The Guardian Pine
Once, in Ribbonwood, a battle raged,
Two crowds of human men in violent fits,
Went spilling all their blood on history's page,
Some lived while others drowned in muddy pits.
Now during combat, Captain Otto fell,
And with his dying heaves, sought some relief,
Beneath a stately pine tree by a well,
Half-mad, to that fine tree he spilled his grief.
'Some wretched things in war I swear I've done,
I've dipped the land in blood, made red the sea,
But whether in God's eyes I've lost or won,
Twas for the love of king and family.'
With that, he died but he was not alone,
His stately friend had listened and had seen,
And saddened by the captain's dying groan,
It cradled him in nettled branches green.
A burial for him it then arranged,
The pine did absolutely all it could,
To honor him, it left his mail unchanged,
And guarded o'er his grave from where it stood.
Time carried on in its relentless way,
The guardian tree stood in its mission firm,
For many years it stood and kept at bay,
The plots of every hungry rat and worm.
But it could not keep Otto from decay,
And when its captain was reduced to bones,
It gathered his remains on Christmas Day,
And built a circle round them with its cones.
The centuries turned and Zephyrus' awesome gusts,
Came swooping low and beating at the shrine,
And Otto's bones were whipped and blown to dust,
Which could not be collected by the pine.
The tree each Christmas shed a tearful sap,
Remembering the leader it had failed,
And cursed the rats and worms it could not trap,
And shook its limbs in rage when Zephyrus wailed.
But then one year on Christmas Night there came,
A glowing human figure through the wood,
The pine looked upward from its place of shame,
And recognized the armor and the hood.
It was his captain, whom he'd loved the most,
All shimmering with afterlife and pride,
The guardian pine stood tall for Otto's ghost,
And shook with fits of joy it could not hide.
'You honor me sincerely, guardian tree,
With constant vigilance and loyalty,
Let it be said that you did well by me,
And by my nation, king and family.'
With that, the spirit dressed the happy tree,
In glistening regalia of pure gold,
And hung bright medals of fidelity,
On every branch, or so the story's told.
Now whether Otto's ghost did there appear,
Is matter for debate and some say doubt,
But that pine tree still glistens every year,
On Christmas with its stately arms stretched out.
Leland D'Elormie's Other Poems
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