Henrik Wergeland

(17 June 1808 – 12 July 1845 / Brevik)

To a Pine Tree


Crowned, lofty scion of the pine
Whence Gothic architect’s design
Derived the grace and power
For churches planned in noblest style,
For Notre Dame’s majestic pile,
Westminster Hall, or Münster’s aisle,
Or Pisa’s leaning tower, -

In this dark valley laid aside,
Thou in thy grief thy crown of pride
Dost in the clouds retire;
And far thy somber glance ahs flown
To spires like pine-trees shaped in stone,
Perceiving, with a wistful groan,
The portrait of thy sire.

The dastard axe awaits thy wood:
Like Hercules in dragon’s blood,
Thou in slow flames must die.
Yet perish proudly, pine, for know
Not all of Europe’s skill can show
How such a pyramid may grow,
So stately and so high.

Lament not thou, for many a heart,
Fit model for the loftiest art,
Unknown in rags has pined;
There, brooding over work denied,
Some hero sits, some Tell Untried;
A Byron, Plato, oft has died
Unnoticed by mankind.

You Tell, for lack of tyrant foe,
Wars on the sparrow and the crow,
And he whose brain could soar
To match the master-minstrel’s lays –
Some trumpeter usurps his bays,
While on his rustic pipe he plays
For alms from door to door.

Like theirs, my pine, obscurely placed,
Thy nobleness must run to waste,
With lowly village spires –
Unworthy hovels – must contend,
Thou, Nature’s temple! Fortune send
Thee first a Herostratic end,
Immortalised in fires.

Thou stand’st a nobler temple there,
Thy dome the leaden clouds of air;
No Lateran tapers fling
A beam so radiant and so fine
As those dew-spangled boughs of thine,
What sacred strains are so divine
As those thy linnets sing?

Beneath what temple arches are
Such trophies of victorious war,
So honourably won,
As are these pennons pearly bright,
Flecking thy darkest twigs with white,
Which spiders, in a hard-fought fight,
Have stablished where they spun.

Dim spaces filled with incense fine,
A choir thou hast, a holy shrine,
But ne’er an image there;
For sinless Nature, who did base
Thy root, to God speaks face to face,,
Nor needs, like man, who fell from grace,
To mediate her prayer.

Upon thine organ-pipes the storm
Its wild Te Deum can perform,
So awful, yet so fair:
Join thou, my soul, that anthem’s strain; -
“The house of God is Nature’s fane;
No moss so small, no weed so plain,
But builds a chapel there.”

Submitted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

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