Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
Our Casuarina Tree
 
Toru Dutt (1856–77)
 
 
LIKE a huge Python, winding round and round
  The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,
  Up to its very summit near the stars,
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound
  No other tree could live. But gallantly        5
The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung
In crimson clusters all the boughs among,
  Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee;
And oft at nights the garden overflows
With one sweet song that seems to have no close,        10
Sung darkling from our tree, while men repose.
 
When first my casement is wide open thrown
  At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest;
  Sometimes, and most in winter,—on its crest
A gray baboon sits statue-like alone        15
  Watching the sunrise; while on lower boughs
His puny offspring leap about and play;
And far and near kokilas hail the day;
  And to their pastures wend our sleepy cows;
And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast        20
By that hoar tree, so beautiful and vast,
The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed.
 
But not because of its magnificence
  Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:
  Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,        25
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,
  For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.
Blent with your images, it shall arise
In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes!
  What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear        30
Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?
It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,
That haply to the unknown land may reach.
 
Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith!
  Ah, I have heard that wail far, far away        35
  In distant lands, by many a sheltered bay,
When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith
  And the waves gently kissed the classic shore
Of France or Italy, beneath the moon,
When earth lay trancèd in a dreamless swoon:        40
  And every time the music rose,—before
Mine inner vision rose a form sublime,
Thy form, O Tree, as in my happy prime
I saw thee, in my own loved native clime.
 
Therefore I fain would consecrate a lay        45
  Unto thy honor, Tree, beloved of those
  Who now in blessed sleep for aye repose,—
Dearer than life to me, alas, were they!
  Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done
With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale,        50
Under whose awful branches lingered pale
  “Fear, trembling Hope, and Death, the skeleton,
And Time the shadow;” and though weak the verse
That would thy beauty fain, oh, fain rehearse,
May Love defend thee from Oblivion’s curse.        55
 

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