Learn More

Denise Levertov

(24 October 1923 – 20 December 1997 / Ilford, Essex)

A Tree Telling of Orpheus


White dawn. Stillness.When the rippling began
      &nbs p;   I took it for sea-wind, coming to our valley with rumors
      &nb sp;   of salt, of treeless horizons. But the white fog
didn't stir; the leaves of my brothers remained outstretched,
unmoving.
   & nbsp;       &n bsp;       &nb sp;Yet the rippling drew nearer – and then
my own outermost branches began to tingle, almost as if
fire had been lit below them, too close, and their twig-tips
were drying and curling.
      & nbsp;       &n bsp;       &nb sp;       Yet I was not afraid, only
        ;                 & nbsp;      deeply alert.
I was the first to see him, for I grew
        ;              out on the pasture slope, beyond the forest.
He was a man, it seemed: the two
moving stems, the short trunk, the two
arm-branches, flexible, each with five leafless
      & nbsp;       &n bsp;       &nb sp;       &nbs p;         ; twigs at their ends,
and the head that's crowned by brown or golden grass,
bearing a face not like the beaked face of a bird,
      &nbs p;         ;     more like a flower's.
               & nbsp;       &n bsp;       He carried a burden made of
some cut branch bent while it was green,
strands of a vine tight-stretched across it. From this,
when he touched it, and from his voice
which unlike the wind's voice had no need of our
leaves and branches to complete its sound,
      &nb sp;       &nbs p;         ;                 & nbsp;came the ripple.
But it was now no longer a ripple (he had come near and
stopped in my first shadow) it was a wave that bathed me
       & nbsp;       &n bsp;    as if rain
        ;                 & nbsp;      rose from below and around me
       & nbsp;       &n bsp;    instead of falling.
And what I felt was no longer a dry tingling:
               & nbsp;     I seemed to be singing as he sang, I seemed to know
        ;              what the lark knows; all my sap
                & nbsp;       &n bsp;      was mounting towards the sun that by now
                & nbsp;       &n bsp;      had risen, the mist was rising, the grass
was drying, yet my roots felt music moisten them
deep under earth.

       ;               He came still closer, leaned on my trunk:
      &nb sp;       &nbs p;     the bark thrilled like a leaf still-folded.
Music! There was no twig of me not
                & nbsp;       &n bsp;      trembling with joy and fear.

Then as he sang
it was no longer sounds only that made the music:
he spoke, and as no tree listens I listened, and language
      & nbsp;       &n bsp;     came into my roots
      &nbs p;         ;                out of the earth,
      &nb sp;       &nbs p;     into my bark
        ;                 & nbsp;      out of the air,
into the pores of my greenest shoots
      &nb sp;   gently as dew
and there was no word he sang but I knew its meaning.
He told me of journeys,
           of where sun and moon go while we stand in dark,
      &nbs p;   of an earth-journey he dreamed he would take some day
deeper than roots ...
He told of the dreams of man, wars, passions, griefs,
      &n bsp;   and I, a tree, understood words – ah, it seemed
my thick bark would split like a sapling's that
        ;                 & nbsp;      grew too fast in the spring
when a late frost wounds it.

      &n bsp;       &nb sp;       &nbs p;         ;          Fire he sang,
that trees fear, and I, a tree, rejoiced in its flames.
New buds broke forth from me though it was full summer.
      &n bsp;   As though his lyre (now I knew its name)
      &nbs p;   were both frost and fire, its chords flamed
up to the crown of me.
           I was seed again.
      &nb sp;       &nbs p;     I was fern in the swamp.
      &nb sp;       &nbs p;         ;                 & nbsp;I was coal.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

Do you like this poem?
0 person liked.
0 person did not like.

What do you think this poem is about?



Read poems about / on: music, tree, fire, fog, fear, wind, journey, flower, sun, spring, summer, rose, moon, rain, green, joy, dark, sea, dream

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (A Tree Telling of Orpheus by Denise Levertov )

Enter the verification code :

Read all 1 comments »

PoemHunter.com Updates

New Poems

  1. Grace Me, Michael McParland
  2. 168., John Westlake
  3. The Stuff We Are Made Of., Tony Adah
  4. remembering the wedding Anniversary.., veeraiyah subbulakshmi
  5. Fishing For An Appropriate Taste, Lawrence S. Pertillar
  6. Let us not be, hasmukh amathalal
  7. Is Life?, Neela Nath
  8. Star Tree, douglas scotney
  9. The Road to Heaven is Only One, Dr John Celes
  10. Capable and real, hasmukh amathalal

Poem of the Day

poet Henry David Thoreau

Conscience is instinct bred in the house,
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it out doors,
Into the moors.
...... Read complete »

   

Trending Poems

  1. 04 Tongues Made Of Glass, Shaun Shane
  2. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
  3. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  4. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  5. Invictus, William Ernest Henley
  6. Dreams, Langston Hughes
  7. If, Rudyard Kipling
  8. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  9. Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
  10. As I Grew Older, Langston Hughes

Trending Poets

[Hata Bildir]