can speak of love.
What of you, young man, with your clever young face
And your mother’s nose, and your father’s gait
This Weekend of Spring, are you aiming to chase
Some charming young lady? Or a gentleman?
Again, you blush, how abashed you are
Like a fledgling robin in his first spring song
A first-year—my—unaccustomed to flings
And shy of the crowd and the maddening throng?
Not shy, you protest, only quiet, a bit
On the nice side, rather have a chat than a drink
Preferring to woo to the sweet violin
Than the soul-sick subwoofer’s pound, I think
There’s merit to that (On a personal note,
Though, viols can’t sing like the hermit thrush
That’s a bird, you know, from before your time
A songbird lovely as the rain.) You must
Think old trees fret at the grince and slog
Of grass tramped brown by the weekend’s feet
Of spirits downed and spilled by careless
Hands, of cigarettes crushed by thoughtless
Soles making merry to a graceless beat.
Not so, my friend! Look around you now
At the lawn as fresh as it was in old
King George’s day, and fresh it remains
Even as hot youth under it lies, grown cold
With the music expired, the dance forgot
The dancers to dust, their good fight fought.
Only you, my friend,
Descendant of those
Who dance no more, can dance.
Like your dear old dad,
On the warm spring night
When, approaching your mother with quivering lip
And perhaps-ing, asked if he might, for a night,
With the band playing slow,
And the bugle-sound bright,
If he might just have this dance?
(You know as well as I, the end—your father trod on
Her toes and she went home with Willy Harris, or was it
Harry Williams? Well, life
Is long and sometimes happy.)
Great God! I have kept you long past dark
And suffered you to let a cankered red
Oak warble the twilight away and forsake
Your pressing work, no doubt, I’ve said
Enough, run along! Go gentle indoors
Into that good light where you sleep, sup, plot,
Play, do what it is you do, that I
Outside, in the green, can speak of not.
Good night! Should you see me here on the eve
Of the show, for goodness sakes, don’t stop
Like a fool to chat, best attempt to forget
That the night is watched by none but the drunken
Woods, and the trees that have seen it all
Before. Hope less, that you might one day
Do more, I bid you. Goodnight!