Shadow-of-a-Leaf Poem by Alfred Noyes


Elf-blooded creature, little did he reck
Of this blind world's delights,
Content to wreathe his legs around his neck
For warmth on winter nights;
Content to ramble away
Through his deep woods in May;
Content, alone with Pan, to observe his forest rites.

Or, cutting a dark cross of beauty there
All out of a hawthorn-tree,
He'd set it up, and whistle to praise and prayer,
Field-mouse and finch and bee;
And, as the woods grew dim
Brown squirrels knelt with him,
Paws to blunt nose, and prayed as well as he.

For, all his wits being lost, he was more wise
Than aught on earthly ground.
Like haunted woodland pools his great dark eyes
Where the lost stars were drowned,
Saw things afar and near.
‘Twas said that he could hear
The music of the spheres which had no sound.

And so, through many an age and many a clime,
He strayed on unseen wings;
For he was fey, and knew not space or time,
Kingdoms or earthly kings.
Clear as a crystal ball
One dew-drop showed him all, -
Earth and its tribes, and strange translunar things.

But to the world's one May, he made in chief
His lonely woodland vow,
Praying - as none could pray but Shadow-of-a-Leaf,
Under that fresh-cut bough
Which with two branches grew,
Dark, dark, in sun and dew, -
"The world goes maying. Be this my maypole now!

"Make me a garland, Lady, in thy green aisles
For this wild rood of may,
And I will make thee another of tears and smiles
To match thine own, this day.
For every rose thereof
A rose of my heart's love,
A blood-red rose that shall not waste away.

"For every violet here, a gentle thought
To worship at thine eyes;
But, most of all, for wildings few have sought,
And careless looks despise,
For ragged-robins' birth
Here, in a ditch of earth,
A tangle of sweet prayers to thy pure skies."

Bird, squirrel, bee, and the thing that was like no other
Played in the woods that day,
Talked in the heart of the woods, as brother to brother,
And prayed as children pray, -
Make me a garland, Lady, a garland, Mother,
For this wild rood of may.

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