ETCHED in traceries black and brown
On the sky-line up and down,
Interlaced against the gold,
Or on scarlet background scrolled,
Carved in branching coral white
Where spring snows are sifted light,
Woven thick against the gray
Of many a sombre April day,
Brave in barren beauty stand
The naked trees through the dead land.
But at last amid the gloom
Comes a breathless hint of bloom;
Slowly, slowly creeping through
The broideries traced against the blue,
Breathes a re-incarnate soul,
Softly swathing branch and bole
In a wraith-like emerald mist,
As by loving dryads kissed
From their trancèd spell of night
Gently back to life and light.
Then, as May-magic flutes and sings,
Each a separate beauty brings:
A powdered sweetness drifts and falls
From plum trees by the orchard walls;
With fiery lips some fairy prince
Has touched the blossoms of the quince,
And kissed from dreams, to white and rose,
The apples in the garden close.
The forest trees in bark and bud
Feeling the sap’s slow-mounting flood,
From earth and air and dew and sun
Their glimmering gray-green veils have spun.
Slim maples, fringed and tasseled, shine
In virgin shyness, half divine;
Fretted with shifting silver light
The birch trees shimmer, slender, white
Horse-chestnuts light their candles tall;
With gem and star and bud and ball
And many a tiny green rosette
Along the glistening branches set,
Each tree and shrub is decked and gay
For this sweet festival of May.
A wizard flame within them burns,
That, when the spring to summer turns,
Runs keen and fine through every vein,
Till flashing glory leaps amain!
Sun-blazoned oriflammes unfurled
Toss to the winds of all the world;
Immortal fragrance breathes and shakes
From every tree, and subtly breaks
To crimson fruit and scarlet leaf
As Autumn bends to bind her sheaf.
Safe through the winter cold and sere,
The bush wherein the Flames appear
Burns unconsumed from year to year.