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Of argument, employed too oft amiss,
Thou fellest mature: and in the loamy clod Swelling with vegetative force instinct Didst burst thine egg, as theirs the fabled Twins,° 35 Now stars; two lobes, protruding, paired exact; A leaf succeeded, and another leaf, And, all the elements thy puny growth Fostering propitious, thou becamest a twig.
Who lived when thou wast such? Oh, couldst thou speak,
40 As in Dodonao once thy kindred trees Oracular, I would not curious, ask The future, best unknown, but at thy mouth Inquisitive, the less ambiguous past.
By thee I might correct, erroneous oft,
Time made thee what thou wast, king of the woods, And Time hath made thee what thou art For owls to roost in. Once thy spreading boughs O’erhung the champaign; and the numerous flocks That grazed it stood beneath that ample cope
Uncrowded, yet safe-sheltered from the storm. 55
While thus through all the stages thou hast pushed Of treeship - first a seedling, hid in grass; 61 Then twig; then sapling; and, as century rolled Slow after century, a giant-bulk Of girth enormous, with moss cushioned root Upheaved above the soil, and sides embossed 65 With prominent wens globose — till at the last The rottenness, which time is charged to inflict On other mighty ones, found also thee.
What exhibitions various hath the world Witnessed of mutability in all
70 That we account most durable below! Change is the diet on which all subsist, Created changeable, and change at last Destroys them. Skies uncertain now the heat Transmitting cloudless, and the solar beam 75 Now quenching in a boundless sea of clouds,Calm an alternate storm, moisture and drought, Invigorate by turns the springs of life In all that live, plant, animal, and man, And in conclusion mar them. Nature's threads, 80 Fine passing thought, e’en in her coarsest works,
Delight in agitation, yet sustain
Thought cannot spend itself, comparing still
90 Time was, when, settling on thy leaf, a fly Could shake thee to the root and time has
been When tempests could not. At thy firmest age Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents, That might have ribbed the sides and planked the
deck Of some flagged admiralo; and tortuous arms, The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present To the four-quartered winds, robust and bold, Warped into tough knee-timber, o many a load! But the axe spared thee. In those thriftier days 100 Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply The bottomless demands of contest, waged For senatorial honors. Thus to Time The task was left to whittle thee away With his sly scythe, whose ever nibbling edge, Noiseless, an atom, and an atom more, Disjoining from the rest, has, unobserved,
Achieved a labor, which had far and wide,
Embowelled now, and of thy ancient self Possessing nought but the scooped rind, that seems An huge throat, calling to the clouds for drink, Which it would give in rivulets to thy root, Thou temptest none, but rather much forbiddest The feller's toil, which thou couldst ill requite. Yet is thy root sincere, sound as the rock, A quarry of stout spurs, and knotted fangs, Which, crooked into a thousand whimsies, clasp The stubborn soil, and hold thee still erect.
So stands a kingdom, whose foundation yet
Thine arms have left thee. Winds have rent them off
125 Long since, and rovers of the forest wild With bow and shaft, have burnt them. Some have
left A splintered stump, bleached to a snowy white; And some, memorial none where once they grew. Yet life still lingers in thee, and puts forth Proof not contemptible of what she can,
Even where death predominates. The Spring
One man alone, the father of us all,