Learn of the Earth


OF our great Mother learn forgivingness.
Her groves of kingly pine, her hemlock-trees’
Dark massy clouds, man layeth low; the knees
Of oaks o’er thrown his mastery confess;
His biting axe, his fire, his foot, have made
A wreck of the glad fringes of the wood
Where blueberry, sumach, rose, and bracken stood,
And floods of small and starry flowers were laid,
Spring coming, wave-like on the sunny grass,
And through the dusky openings in the green; —
Yet Earth, as though no ravage she had seen,
Sends the sweet currents of her blood to pass
Into the sprouts of his new-planted corn,
Spreads gold for him where once were verdant things,
Labors in love to aid his harvestings,
And laughs to see the riches she has borne.
And when in after years he passes by,
Leaving forlorn the stripped and waiting field,
Forcing again the virgin lands to yield,
Again the Earth forgives ungrudgingly,
Takes back the desolate acres for her own
Fair wilding aims and methods of increase,
Hides them with herbage, ranks her seedling trees,
And smiles to see the beauty she has sown.


And of our Mother learn remembrance. See,
As infant Spring now kisses her from sleep,
How do her stirring looms the patterns keep
Of all her children’s wants — how faithfully!
The shadbush breaks to snow before, almost,
The snows are gone; the fleecy baccharis
Shall wait, for so its own desiring is,
To greet the asters on the autumn coast.
The maple of the rock in green will blow;
His brother of the swampland shall not lack
The tasseled red. The rose-tint will come back
To dogwoods that were pink last year, although
Their many brethren spread their white anew.
On wings of painted moths there alters not
The fairy marvel of the smallest spot,
Nor in the robin’s nest the delicate blue.
The selfsame odor haunts the flowering grape
That Pliny called the sweetest on the wind.
As once it found in Hellas, so shall find
The purple iris here its perfect shape.
Again the pines wear tips like pallid flame,
The mosses have their scarlet cups or gray,
This bird bright eyes for night and that for day; —
T was so of eld and ever is the same.


Yet shall Earth teach a wise forgetfulness.
The past is past, the dead lie still, says she,
And spends her soul to tend the budding tree,
The brooding bird, the fern’s uncurling tress.
She loves to hide the witnesses of graves:
The carven monument she pulls awry,
Drags down amid the brambled grass to lie,
Though year by year, intact, unstirred, she saves
The boulder hollowed by her unseen hand
To squirrel’s drinking-cup; the pious mound
Heaped o’er the dead she levels with the ground
The while her own green hillocks safely stand.
See how she fills from death the founts of life:
Heeds not the sparrow when it falls, but grows,
For that its wings are dust, a rosier rose;
Ignores the victims of the fish-hawks’ strife
With wind and wave because the tall nests hold
Young beaks a-clamor for their food; mourns not
That scarlet lilies fail, but clothes the spot
With all September’s purple and its gold.
And when the last leaves die, her garmenting
Crystalline, white, she draweth close; so sleeps,
Forgetting seasons gone and lost, and keeps
Warm at her heart of hearts the unborn Spring.