John Shaw Neilson
The Loving Tree - Poem by John Shaw Neilson
Three women walked upon a road,
And the first said airily,
“Of all the trees in all the world
Which is the loving tree?”
The second said, “My eyes have seen
No tree that is not fair;
But the Orange tree is the sweetest tree,
The loving blood is there.”
And the third said, “In the green time
I knew a loving tree
That gave a drink of the blood-red milk,
It was the Mulberry.”
Then the first one said, “Of all the trees
No sweetest can I name;
Ask her who yonder slowly comes—
That woman lean and lame.”
Grief like a hideous suckling hung
Along her hollow breast,
Pain was upon her as she walked,
And as she stooped to rest.
“Why will you question so?” she said,
“Is it to mock at me?
For how should I, who walk in Hell,
Know of a loving tree?
“My eyes are not as woman's eyes,
They hope not east or west:
Dull Famine my bed-mate is,
And Loneliness my guest.
“ 'Tis not the most delicious flower
That leaves the scent of Spring,
Nor is it yet the brightest bird
That loads his heart to sing.
“A tree may dance in the white weather
Or dream in a blue gown,
A tree may sing as a sweetheart
To bid the stars come down:
“Some trees are slim and lovable
And some are sleek and strong,
But the tree that has the cripple's heart
Will know the cripple's song.
“The sweetest death is the red death
That comes up nakedly,
And the tree that has the foiled heart
It is the loving tree.
“While ever lip shall seek for lip,
While ever light shall fall,
The tree that has the ruined heart
Is tenderest of all.
“Oh, ye may have your men to kiss,
And children warm to hold,
But the heart that had the hottest love
Was never yet consoled.”
The women three walked on their way,
Their shamed eyes could see
How well the tree with the foiled heart
Is still the loving tree.
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