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The Forest Fire

by Douglas Malloch

At first a spark that slumbered in the leaves;
And then a tiny blaze that glowed afar—
A distant blaze that seemed a fallen star,
A single grain from heaven's silver sheaves.

The morn a smoke-plume on the hill revealed,
That marked the first insidious advance.
The night came down, and found the fiery lance
Sunk deeper in the mountain's verdant shield.

Then came long days that melted into night
And left the sky in lurid color dressed;
The sun set slowly in the vapored west,
A copper oval of distorted light.

The primal blaze threw its increasing line
Across the mountain's wooded side until
Re-echoed mournfully from hill to hill
The thunder of the stricken giant pine.

Oft skyward blazed a solitary tree,
A vivid instant dimmed all other fire—
Like souls of mighty men, when they expire
Prove greatest, even in adversity.

And, when the fury of the fiend was spent,
Burned out the fullness of its torrid wrath,
It left behind a devastated path—
To human carelessness a monument.

O ye who love the richly verdured hill,
Who wander through the tangled woodland ways;
O ye who know the worth of summer days
And love the music of the mountain rill;

Ye who convert the tree to purpose new,
To final, destined and most proper use,
Play ye no part, I pray, in this abuse,
Have not the burden of the blame on you.

First learn, yourselves, the best considered plan,
Then teach the careless what their duties are,
And never more the running flame shall scar
These timbered hills, God's generous gift to man.

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