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Fern Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Only Ferns by Hannah Elizabeth Bradbury Goodwin
  2. Fern Song by John B. Tabb
  3. Ferns by Hilda Conkling
  4. A July Fern Leaf by Mortimer Collins
  5. Sweet Fern by John Greenleaf Whittier
  6. The Petrified Fern by Mary L. Bolles Branch
  7. The Fern Owl's Nest by John Clare

  1. Only Ferns

    by Hannah Elizabeth Bradbury Goodwin

    When the fields are full of blossoms,
    And the air of songs,
    Can we pause to ask what honor
    To the fern belongs?

    Only bits of common brightness,
    Carpeting the ground;
    Scarcely heeded when the summer
    Flings her wealth around.

    Only ferns, whose feathery tendrils
    Toss in waves of green,
    Nestle in the wild wood's shelter,
    On bleak hillsides lean.

    Like God's mercies they are common,
    Every morning new,
    And at eventide they freshen
    With the falling dew.

    True and tender, meek and modest,
    Lingering till the last
    Of the flowering hosts have perished
    Neath the autumn blast.

    Symbol of God's loving-kindness,
    Brave and steadfast fern;
    May we from thy strength and weakness
    Gentle lessons learn.

  2. Fern Song

    by John B. Tabb

    Dance to the beat of the rain, little Fern,
    And spread out your palms again,
    And say, "Tho' the sun
    Hath my vesture spun,
    He had laboured, alas, in vain,
    But for the shade
    That the Cloud hath made,
    And the gift of the Dew and the Rain."
    Then laugh and upturn
    All your fronds, little Fern,
    And rejoice in the beat of the rain!

  3. Ferns

    by Hilda Conkling

    Small ferns up-coming through the mossy green,
    Up-curling and springing,
    See trees circling round them,
    And the straight brook like a lily-stem:
    Hear the water laughing
    At the stern old pine-tree
    Who keeps sighing to himself all day long
    What's the use! What's the use!

  4. A July Fern Leaf

    by Mortimer Collins

    White feet in the fairy fern,
    Quick wings in a chrysolite sky,
    And an amethyst lamp in the west to burn,
    When the cool dusk hours for which lovers yearn
    Pass in sweet silence by:
    Over summer seas
    Thou bringest these
    Hither, July.

    Stern hours have the merciless Fates
    Plotted for all who die:
    But looking down upon Richmond's aits,
    Where the merles sing low to their amorous mates,
    Who cares to ask them why?
    We'll have wit, love, wine,
    Ere thy days divine
    Wither, July.

    For the blossom of youth must fade,
    And the vigor of life must fly;
    Yet to-day is ours with its odorous shade,
    And the loving eyes which soon betrayed
    Dreams in the heart that lie.
    Swift life's stream flows,
    But alas! who knows
    Whither, July.

  5. Sweet Fern

    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    The subtle power in perfume found
    Nor priest nor sibyl vainly learned;
    On Grecian shrine or Aztec mound
    No censer idly burned.

    That power the old-time worships knew,
    The Corybantes' frenzied dance,
    The Pythian priestess swooning through
    The wonderland of trance.

    And Nature holds, in wood and field,
    Her thousand sunlit censers still;
    To spells of flower and shrub we yield
    Against or with our will.

    I climbed a hill path strange and new
    With slow feet, pausing at each turn;
    A sudden waft of west wind blew
    The breath of the sweet fern.

    That fragrance from my vision swept
    The alien landscape; in its stead,
    Up fairer hills of youth I stepped,
    As light of heart as tread.

    I saw my boyhood's lakelet shine
    Once more through rifts of woodland shade;
    I knew my river's winding line
    By morning mist betrayed.

    With me June's freshness, lapsing brook,
    Murmurs of leaf and bee, the call
    Of birds, and one in voice and look
    In keeping with them all.

    A fern beside the way we went
    She plucked, and, smiling, held it up,
    While from her hand the wild, sweet scent
    I drank as from a cup.

    O potent witchery of smell! The dust-dry leaves to life return,
    And she who plucked them owns the spell And lifts her ghostly fern.

    Or sense or spirit? Who shall say
    What touch the chord of memory thrills?
    It passed, and left the August day
    Ablaze on lonely hills.

  6. The Petrified Fern

    by Mary L. Bolles Branch

    In a valley, centuries ago,
    Grew a little fern leaf, green and slender,
    Veining delicate and fibers tender,
    Waving when the wind crept down so low;
    Rushes tall, and moss, and grass grew round it;
    Playful sunbeams darted in and found it;
    Drops of dew stole down by night and crowned it;
    But no foot of man e'er came that way;
    Earth was young and keeping holiday.

    Monster fishes swam the silent main;
    Stately forests waved their giant branches;
    Mountains hurled their snowy avalanches;
    Mammoth creatures stalked across the plain,
    Nature reveled in grand mysteries.
    But the little fern was not like these,
    Did not number with the hills and trees,
    Only grew and waved its sweet, wild way;
    No one came to note it day by day.

    Earth, one time, put on a frolic mood,
    Heaved the rocks and changed the mighty motion
    Of the strong, dread currents of the ocean;
    Moved the hills and shook the haughty wood;
    Crushed the little fern in soft, moist clay,
    Covered it, and hid it safe away.
    Oh, the long, long centuries since that day;
    Oh, the changes! Oh, life's bitter cost,
    Since the little useless fern was lost!

    Useless? Lost? There came a thoughtful man
    Searching Nature's secrets far and deep;
    From a fissure in a rocky steep
    He withdrew a stone, o'er which there ran
    Fairy pencilings, a quaint design,
    Leafage, veining, fibers, clear and fine,
    And the fern's life lay in every line.
    So, I think, God hides some souls away,
    Sweetly to surprise us the Last Day.

  7. The Fern Owl's Nest

    by John Clare

    The weary woodman rocking home beneath
    His tightly banded faggot wonders oft
    While crossing over the furze-crowded heath
    To hear the fern owl's cry that whews aloft
    In circling whirls and often by his head
    Wizzes as quick as thought and ill and rest
    As through the rustling ling with heavy tread
    He goes nor heeds he tramples near its nest
    That underneath the furze or squatting thorn
    Lies hidden on the ground and teasing round
    That lonely spot she wakes her jarring noise
    To the unheeding waste till mottled morn
    Fills the red East with daylight's coming sounds
    And the heath's echoes mocks the herding boys

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