Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
 
The Holly Tree
By Robert Southey (1774–1843)
 
O READER! hast thou ever stood to see
            The Holly Tree?
The eye that contemplates it well perceives
            Its glossy leaves
Order’d by an intelligence so wise,        5
As might confound the Atheist’s sophistries.
 
Below, a circling fence, its leaves are seen
            Wrinkled and keen;
No grazing cattle through their prickly round
            Can reach to wound;        10
But as they grow where nothing is to fear,
Smooth and unarm’d the pointless leaves appear.
 
I love to view these things with curious eyes,
            And moralize:
And in this wisdom of the Holly Tree        15
            Can emblems see
Wherewith perchance to make a pleasant rhyme,
One which may profit in the aftertime.
 
Thus, though abroad perchance I might appear
            Harsh and austere,        20
To those who on my leisure would intrude,
            Reserved and rude,
Gentle at home amid my friends I’d be
Like the high leaves upon the Holly Tree.
 
And should my youth, as youth is apt, I know,        25
            Some harshness show,
All vain asperities I day by day
            Would wear away,
Till the smooth temper of my age should be
Like the high leaves upon the Holly Tree.        30
 
And as when all the summer trees are seen
            So bright and green,
The Holly leaves a sober hue display
            Less bright than they,
But when the bare and wintry woods we see,        35
What then so cheerful as the Holly Tree?
 
So serious should my youth appear among
            The thoughtless throng,
So would I seem among the young and gay
            More grave than they,        40
That in my age as cheerful I might be
As the green winter of the Holly Tree.
 
 
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