Great pines that watch the river go
Down to the sea all night, all day,
Firm-rooted near its ebb and flow,
Bowing their heads to winds at play,
Strong-limbed and proud, they silent stand,
And watch the mountains far away,
And watch the miles of farming land,
And hear the church bells tolling slow.
They see the men in distant fields
Follow the furrows of the plough;
They count the loads the harvest yields,
And fight the storms with every bough,
Beating the wild winds back again.
The April sunshine cheers them now;
They eager drink the warm spring rain,
Nor dread the spear the lightning wields.
High in the branches clings the nest
The great birds build from year to year;
And though they fly from east to west,
Some instinct keeps this eyrie dear
To their fierce hearts; and now their eyes
Glare down at me with rage and fear;
They stare at me with wild surprise,
Where high in air they strong-winged rest.
Companionship of birds and trees!
The years have proved your friendship strong,
You share each other's memories,
The river's secret and its song,
And legends of the country-side;
The eagles, take their journey long,
The great trees wait in noble pride
For messages from hills and seas.
I hear a story that you tell
In idleness of summer days:
A singer that the world knows well
To you again in boyhood strays;
Within the stillness of your shade
He rests where flickering sunlight plays,
And sees the nest the eagles made,
And wonders at the distant bell.
His keen eyes watch the forest growth,
The rabbits' fear, the thrushes' flight;
He loiters gladly, nothing loath
To be alone at fall of night,
The woodland things around him taught
Their secrets in the evening light,
Whispering some wisdom to his thought
Known to the pines and eagles both.
Was it the birds who early told
The dreaming boy that he would win
A poet's crown instead of gold?
That he would fight a nation's sin?—
On eagle wings of song would gain
A place that few might enter in,
And keep his life without a stain
Through many years, yet not grow old?
And he shall be what few men are,
Said all the pine-trees, whispering low;
His thought shall find an unseen star;
He shall our treasured legends know:
His words will give the way-worn rest
Like this cool shade our branches throw;
He, lifted like our loftiest crest,
Shall watch his country near and far.