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UNDER THE WILLOWS AND OTHER POEMS
"THE WILLOWs," as was pointed out in the introductory note to An Indian-Summer Reverie, was a clump of trees not far from Elmwood. Lowell took a peculiar pleasure in their gnarled and umbrageous forms, and wrote to Fields while the volume which took its title from the trees was in press: "My heart was almost broken yesterday by seeing nailed to my willow a board with these words on it, 'These trees for sale.' The wretch is going to peddle them for firewood! If I had the money, I would buy the piece of ground they stand on to save them the dear friends of a lifetime. They would be a loss to the town. But what can one do? They belong to a man who values them by the cord. I wish Fenn had sketched them at least. One of them I hope will stand a few years yet in my poem -but he might just as well have outlasted me and my works, making his own green ode every summer.' Not all the trees have been destroyed, for some yet remain, and it is a pleasure to record the refusal of a new comer into the neighborhood to have one destroyed which was inconveniently near the site of the house she was to build. She changed, instead, the site.
night I fairly ended my work. . . . I had decided to put the " June Idyl" in the forefront and call it "A June Idyl, and Other Poems." But Fieldr told me that Whittier's new volume was to be called "A Summer Idyl" - so I was blocked there. Then I took "Appledore," merely because it was a pretty name, though I did not wish to put that in the van. So it was all settled for the second time. Then I was suddenly moved to finish my "Voyage to Vinland," and, as I liked the poem, thought no title so good as "The Voyage to Vinland, and Other Poems." But Fields would not hear of it, and proposed that I should rechristen the Idyl "Elmwood," and name the book after that. But the more I thought of it the less I liked it. It was throwing my sanctuary open and making a showhouse of my hermitage. It was indecent. So I fumed and worried. I was riled. Then it occurred to me that I had taken the name of "June Idyl" as a pis-aller, because in my haste I could think of nothing else. Why not name it over? So I hit upon "Under the Willows," and that it is to be. But it is awfully depressing work. They call back so many moods, and they are so bad. I think, though, there is a suggestion of something good in them at least, and they are not silly. But how much the public will stand! I sometimes wonder they don't drive all us authors into a corner and make a battue of the whole concern at once.
Pipe blown through by the warm wild breath of the West
Shepherding his soft droves of fleecy cloud, Gladness of woods, skies, waters, all in one,
The bobolink has come, and, like the soul
May is a pious fraud of the almanac,
Or if, o'er-confident, she trust the date,
And Winter suddenly, like crazy Lear, Reels back, and brings the dead May in his arms,
Her budding breasts and wan dislustred front
With frosty streaks and drifts of his white beard
All overblown. Then, warmly walled with books,
While my wood-fire supplies the sun's defect,
Whispering old forest-sagas in its dreams, I take my May down from the happy shelf
Where perch the world's rare song-birds in
But June is full of invitations sweet, Forth from the chimney's yawn and thriceread tomes
To leisurely delights and sauntering thoughts
That brook no ceiling narrower than the blue.
The cherry, drest for bridal, at my pane Brushes, then listens, Will he come? The bee,
All dusty as a miller, takes his toll
Of powdery gold, and grumbles. What a day
To sun me and do nothing! Nay, I think
Will not distil the juices it has sucked
To the sweet substance of pellucid thought, Except for him who hath the secret learned To mix his blood with sunshine, and to take
The winds into his pulses. Hush! 't is he!
My oriole, my glance of summer fire,
About the bough to help his housekeeping,
Twitches and scouts by turns, blessing his luck,
Yet fearing me who laid it in his way,
Slackens its hold; once more, now! and a
Lightens across the sunlight to the elm Where his mate dangles at her cup of
Nor all his booty is the thread; he trails My loosened thought with it along the air,
And I must follow, would I ever find The inward rhyme to all this wealth of life.
I care not how men trace their ancestry, To ape or Adam: let them please their whim;
But I in June am midway to believe
A tree among my far progenitors,
When they consent to own me of their kin,
And condescend to me, and call me cousin, Murmuring faint lullabies of eldest time, Forgotten, and yet dumbly felt with thrills Moving the lips, though fruitless of all words.
And I have many a lifelong leafy friend, Never estranged nor careful of my soul, That knows I hate the axe, and welcomes
Of our New World subduers lingers yet Hereditary feud with trees, they being (They and the red-man most) our fathers' foes,
Is one of six, a willow Pleiades,
The seventh fallen, that lean along the brink
Where the steep upland dips into the marsh, Their roots, like molten metal cooled in flowing,
Stiffened in coils and runnels down the bank.
The friend of all the winds, wide-armed he towers
And glints his steely aglets in the sun,
Of devious minnows wheel from where a
A rood of silver bellies to the day.