Charlotte Smith (4 May 1749 – 28 October 1806 / London)
TO AN OLD TREE.
WHERE thy broad branches brave the bitter North,
Like rugged, indigent, unheeded, worth,
Lo! Vegetation's guardian hands emboss
Each giant limb with fronds of studded moss,
That clothes the bark in many a fringed fold
Begemm'd with scarlet shields, and cups of gold,
Which, to the wildest winds their webs oppose,
And mock the arrowy sleet, or weltering snows.
--But to the warmer West the woodbine fair
With tassels that perfumed the summer air,
The mantling clematis, whose feathery bowers
Waved in festoons with nightshade's purple flowers,
The silver weed, whose corded fillets wove
Round thy pale rind, even as deceitful love
Of mercenary beauty would engage
The dotard fondness of decrepit age;
All these, that during summer's halcyon days
With their green canopies conceal'd thy sprays,
Are gone for ever; or disfigured, trail
Their sallow relicts in the autumnal gale;
Or o'er thy roots, in faded fragments toss'd,
But tell of happier hours, and sweetness lost!
--Thus in Fate's trying hour, when furious storms
Strip social life of Pleasure's fragile forms,
And awful Justice , as his rightful prey
Tears Luxury's silk, and jewel'd robe, away,
While reads Adversity her lesson stern,
And Fortune's minions tremble as they learn;
The crowds around her gilded car that hung,
Bent the lithe knee, and troul'd the honey'd tongue,
Desponding fall, or fly in pale despair;
And Scorn alone remembers that they were.
Not so Integrity ; unchanged he lives
In the rude armour conscious Honour gives,
And dares with hardy front the troubled sky,
In Honesty's uninjured panoply.
Ne'er on Prosperity's enfeebling bed
Or rosy pillows, he reposed his head,
But given to useful arts, his ardent mind
Has sought the general welfare of mankind;
To mitigate their ills his greatest bliss,
While studying them , has taught him what he is ;
He , when the human tempest rages worst,
And the earth shudders as the thunders burst,
Firm, as thy northern branch, is rooted fast,
And if he can't avert , endures the blast.
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