The Pine and the Walnut: (Newcastle, 1862)


A MILE or so from the gray little town
Of Newcastle, perched like a gull by the sea,
On the Kittery side (where the banks shelve down
To the lovely river’s golden-brown)
There towered, long since, an old pine-tree.


And across the stream, in a right bee-line,
Like a sentry guarding the ruined fort,
Was a large-limbed walnut, where the kine
Huddled together in shower and shine,
Nibbling the herbage, sparse and short.


Summer and winter those brave old trees
Watched the blue river that slipt between,
Leaned to the sunshine and drank the breeze,
Clothed like emperors, taking their ease,
Now in ermine and now in green.


Many a time, when I was a lad,
I drifted by with suspended oar,
The wind in the walnut seemed so sad!
But ah, what a blustering voice it had
In the rugged pine on the other shore!


And often, in restless slumber tost,
I seemed to be drifting down the tide,
Hearing the strident wind as it crost,
To die away like a murmuring ghost
In the drooping boughs on the farther side.


Perhaps ’t was a boyish fantasy,
The dream of a dreamer, half afraid,
That the wind grew sad in the walnut-tree,
But surged through the pine like the surging sea,
With a sound of distant cannonade!


Only a fantasy! Who can tell?
But I think ’t will haunt me to the end,
Seeing what curious thing befell
The walnut-tree, and the pine as well, —
For they went together, friend and friend!


From a sullen cloud broke war at last,
And a grim sea-dog of the quarter-deck
Took the gaunt old pine for a mizzen-mast.
In the flame of battle his Spirit past,
And the mizzen dragged by the shattered wreck.


With the Union Jack across him laid,
They bore him back to the town by the sea;
The guns at the Yard his requiem played;
And the Admiral’s coffin, it is said,
Was shaped of the planks of the walnut-tree!
T. B. Aldrich.