The Oak and the Broom, a Pastoral

The OAK and the BROOM,


His simple truths did Andrew glean
Beside the babbling rills;
A careful student he had been
Among the woods and hills.
One winter’s night when through the Trees5
The wind was thundering, on his knees
His youngest born did Andrew hold:
And while the rest, a ruddy quire
Were seated round their blazing fire,
This Tale the Shepherd told.10
I saw a crag, a lofty stone
As ever tempest beat !
Out of its head an Oak had grown,
A Broom out of its feet.
The time was March, a chearful noon—15
The thaw-wind with the breath of June
Breath’d gently from the warm South-west;
When in a voice sedate with age
This Oak, half giant and half sage,
His neighbour thus address’d.20
“Eight weary weeks, thro’ rock and clay,
Along this mountain’s edge
The Frost hath wrought both night and day,
Wedge driving after wedge.
Look up, and think, above your head25
What trouble surely will be bred;
Last night I heard a crash—’tis true,
The splinters took another road—
I see them yonder—what a load
For such a Thing as you !30
You are preparing as before
To deck your slender shape;
And yet, just three years back—no more—
You had a strange escape.
Down from yon Cliff a fragment broke,35
It came, you know, with fire and smoke
And hither did it bend its way.
This pond’rous block was caught by me,
And o’er your head, as you may see,
’Tis hanging to this day.40
The Thing had better been asleep,
Whatever thing it were,
Or Breeze, or Bird, or fleece of Sheep,
That first did plant you there.
For you and your green twigs decoy45
The little witless Shepherd-boy
To come and slumber in your bower;
And trust me, on some sultry noon,
Both you and he, Heaven knows how soon !
Will perish in one hour.50
From me this friendly warning take”—
—The Broom began to doze,
And thus to keep herself awake
Did gently interpose.
“My thanks for your discourse are due;55
That it is true, and more than true,
I know and I have known it long;
Frail is the bond, by which we hold
Our being, be we young or old,
Wise, foolish, weak or strong.60
Disasters, do the best we can,
Will reach both great and small;
And he is oft the wisest man,
Who is not wise at all.
For me, why should I wish to roam ?65
This spot is my paternal home,
It is my pleasant Heritage;
My Father many a happy year
Here spread his careless blossoms, here
Attain’d a good old age.70
Even such as his may be my lot.
What cause have I to haunt
My heart with terrors ? Am I not
In truth a favor’d plant !
The Spring for me a garland weaves75
Of yellow flowers and verdant leaves,
And, when the Frost is in the sky,
My branches are so fresh and gay
That You might look on me and say
This plant can never die.80
The butterfly, all green and gold,
To me hath often flown,
Here in my Blossoms to behold
Wings lovely as his own.
When grass is chill with rain or dew,85
Beneath my shade the mother ewe
Lies with her infant lamb; I see
The love, they to each other make,
And the sweet joy, which they partake,
It is a joy to me.”90
Her voice was blithe, her heart was light;
The Broom might have pursued
Her speech, until the stars of night
Their journey had renew’d.
But in the branches of the Oak95
Two Ravens now began to croak
Their nuptial song, a gladsome air;
And to her own green bower the breeze
That instant brought two stripling Bees
To feed and murmur there.100
One night the Wind came from the North
And blew a furious blast,
At break of day I ventur’d forth
And near the Cliff I pass’d.
The storm had fall’n upon the Oak105
And struck him with a mighty stroke,
And whirl’d and whirl’d him far away;
And in one hospitable Cleft
The little careless Broom was left
To live for many a day.110